There isn’t a lot separating the Chiefs and Bills entering Sunday’s divisional round playoff game. Both teams possess high-scoring offenses and are led by two of the NFL‘s best young quarterbacks. The teams also have strong defenses that overpowered Pittsburgh and New England, respectively, in the AFC wild-card round.
One area where the two teams vary is in special teams, a part of the game that is sometimes overlooked but often plays a significant role in the outcome of playoff games. Former NFL Pro Bowl kicker and current CBS Sports NFL analyst Jay Feely feels that the Chiefs’ special teams advantage gives them an edge in this matchup. Along with having a steady punter (Tommy Townsend) and a top-level punt returner (Mecole Hardman), Feely pointed to Harrison Butker’s reliability as a significant advantage for Kansas City.
“They have the best kicker, a veteran kicker,” Feely said of Butker, a five-year veteran who has made 90.1% of his field goal attempts. “Everybody talks about Justin Tucker and rightly so; I think he’s the best of all-time. But Harrison Butker is one tiny step behind him.”
Feely is not nearly as confident in the Bills’ special teams unit, a group that during their early 1990s heyday had one of the greatest special teams players in league history in Steve Tasker. Tyler Bass made a respectable 87.5% of his kicks this season while making each of his 51 point-after attempts. But Buffalo’s Matt Haack struggled in averaging just 42.9 yards per punt this season.
Haack’s average pales in comparison to Corey Bojorquez’s 50.8 yards-per-punt average for the Bills last season. But as Feely pointed out, Bojorquez (who is currently with the Packers) struggled as a holder on field goals and extra points, which contributed to Bass missing six field goals and two point-after attempts last season.
“The bad holds you saw continually [in 2020], you’re not seeing that this year,” Feely said. “On the flip side, you have one of the lowest gross and one of the lowest net averages punting.”
Fortunately for the Bills, they didn’t need to punt during last week’s 47-17 win over the Patriots, as Buffalo became the first team in history to go an entire playoff game without a punt, field goal or turnover. But it’s safe to say that Buffalo will have to call on Haack Sunday in Kansas City. How well he performances may ultimately help determine whether or not the Bills can get one step closer to their first Super Bowl in 28 years.
“It’s been five, six weeks since he’s had a good game, which is tough going into the playoffs,” Feely said of Haack, a five-year veteran who spent his first four seasons with the Dolphins. “He’s a veteran guy coming from Miami, and he’s got to try to figure it out. Two offenses that are high-powered, and you want to pin them deep and make them go 80, 90 yards every time if you have to punt. That’s certainly going to have an impact in this game.”