After a three-game home stand, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) head to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the 7-2 Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Here are a few individual matchups that could play a key role in determining the outcome of this Week 11 contest:
Buccaneers T Donovan Smith vs. Chiefs LB Dee Ford
With Justin Houston still waiting to make his 2016 debut and Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson combining for just 2.5 sacks so far, third-year edge rusher Dee Ford has saved Kansas City's pass rush. Ford, a 2014 first-round pick who had just 5.5 sacks in his first two seasons combined, is tied for the NFL lead with 10.0 sacks this year and his 14 QB pressures are double anyone else on the Chiefs' defense. Chances are he'll see some opportunities from both edges of the line, but as the LOLB in Kansas City's 3-4, he should be a primary concern of Bucs right tackle Donovan Smith. Smith has started every game since being drafted in the second round in 2015, and in that time Tampa Bay's line has allowed sacks on 4.8% of the team's pass plays, good for 15th in the NFL.
Chiefs TE Travis Kelce vs. Buccaneers S Chris Conte**
After emerging as a Pro Bowler in his third NFL season, former third-round pick Travis Kelce is the Chiefs' leading receiver in 2016 with 42 receptions for 466 yards and three touchdowns. Kansas City quarterbacks are targeting the hyper-competitive tight end roughly 6.5 times per game, and his 12 targets in the red zone this year are tied for second among NFL tight ends behind San Diego's Antonio Gates. Conte won't be the only player responsible for Kelce, but he's sure to get some one-on-one coverage moments as the Bucs adopt a more aggressive approach on defense. The pass that Conte intercepted and returned for a touchdown last Sunday against Chicago was intended for a tight end.
Buccaneers RB Doug Martin vs. Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson
Doug Martin returned to the Buccaneers' backfield after a six-game absence on Sunday, providing his teammates with an emotional lift. Martin was eased back into action with a 17-touchdown game, but he turned in several of his signature tackle-breaking runs and also scored the game's last touchdown on a third-down tote. After the game, Martin said he felt as if he had regained his legs about halfway through his return, and he should be closer to top form in Week 11. He'll have to try to elude insider linebacker Derrick Johnson, one of the NFL's most consistently productive defenders. Still going strong in his 12th season, Johnson leads the Chiefs defense with 66 tackles, 21 more than the next player on the list, and he also has a team-high five tackles for loss.
Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill vs. Buccaneers CB Josh Robinson**
Tyreek Hill has the most receptions of any Kansas City wideout, but it's in the return game where he might pose the biggest threat to the Buccaneers. Hill, a fifth-round draft pick out of West Alabama, is second in the NFL in punt return average, at 15.6 yards per attempt. He has also ran 21 punts back while calling only five fair catches, an indication that he's willing to push the action. Hill has also averaged 23.5 yards on 10 kickoff returns. The man most likely to bring him down during special teams action is Josh Robinson, who leads the Buccaneers with six kick-coverage stops. Robinson has been a wildly effective gunner on punts this year, as he displayed last Sunday in trapping Chicago's Eddie Royal at the one-yard line, which led to a safety for the defense.
Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston vs. Chiefs CB Marcus Peters
Jameis Winston had one of his best games as a pro in Sunday's win over the Bears, overcoming a shaky, injury-plagued offensive line and an ineffective running game to lead his team to a runaway victory. For the first time since entering the NFL, Winston had 300 passing yards and a 100+ passer rating in the same game, and his only interception was off a pass that went through a receiver's hands. Winston has only been picked off twice in the last five games, but he'll be tested by second-year CB Marcus Peters, who has been an interception machine since being drafted in the first round in 2015. Peters has an NFL-leading 13 INTs in that span; no other cornerback has more than eight. He has also broken up 15 passes and recovered three fumbles in 2016.
Chiefs T Eric Fisher vs. Buccaneers DE Robert Ayers**
Kansas City used the first overall pick in the 2013 draft on Central Michigan's Eric Fisher, who has started 52 of a possible 57 games since. After playing right tackle as a rookie, he was moved to the left side and has steadily improved since, as indicated by a strong performance in last year's playoffs against Houston's J.J. Watt. Fisher has started all nine games at left tackle this season while Kansas City has ranked 18th in sacks allowed per pass play, 20th in rushing yards per game and 17th in yards per carry. Bucs' lineman Robert Ayers has gradually rounded back into form after missing four games with an ankle injury and he was destructive last Sunday with 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble that turned into a safety. Ayers moves around the line but often plays right end in base sets, which would set up a battle between him and Fisher in the running game.