Usually, heading into a playoff matchup shorthanded is a significant disadvantage. However, in the case of the Chiefs and Kadarius Toney, it may be addition by subtraction while potentially spelling doom for the Buffalo Bills.
Roughly 24 hours before the two sides battle for a spot in the AFC title game, the Chiefs ruled Toney out with hip and ankle injuries.
Chiefs downgraded WR Kadarius Toney to out for Sunday’s game. Charles Omenihu is now questionable (illness) as is Willie Gay (neck).
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 20, 2024
Without Toney, quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be without one less target, but his absence has been a good thing recently. This season, the Chiefs are 4-1 without Toney and have won three straight, including a 26-7 win over the Miami Dolphins in the wild-card round.
Furthermore, first-year WR Rashee Rice has taken advantage of the extra snaps without Toney, emerging as a dangerous weapon and one of Mahomes’ favorite targets next to tight end Travis Kelce.
Rice was inactive for the Chiefs Week 18 season finale, but in the other four games Toney missed, the former second-round pick flashed No. 1 receiver potential, averaging seven catches and 105 yards with two scores.
Deflected and picked off by the @Patriots defense
— NFL (@NFL) December 17, 2023
As for worries that Mahomes hones in on Kelce and Rice too much, especially sans Toney, the offense hasn’t missed a beat, averaging 22 points with and without him. The much-maligned pass-catcher has had a rough year.
On top of potentially costing the Chiefs a victory the last time they met the Bills following his offside blunder, head coach Andy Reid benched him a week later against the New England Patriots after a juggled catch attempt ended up in the opponent’s hands.
Along with drops and mental errors, Toney has done himself no favors with his production, or lack thereof.
Since being acquired in a trade with the New York Giants for two draft picks, Toney has been underwhelming at best. However, this season he’s seen a decided decline.
Toney has only 27 receptions and one touchdown, setting career-low marks in receiving yards (169), yards per reception (6.3), catch success rate (44.7) and yards per game (13), despite playing 13 games, the most over his three seasons in the NFL.