Wednesday is the day NFL teams officially flip the calendar to the next week, as coaches introduce players to the week’s game plan and on-field preparations begin for the upcoming opponent. Wednesday is also the day we shift from analyzing the previous week’s game and focusing on the upcoming opponent.
And this week’s upcoming opponent is the Buffalo Bills, a team that sits at 2-9 through 11 games and is led by head coach Chan Gailey. But don’t let the poor record deceive you – their 2 wins both came in the last 3 weeks against the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals and they took the Pittsburgh Steelers to overtime last week and lost by a FG. In analyzing the Bills, the stat that sticks out to me the most is this: They’ve had 7 games decided by 8 points or fewer and 5 of their last 6 games have been decided by 3 points or fewer. In all of those close game, they’ve come out on the winning end just 1 time.
Suffice it to say, the Bills have suffered a lot of losses this season but they’re not being blown out.
Let’s take a brief look at all 3 phases of the Bills now, then throughout the day and week we’ll delve in further and in more detail…
The Bills On Offense: There are 2 main storylines with Buffalo’s offense and the first one to address is their QB. His name is Ryan Fitzpatrick and he’s a guy Vikings fans have seen in the past. He’s a 5th-year veteran already and he’s out of Harvard. Against the Vikings as a member of the St. Louis Rams in 2005 he didn’t look so smart, though. In that game he threw 5 INTs and was sacked once in a Vikings route. This season he’s been much sharper, however. Fitzpatrick replaced Trent Edwards as the starter early in the year and through 9 games played he has 19 TDs. He’s shown the ability to lead an explosive passing game, with a pair of 300-yard, 4-TD passing performances and 5 multiple-TD passing performances in 9 games. But Fitzpatrick has also shown he’s prone to mistakes, with 4 multiple-INT performances in 9 games and 3 games with a passer rating below 70.0.
The other main storyline to address is Fitzpatrick’s favorite target – WR Steve Johnson. A 7th-round pick 3 seasons ago, Johnson has officially burst onto the scene in 2010 with 9 TDs already and a 13.5 yards-per-catch average. Last week he dropped several passes, including one in the endzone in overtime that would’ve won the game, but he’s clearly the best and most reliable target in the passing game and he’s a guy the Vikings secondary must contain.
A couple of other quick hitters on the Bills offense:
— The running game is paced by Fred Jackson, a 6-1, 215-pound grinder who averages a respectable 4.4 yards per carry and has 5 TDs. He’s tough to tackle and is a north-south runner who rarely wastes energy running sideways. The complementary back is rookie C.J. Spiller, a top 10 pick in last April’s draft who has dealt with injuries this season. Spiller has not fulfilled his top-10 pick billing yet, but he should be back in the lineup this week and he must be respected both as a runner and a kick returner.
— The Bills rank 23rd in passing offense, 20th in scoring offense and 18th in rushing offense.
The Bills On Defense: We’re going to ignore their rankings in important statistical categories for now and focus on some individual players because their rankings are not good, but some of the individual talent is very good. You have to start with their safeties, in my opinion. Donte Whitner is a beast, with over 100 tackles on the season already. He’s coming off a monster game last week against Pittsburgh in which he was the game’s leader in tackles with 18. He can play the pass and he’s excellent in coming up to play the run. Whitner wears #20 and you’ll be quite familiar with him after this game because he’s all over the field on a week-to-week basis.
Whitner’s fellow safety is #31 Jairus Byrd, a sensational playmaker in his 2nd season out of the University of Oregon who was named to the All-Rookie team last year and also earned a Pro Bowl berth. He had 9 INTs this year and I’m guessing opposing teams took notice of that because it appears that this year no one is throwing the ball anywhere near him. Byrd had 11 tackles last week against Pittsburgh and also tallied a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
A few other guys who play well on a regular basis are NT Kyle Williams, who anchors Buffalo’s 3-4 defensive scheme and has 5.0 sacks this season. At 6-1, 306 pounds, he’s dangerous because of his quickness on the inside. DE Marcus Stroud is a 10-year veteran who used to play in Jacksonville and he provides a stout presence at his position. Finally, Paul Posluszny plays an ILB position in the 3-4 scheme and, when healthy, is a talented defender. He’s played just 1 full season through his 4-year career, but he’s does have a pair of 100-tackle seasons and he’s hit that benchmark already this season in just 9 games played.
A couple of other quick hitters on the Bills defense:
— Buffalo ranks last in rushing defense, 29th in scoring defense, 26th in overall defense and 11th in pass defense.
— Teams convert 45.0% of their 3rd downs against Buffalo.
— Buffalo has 12 total takeaways (8 fumbles, 4 INTs) and they are -7 in turnover ratio.
The Bills On Special Teams: Buffalo has not allowed a special teams TD this season and they have 1 kickoff return for a TD. Opposing teams average 23.1 yards per kickoff return (ranks 16th in the NFL) and 9.6 yards per punt return (ranks 20th). On the flip side, Buffalo averages 24.0 yards per kickoff return (ranks 12th) and 8.9 yards per punt return (19th in the NFL).
When healthy, Spiller is the team’s kickoff returner and he’s talented in that role. He has taken 30 returns this season, with an average of 25.3 yards per try with 1 TD. If Spiller can’t go, CB Leodis McKelvin steps in and he averages 23.0 yards per return. Roscoe Parish is a talented punt returner for Buffalo but he’s been lost to injury, so McKelvin and Spiller split punt returning duties as well.
Rian Lindell is Buffalo’s place kicker and he handles kickoffs. Lindell is an 11-year veteran who has been with the Bills since 2003. He’s 12 of 17 (70.6%) of FGs this season with a long of 51 yards and he has 6 touchbacks on kickoffs. Brian Moorman is Buffalo’s punter and he is a 10-year veteran who has spent his entire career with the Bills. This season he’s netting 38.0 yards per punt (ranks 25th) and he’s put 12 of 51 punts inside the 20 with just 5 touchbacks.
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 21 Comments »