The Bills host the San Diego Chargers this Sunday in what will be a very crucial matchup for a team that is still an afterthought in the eyes of many. If the Bills can get a win, it will go a long way in helping them reach their #1 goal of making the playoffs.
When the Bills are on Offense
The identity of the Bills offense through the first two weeks is to get the ball to their two key playmakers; Sammy Watkins and CJ Spiller. CJ Spiller has gotten the majority of the carries despite Fred Jackson being the more consistent player and he has made a few key runs and catches in the 1st two weeks. I expect the Bills to continue the same approach of giving Spiller at least 15 carries in this game. The Chargers run defense is middle of the pack and they don’t have the defensive line that the Bears or Dolphins have. Plus the Bills have been mixing it up with the run game. In the 1st two games I have seen a lot of WR sweep fakes which have given the RBs clear running room with one example being the 47 yard run by Spiller against the Dolphins. The Bills will have success running the ball due to sheer volume of runs. Overall I’m expecting them to run it 35 times for 165 yards.
Sammy Watkins was used primarily as a decoy Week 1 as he was still recovering from a rib injury. However Week 2 he exploded with 8 catches for 117 yards and a TD. He was targeted eleven times which was almost three times as many as the 2nd most targeted player (Fred Jackson). The crossing route was the biggest play for him as the Bills were able to design it to get him clear running room for yards after catch ability. Against the Chargers, I expect them to continue to try to feed him the ball as the Chargers will be focusing mostly on stopping Spiller and the run game.
EJ Manuel through the first two weeks has been hyper efficient completing 66.7% of his passes and averaging a whopping 7.8 yards per attempt. He has not been afraid to throw the ball down the field and currently is 8th in the NFL in % of pass attempts greater than 15 yards. The first two weeks the line has given him plenty of time and the Chargers will more than likely try to blitz to mess him up. The red zone is another area where they offense will have to improve and I expect the Bills to show some aggressive playcalling and maybe throwing it on first down. I fully expect EJ to have another efficient game going 22-34 for 265 yards and 2 TDs.
When the Bills are on Defense
The Bills catch some luck as Ryan Matthews will be out meaning Donald Brown will be the feature back. The Bills are 6th in run defense and I fully expect the front four to yet again shut the run game and make the Chargers throw the ball.
Phillip Rivers is a pretty good QB and the Bills will need to get pressure on him to get him out of sync. The front four has done a pretty good job of getting pressure and they will need to continue if they have a chance to win. Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead are the players the Bills need to focus on stopping as both of them have the potential to cause major problems. Nigel Bradham is the Bills best cover LB and I expect him to get on Woodhead but for Gates, safety Aaron Williams will need to have his best game to take out a pretty good TE in Gates. At WR, Keenan Allen is the biggest threat but I expect Corey Graham or Stephon Gilmore will be covering him and both are above average at what they do.
Overall I expect this to be a game that can potentially reach shootout levels. The Chargers are led by Phillip Rivers who is one of the better QBs in the game and TEs and shifty RBs give the Bills fits. The Bills also have some playmakers on offense who are able to make plays against a defense that is really middle of the pack in all categories. But in the end, Sammy Watkins goes off for 10 catches for 145 yards and TD and gives the Bills the win.
Chargers 24 Bills 30
**Robert Woods was held out of Thursday’s practice and there is questions if he can play. If not, Mike Williams and Marquise Goodwin will have a bigger role in the offense.