The Bills head down to Houston and face the 2-1 Houston Texans. It will be a reunion of sort as the Bills will be facing their ex-QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, a player half of Bills Nation wishes was still their QB. It will be a crucial game for the Bills as they try to bounce back from an ugly loss to the San Diego Super Chargers.
When the Bills are on Defense
Fitzmagic or Fitztragic; that is who the Bills will be facing at QB this week. Ex-Bill Ryan Fitzpatrick is an enigma at QB as one second he is great and the next he throws a couple pick-sixes. For the Bills to win, they’d better hope bad Fitz shows up. The good news is unlike the Bills’ first three games, the Texans do not have a tight end who has the ability to cause some real damage in the middle of the field. However, they do have two good wide receivers in Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins, which will give cornerbacks Corey Graham and Stephon Gilmore a good test. If the Bills go blitz-heavy and get pressure on Fitz, they can get some turnovers. If they give him all the time in the world, it will be a long day for the defense.
Texans running back Arian Foster is a game-time decision to play, and if he doesn’t, Alfred Blue looks to be the guy who will get the start. The Bills have done a really good job stopping the run so far this year, and they need to continue if they want a shot to win this game.
When the Bills are on Offense
The Bills offense stunk up the joint last week against the Chargers. They couldn’t run, the offensive line couldn’t protect, and QB E.J. Manuel was erratic at times. The key will be the offensive line, particularly the guards. Chris Williams has been out of practice and rookie Cyril Richardson will most likely being taking his place. While Richardson can’t be worse, he is a rookie and will more often than not have Texans defensive tackle J.J. Watt lined up right over him. Look for Cordy Glenn and Eric Wood to give the rookie some help and the Bills should scheme their runs away from where Watt is lined up.
The run game has been pretty bad so far this year with the Bills averaging only two yards a carry (if you exclude the big 20+ yard runs that are sprinkled here and there). The biggest problem is C.J. Spiller, who has shown that he is not a running back but a receiver who happens to be lined up in the backfield. Spiller has been awful with the ball, missing the open hole and trying too hard to bounce outside when nothing is there. Fred Jackson looks to be the #1 RB yet again and should be getting most of the carries. The Texans are currently ranked 25th in run defense, but the Bills have a habit of making defenses look better than they actually are. I expect the run game to struggle in this game.
The passing game is the area the Bills need to get better at. The first two games, the Bills made Manuel a game manager, but against the Chargers when they fell behind, the gameplan failed and the offense struggled as a whole and he was forced to throw it 39 times. Part of the problem is offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, whose playcalling lacked any innovation or diversity in the first two games. If the Bills want to be successful, they should allow Manuel to throw on 1st down more, where so far this year, he is 20-28 for 187 yards and 1 TD. With defenses playing the run, it opens up favorable matchups on the outside that E.J. has shown he can exploit. The biggest challenge will be if the Bills will give him time in the pocket; something they didn’t do at all against the Chargers, who weren’t afraid to blitz. I expect to see a couple plays like this and this.
Overall, I expect this to be a close game that will go down to the very end. The Bills offense is not that good, but their defense is good enough to keep them in the game. Manuel needs to play better, particularly on his deep ball accuracy, and be able to carry the load as the run game looks to be struggling yet again. If Fitzpatrick has a couple of turnovers, maybe the Bills pull out the win.
Other Prediction: Jimbo Fisher tries his hardest to blow another game at NC State but Famous Jameis says “no no no. not today” and FSU aka the greatest team ever wins.
FSU 37 NC State 10