Three things occupying my thoughts as the Bills get ready to put on a Sunday night show against the Giants…
Which Next Man Up
The big question for the Bills defense the next few weeks is how the heck do you replace a friggin’ legend and All-Pro like Matt Milano. The short answer is you don’t.
That answer is not one of the choices for Sean McDermott. Last week, solution A was Dorian Williams. When that didn’t work out, he pivoted to Tyrel Dodson and I thought Dodson was the better option against Jacksonville.
That doesn’t mean the job belongs to Dodson. Williams, as a rookie, almost certainly has the higher ceiling and I think the Bills will give him every opportunity to prove he can be the starter. He has flashed an attacking, missile-like playmaking ability.
If it doesn’t work, the Bills can go back to Dodson. I’ve always thought he was one of the better backup backers in the league and should have the safer floor as a starter. Dodson and Bernard got close during their training camp battle for the middle linebacker spot. “If I got married, he’d be my best man or a groomsman,” Dodson said. There should be a pretty quick bond if Dodson and Bernard end up the pairing.
Bernard is actually the most important part of this equation to me. He appeared a bit overwhelmed in London without Milano next to him. Granted, it was hard for anyone on that defense not to feel their head spinning to a degree with all the players coming and going.
Without Milano, Bernard becomes the linebacker with the most starting experience and credibility on the field. He’s The Guy and the need for him to be the linebacker that gets leaned on is exacerbated if it’s Williams that ends up on the weakside. The Bills are already going to take a sizable hit going from Milano to anyone else at one linebacker spot. They can’t afford a slip in Bernard from his pretty darn promising start at middle, even if he’s required to take on more responsibility.
Von Miller was not kidding when he said last weekend was “dipping his toe in the water.” Miller was on the field for only 20 plays. That was less than 25% of the total defensive snaps. The bigger eyebrow raiser was Miller’s lack of impact. Number 40 was barely noticeable against the Jags.
There’s no doubt the future Hall of Famer is soon to be returning in QB nightmares, but there is doubt in how soon or how often that will happen. Miller is 34 and coming off his second major knee injury. It’s not a guarantee the 10-sack-a-season form ever comes back.
It’s not necessary Miller throws up a 3-sack performance in game two of his return. Though, the Giants’ best case scenario for this weekend is starting their second and fifth best tackles. Miller should find that a target rich environment.
An increase in snaps is expected for Miller Sunday night. Perhaps, he even dives in the water head first. I’m still more interested in when he again starts making waves.
Let’s not candy coat the truth about Brian Daboll’s second season as a head coach. His team is really bad.
The Giants rank in the bottom five of 15 different statistical categories. (cracks knuckles) They are 28th, 29th or 30th in yards per pass attempt, rush yards per play allowed, points allowed, opponent scoring percentage and turnovers forced. They are second from the bottom in interceptions thrown, scoring percentage, missed tackles and yards per play allowed. They are dead freaking last in yards per play, passing TDs, net yards per pass, sacks and sacks allowed (they have five sacks against 30 allowed).
In addition, their injury situation is a mess. Their starting center and best offensive lineman (Andrew Thomas) are out. The tackle on the other side (Evan Neal) is also a question mark. Saquon Barkley appears unlikely to play for a fourth straight game. And of course, Tyrod Taylor gets a return to Orchard Park as the starter because Daniel Jones is out with neck injury.
The Bills are going to wildly more talented than the Giants on Sunday night. It should not be a matter of if Kyle Allen plays, but when.
I’m not sure if there’s a rule about this, but I believe my start has graduated from red to white hot. The prop bet is still perfect, improving to 5-0 after Calvin Ridley topped 4.5 catches against the Bills. I’ve now returned 5.3 units through five weeks.
No stat was more grotesque for the Bills in London than James Cook’s five carries for negative four yards. I think that will stick in Ken Dorsey’s craw all week and there will be priority put on cleansing the proverbial run game palette. Scroll up a bit and you’ll see run defense is among the Giants large array of issues. The Bills should have plenty of lead protecting rush opportunities and McDermott has not been afraid to let Cook cook in garbage time.
The Giants have not allowed less than 70 yards to a lead running back in any of their five games so far. That will be our number. James Cook to rush for 70+ yards. I snagged it at +140 on DraftKings, but hurry because it was dropping fast.
I’ve talked to a few fatalistic Bills fans who worry about Buffalo dropping this game (especially after I point out how exceptionally unlikely the tale of the tape makes it). The consequences are actually quite startling.
Should the Bills somehow fall on their face Sunday night, they would be 3-3. With Miami hosting the 0-5 Panthers, Buffalo would almost certainly be two games out in the division. More concerning would be the three losses with Philly, KC, Miami, Dallas, Cincinnati, the Chargers and those daunting Zach Wilson led Jets still left on the schedule. Not making the playoffs would become a real conversation in Buffalo.
I’ll be absolutely stunned if that happens. The Giants having nothing but Daboll’s wits and Kayvon Thibodeaux going for them. Buffalo is home and should be ornery.
It’s possible Dawson Knox and Dalton Kincaid don’t play (both are questionable), but Allen and Diggs are probably plenty of offense by themselves. Dane Jackson is also questionable. His absence might actually be an excellent opportunity to boost Kaiir Elam’s trade value since the Bills would, once again, be backed into a corner to start the former first round pick.
I do wonder if the Bills don’t quite hammer the Giants as much as they could with Daboll and a host of friends and recent former teammates on the other sideline. It’s not that McDermott would purposely call off the dogs early, but there is probably a subconscious desire not to embarrass the Giants. If Buffalo brought the piss and vinegar level that seemed to surface against the Dolphins, Miami’s now famous 70-20 slaughter of the Broncos might end up tame by comparison.
Whatever masses worried by the defeat in England will need style points to be soothed Sunday night. I’m not sure they get a ton, especially with the Bills still licking some of their own wounds. I do think this game will be comfortable. Give me the Bills 31-13.