Three things on my mind for the Bills and Commanders after cruising into D.C. through Tropical Storm Ophelia like it was a run-of-the-mill rainy day in Rochester…
Washington rookie quarterback Sam Howell seems like he might have some juice. At the very least, he’s not afraid to rip it. He reminds me of a young Ryan Fitzpatrick and Taron Johnson agreed when I brought the comparison up. Johnson called Howell’s willingness to try hitting small windows “a good thing to have in a quarterback.” Both guys even have a similar stature–Howell is 6-1, Fitzpatrick is 6-2–and both are much better scramblers than you’d think at first glance.
The Bills had what appeared to be a few coverage breakdowns deep down the field against the Raiders. Some may have been a lean into overplaying the shorter throws and daring Jimmy Garoppolo to beat Buffalo deep. Jimmy G. would not try those throws. Sam Howell will.
The Commanders have talented receivers in Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson, so Howell has all the tools needed to hit the type of big plays that can lead to an upset. That needs to be respected.
Command and Deliver
The quirks of a 17-game schedule allows this to be Buffalo’s third game against the Commanders in five years. That means the Bills know plenty about Washington’s star-studded defensive line. Spoiler alert: it remains quite good. Washington is tied for the NFL lead with 10 sacks and all four starters up front on defense are former first-round picks.
The thing that impressed me the most watching the Commanders comeback win over Denver last week is there was nothing crazy or tricky about the rally. After about 20 minutes, Washington just started to kick the Broncos’ tail up and down the field. That domination started with the defensive line.
This group can absolutely ruin a game. They aren’t too dissimilar from the Jets in that regard. The Buffalo offensive line doesn’t have to be great. Just be good enough to let Josh Allen and company do their thing. Prevent the game from becoming a continuous jailbreak and the Bills offense should be fine.
Stay On The Gas
Bills guard Connor McGovern knows the Commanders pretty well. They were a division opponent during McGovern’s three years in Dallas and he’s made five starts against Washington’s fearsome D-line. His first thought about them is that they don’t stop coming. “Whether they’re up 30 or down 30, they keep rushing the same way,” he said.
That could easily describe the Commanders as a whole. Their 2-0 start is courtesy of two come-from-behind wins. They trailed by 18 points on the road against Super Bowl winners Sean Payton and Russell Wilson and would have won comfortably if they could defend a Hail Mary.
The Commanders aren’t the typical upstart team that might blink if they get down two touchdowns. They’re going to be perfectly comfortable trailing early and will have confidence they can flip the game. The Bills have to make sure they finish a win off with authority.
My prop bets are 2-0 and I’m up 2.15 units through two weeks.
Buffalo has scored more points before halftime in each of their first two games. They’ve held double-digit leads in each of their first two games. Washington has gotten behind early in both of their games. So, let’s not fight this.
I’m taking a first half parlay: Buffalo -3.5 points and Buffalo going over 12.5 points. Fair warning: the rain is predicted to be more a factor earlier than late in the game. The safe play is the Bills covering the 3.5 points, but I’m feeling bold after the 2-0 start.
I think, top to bottom, the Bills are clearly more talented, especially after getting a clean bill of health on Friday. Having Micah Hyde, Dawson Knox and Leonard Floyd available, among others, is obviously a huge boost.
Floyd, in particular, might be very important in this game. With Howell and any young quarterback, the Bills always have an advantage in the secondary. The overflow of experience should make it easier to confuse Howell. Slow him down and make him think.
If that doesn’t work, I think Washington can be had on the tackles. Floyd has lived up to the billing as the “big dog until the big dog (Von Miller) gets back”. Buffalo may need a big dog game from Floyd.
Another fun guy to talk about is Washington rookie corner Emmanuel Forbes. It’s easy to see he’s got a whole lot of athletic talent and ability. Also seems like he hasn’t gotten his footing under him in the NFL just yet.
A deep Stefon Diggs touchdown is potentially in order for Sunday, but Forbes is a playmaker. He’s a guy that should also make the Bills a bit weary. If he plays well, he’s good enough to force the Bills away from Diggs or from their number one option.
This game is more dangerous than I think we all expected it to be a couple weeks ago. The Commanders have a legit chance to be a playoff team in the NFC and they will be a pain in the neck no matter what the weather is Sunday in D.C. (which, as of Saturday, afternoon seems wet, but not a washout).
I do like points in this game because I believe both offenses will have a good opportunity to succeed. I think the more experienced team with the more talented quarterback finds a way. It wouldn’t stun me if the Commanders jump up and pick this one off, but I’ll take Buffalo to win a dicey game 31-24.