Three things on the tip of my tongue as the Bills make yet another return to Foxboro…
They Killed Kenny
The offensive struggles have been a discussion all week long. Sean McDermott even made a point of saying that offensive strengths and roles should be understood this late into a season. It felt like a message was being sent to the offense and the coordinator just a little bit.
So, what does Ken Dorsey have for an answer? He can’t just ask Big Baller Beane to trade for three new offensive linemen or a couple of new receivers. He’s got to make it work with the personnel he has. The offensive line, at least, has been unquestionably improved.
I think the skill personnel is what’s holding the Bills back offensively more than anything else. Other than Stefon Diggs, I don’t think the Bills have a skill guy that can simply dictate on offense. These are players that have to be schemed into space and maybe that’s something that will take a little longer to figure out. Or maybe it’s something the Bills won’t figure out at all.
Regardless, it’s an uneasy vibe for the offense heading to New England. The Patriots offense is very not good and the weather could be an issue. It might only take 17 points to win, yet there’s going to be a weird amount of pressure on the Bills offense to put up a 30.
It’s well known that Josh Allen has held an unexplained ability to pile on the Dolphins since the moment he arrived in the NFL. Whatever magic spell enchants Miami defenders to fall by Allen’s wayside, it’s spreading to Foxboro.
Over the last four Bills contests against New England, Allen is averaging 275 passing yards a game and 316 total yards per game. His completion percentage is 67.6%, which is well above his career average (63.2). He has 13 TD passes against only one interception. All four games, of course, are Bills wins.
I’ll tell you from watching the film from those games, it seems like Bill Belichick has no idea what to do with Allen. Plan A for the Patriots lately has been to back off the defensive line, prevent the scramble, and force Allen to throw. As the above paragraph proves, the “A” in Plan A stands for abysmal.
I don’t know what Belichick will have for this game. As one of the greatest coaches of all time, the respect for what he might cook up must still be there. Especially with top pass rushers Matthew Judon and Josh Uche out for this game, I don’t think even Belichick has a brain big enough to stop number 17.
With Ed Oliver also sidelined Sunday, the Bills now have two incredible defensive tackles who won’t play. DaQuan Jones being the other one. Both have been fantastic against the run this year. Oliver is basically an Avenger playing football through six games.
On top of that, Dorian Williams’ tackling in his first two games has been poor. It got him benched against the Jaguars. The next week, Williams was mostly unblocked in the hole on a Saquon Barkley run that Micah Hyde had to chase down 34 yards later.
Williams is like a walking missile. That athleticism can turn into great playmaking ability. For now, I think the hair-on-fire style is getting him out of position for some tackles.
With the winds possibly up, I’m pretty sure Belichick would love to dust off the three total passes game plan that won the Monday night game in Orchard Park two years ago. Jordan Phillips and Tim Settle are having good seasons, so there is quality depth. However, there’s just no replacing the run-stoppers Buffalo has lost. It will be a concern on Sunday.
A six-pack of winners to start the year. I’m now 6-0 and ahead 6.8 units.
We’re taking another big swing this week. The Bills defense hasn’t been much of a run-stopper even before Pro Bowlers starting dropping like flies. Buffalo is second worst in the NFL at 5.4 yards allowed per carry.
New England’s game plan is almost certainly going be keeping the ball on the ground, shortening the game and taking the air out of Buffalo’s (generally) elite offense. I think they can be successful long enough to give their two primary runners good enough games.
Rhamondre Stevenson is an upper tier NFL back. Ezekiel Elliott used to be. I’m going to parlay both players over their rushing yards. I grabbed the lines Friday afternoon on Caesar’s. Stevenson has to go over 43.5 yards. Elliott’s number was over 27.5. The odds to hit both were +250. You probably won’t find anything quite that good now, but it’s still close on most books.
The concern here is Buffalo rolls to a couple early TDs and forces Mac Jones into chase mode. Definitely a risk, but New England has a top ten red zone defense. I think they force enough field goals to keep the run game viable.
There’s a good chance the Bills are tired hearing about their struggling offense. Yes, it hasn’t looked great the last two weeks. Throw in the opener and that’s 50% of the season with subpar performances.
Allen and Diggs alone still make it one of the better offenses in the game. While the supporting cast lacks impact, it’s also far from terrible. That’s a lot of professionals who won’t like having their ability questioned like it was this week, including questions that seemed to emanate from the head coach himself. I think the offense bounces back.
The underlying numbers say New England’s defense is pretty good, despite allowing the 9th most points per game in the NFL. The top number to keep in mind is 3. That’s how many turnovers the Patriots have forced, the least in the league.
Without Judon rushing the passer, it’s clearly more difficult creating turnovers. That’s still a ridiculously low number for a Belichick-coached team. A regression to the mean is absolutely coming. The Bills need to make sure it doesn’t happen in this game. Don’t give New England anything stupid.
With both teams having lengthy injury list, I wouldn’t be surprised if this game gets ugly. There could be lots of new and/or non-starting level players who get snaps.
I think Buffalo controls this game for large portions even if the Patriots staunch red zone D makes it a frequent field goal game. Hope you have Tyler Bass in your fantasy lineup. I’ll take the Bills fairly comfortably 26-6.