Three things on the tip of my tongue as the Bills get ready to face the Football Team…
The big concern for the Bills in this game is a repeat of what happened against Pittsburgh: Buffalo’s O-line just can’t handle the opposing front four and the passing game can’t ever get off the ground.
This Washington pass rush is just as good as Pittsburgh and it includes three former first-round picks, a note that became Sean McDermott’s first piece of analysis on this group when asked about it this week. The Team has six sacks already this year and that’s with the one guy everybody knows/fears–former number two overall pick Chase Young–yet to earn one.
The difference for me in this game is on the back end. There’s no Minkah Fitzpatrick or Devin Bush on this Washington team. Washington isn’t terrible behind the defensive line, but they won’t offer the same type of ability in linebacking and the secondary that Pittsburgh did.
It doesn’t mean to expect 30 points from the Bills even if that’s almost what Washington gave up to a much lesser offense in the Giants last week. I think this game will still be a battle for Buffalo offensively, but I think they do just a little bit more than they did against Pittsburgh.
Breakout or Bust?
Speaking of the offense, it feels like this game is becoming a referendum on whether Josh Allen is regressing. Allen has started with two subpar games. The concern is now that one is an anomaly, two is a coincidence, but three would be a trend.
I don’t think Allen is going to have that big breakout game this week. He could. This Bills offense certainly has the pieces to break out against anybody, but as stated above, Washington is no picnic defensively.
The Bills are going to face three pretty good defenses the first three weeks of the year. Pittsburgh and Washington both can get after it up front. The Dolphins have a couple of excellent corners who I thought played really well in Miami despite the final score.
After Sunday, the defenses take a 180 on Buffalo’s schedule with Houston, Kansas City and Tennessee before the bye. The Texans are terrible everywhere. Even if the Chiefs and Titans are as good as many think they could be, it’s not because of their defense. No matter what happens with Allen this Sunday, there won’t be any panic button pushing for me until he has a poor game in one or more of the next three.
Crack Open a Heiny(cke)
The X Factor for this game is Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke. For a guy who’s only made three starts ever, he’s certainly been pretty effective in all three. He played two really good teams close (the Super Bowl champion Bucs last year and the Chargers this year) and he led a come-from-behind win over the Giants last week.
Heinicke might be Ryan Fitzpatrick light (and pour one out for missing a chance to see our buddy Fitzmagic this week). He’s definitely unafraid to take chances and fire the ball downfield. All that said, Heinicke has probably never seen the type of blitz scheme the Bills are going to throw at him on Sunday. It is still just start number four for him. There are a million things he probably doesn’t yet know or can read.
I gotta believe the Bills defense, especially with the home crowd behind them, will land somewhere between smothering and overwhelming. However, don’t totally discount the idea that Heinicke can have a good enough game to win. He was on a couch a year ago getting an Old Dominion math degree and contemplating the end of football. Heinicke has already overcome tougher odds.
I’ll be honest. If Fitzpatrick were the quarterback for this game, I would probably be leaning towards picking Washington. The Football Team does have some pretty good offensive pieces around their quarterback. Wideout Terry McLaurin is almost as good as it gets. Former Buffalo Bill Logan Thomas has developed into a high-level tight end. Antonio Gibson is a solid two-way running back. That’s a top 10 RB1/WR1/TE1 combo.
I think the Washington defense will make it an ugly Bills offensive game. This pick is primarily about the Bills defense. They have started the season very strong and are quickly developing quite a swagger. As Micah Hyde has famously said, “confidence is a helluva drug”.
There’s just no way on God’s Green Earth I’m picking a quarterback in start number four to beat this Bills team in Orchard Park. It’s not impossible that the Bills lose (protect your damn punter!), but I think Buffalo gets their first home win 18-13.