Three things clouding my thoughts as the Bills get ready for their final game before the bye…
Keep Firing Away
I loved the defensive game plan last week that attacked Russell Wilson in the second half and helped create three turnovers. I’d like the Bills to stay with it.
It doesn’t have to be for 60 minutes. Against Seattle, Leslie Frazier turned up the gas in the second half and it helped seal the win.
The Cardinals will be a different animal because Kyler Murray is a bit more elusive and a more willing scrambler than Wilson at this point in Wilson’s career. Murray will destroy blitzes that are undisciplined or finish with missed tackles.
I’m hoping the Bills are ok with that. I think their identity may have and needs to swing from a defense first, win 20-17 team to relying on 30 points from the offense and allowing the D to just make a few big plays. Sure, Murray might burn you for a couple 20 yard scrambles or an over your head TD. It’s worth the risk if the Bills can also force an interception and a sack/fumble. Murray has at least one turnover in all three of the Arizona losses this year.
This goes a bit for the offense, too. They passed all day last week because Seattle was terrible on the back end. The Cardinals pass defense is above average, but I still want to see Josh Allen and Brian Daboll playing fearless through the air.
God Save The King
Playing fearless might have a lot to do with the performance of the Bills O-line.
Arizona is eighth in the NFL with 22 sacks, two behind the Bills in one less game played. They blitz exactly two out of every five pass plays which, per Pro Football Reference, is 5th most in the league. They also have a couple of decent edge rushers in Haason Reddick (5 sacks this year) and Devon Kennard (7 sacks each of the last two years). Bottom line, Arizona has multiple avenues to bring dangerous pressure.
The Bills need to keep Allen clean. Teams have success blitzing the Bills because it can speed up Allen’s decision making and it’s a better alternative to waiting for one of Buffalo’s talented receivers inevitably getting free. Arizona will be missing two starting D-linemen (old buddy Jordan Phillips and Leki Fotu), so that will help. To me, winning this battle is the biggest key to the game.
The Import of Injury
Buffalo is going to have a much better shot to win that battle because Mitch Morse will be back from concussion this week. Jon Feliciano has been fine at center. With Morse, the Bills will have two “center level” linemen in the middle. That kind of knowledge and experience with line adjustments could be crucial. If Cody Ford also plays (questionable with an ankle injury), it’ll be the first time Buffalo has had their preferred five on the field together all year.
On the flip side, Micah Hyde is questionable with an ankle injury he picked up in practice Thursday. He did not practice at all Friday. That could be precautionary or it could be an ominous sign.
Hyde missed the Patriots game and New England schemed apart Buffalo’s zone defense like no team I’ve ever seen. Josh McDaniels is good as his job, so maybe it was just a quality offensive coordinator having a good day. Hyde is one of the “quarterbacks” for Buffalo’s coverage group. It’s very possible his absence will open big windows again this week which Arizona’s talented offense can easily exploit.
I would not be surprised if, in two of three weeks, this game is viewed as a bigger measuring stick game to Seattle. The Cardinals are the only other team that has beaten Seattle this year.
Arizona is pretty good across the board. They have the second best rush offense in the league (Murray augmented for sure). They’ve allowed the second least sacks in the league. They are a top five team in the red zone on both sides of the ball (5th on offense, 3rd on defense). The secondary with Patrick Peterson and Dre Kirkpatrick (he is questionable) is formidable. They look like a roster with a QB on a rookie contract.
This will be one of the best two or three top to bottom squads the Bills will face. What Arizona doesn’t have is the consistency and experience in winning the Bills have developed. That could be a big advantage.
I don’t think it’ll be enough. My gut says the Cardinals bounce back from a disappointing game against the Dolphins and the Bills, if anything, sag a bit off a really good day against Seattle. I think the loser gets to 30 again and it’ll be a really fun game, but give me the Cardinals 38-30.