This week, the 3-4 Buffalo Bills, who are coming off a big divisional win, head to New Orleans to take on the 5-1 Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The game will be kicking off at 1p.m. and can be seen on CBS.
Let’s take a look at some keys to the game.
We will start things off by taking a look at some injuries that the Bills are facing this weekend. Over the past few weeks, the Bills have really been hurting in the running back department.
Fred Jackson did not practice Wednesday and was only limited on Thursday with a minor knee injury. Jackson has been nursing this knee for a few weeks now but has still managed to be on the field for Buffalo. This week should be no different. C.J. Spiller has not practiced all week with his ankle injury. Coach Doug Marrone has been toying with the idea of sitting Spiller this week. Spiller has played sparingly over the past few weeks, but has been very obviously hampered by the ankle. I wouldn’t be surprised if Marrone makes Spiller sit this one out.
If the Bills want to have a realistic chance of staying in the game Sunday, Lewis is going to have to have the game of his career. Lewis has been a serviceable backup in the wake of starter E.J. Manuel going down a few weeks ago.
Given the backup quarterback situation around the league, Buffalo doesn’t have it that bad (see: Freeman, Josh). Lewis has thrown for over 200 yards in each of his 2 starts this season, and has only turned the ball over 3 times.
The Saints have one of the best ranked defenses in the league, only giving up 17.2 points per game. Thad Lewis is going to have to play the best game of his career in order to put up points this week, especially with both running backs being banged up. Speaking of the running game…
Buffalo’s rushing attack has been one of the high points of the offense. Buffalo is currently ranked 4th in rushing yards per game, averaging a little over 140 yards. With Spiller potentially missing this game, Jackson will be shouldering the majority of the load. Jackson has been in a bit of a slump, not rushing for more than 50 yards in the previous 2 games. He will need to go well over 50 yards to keep the pressure off Lewis.
This is where the game will be either won or lost. Saints quarterback Drew Brees (maybe you’ve heard of him?) is one of the three best quarterbacks in the league. Brees is doing typical Brees things, throwing for 1,958 yards already this season, and leading the league’s 5th best offense in terms of yards per game.
Buffalo’s secondary has been dinged up all season, but is finally back to full strength. The Bills have been great in forcing turnovers, leading the league with 12 interceptions. Unfortunately for the Bills, Brees doesn’t often make mistakes. This secondary is going to be tested all game by Brees, and if the Bills don’t want this game to get out of hand early, they are going to have to create turnovers.
To make matters worse, the Bills have to find a solution for tight end Jimmy Graham, who has been having a monster season. A few weeks ago, New England found a way to neutralize Graham. The Patriots just beat the crap out of him all game. I want to see Buffalo punish Mr. Graham all game, forcing Brees to go somewhere else with the ball.
Mario Williams is finally living up to his huge contract! Williams is having an amazing season: he’s 2nd in the league with 10 sacks. Brees isn’t exactly known for his mobility so don’t expect him to leave the pocket and break off a big run. Super Mario needs to penetrate early and often, to throw off Brees’ timing with his receivers.
Buffalo has been awful at stopping the run this season. They’ve made every running back they have played so far look like Bo Jackson.
The defense simply cannot get a guy down on first contact. The Bills are ranked 29th in the league in defending the run. Luckily for Buffalo, New Orleans isn’t very good at running the ball. The Saints are the 25th best rushing offense in the league. Their leading rusher, Darren Sproles is one of the most dynamic backs in the NFL. But, Sproles is also one of the smallest guys in the NFL. If the Bills can get a hand on the slippery Sproles, they shouldn’t have trouble bringing him down.
As you might expect, Vegas has Buffalo as a heavy underdog. The Saints are favored by 11 points over the Bills. If it means anything, if you would have bet on Buffalo (against the spread) every week this season, you would be 5-2. If gambling were legal that is.
Now, what I am about to say may make me sound crazy. I am going to try to justify picking the Bills to win.
The Saints haven’t had any impressive wins this season. Here’s a list of teams they’ve beaten this year: Atlanta (not as good as everyone thought), barely beat Tampa (competing with the Jags in the Clowney sweepstakes), Cardinals (two words. Carson. Palmer.), Dolphins (Tannehill has been shaky), and the Bears (secretly have an awful defense…gave up 45 points last week to a struggling RGIII).
Their only loss comes to the Patriots, whose receivers would be free-agents if it wasn’t for Tom Brady.
Buffalo has been in every single game this season. The Bills are starting to get the whole “winning close games” thing down slowly but surely. I’m predicting the upset. Buffalo 31, New Orleans 27.
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