Opponent Preview: Buffalo Bills
Among the 5-7 teams, none may be more dangerous than the Buffalo Bills.
It sounds like lip service, but just peruse the Bills roster and note the playmakers. C.J. Spiller. Stevie Johnson. Mario Williams. Jairus Byrd. Leodis McKelvin.
And it’s not just a group of individuals that makes the Bills a threat. As a collective offense, the Bills are fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game, averaging 147.9 yards per game on the ground.
The Bills are also among the league leaders in punt and kick return average. The Bills, on the strength of McKelvin’s return ability, are first in the league in punt return average and fourth in kick return average. As a team they’re averaging 18.4 yards per punt return and 27.8 yards per kick return. McKelvin has two punt returns for touchdowns while former University of Missouri quarterback Brad Smith has the Bills’ lone kick return for a score this year.
On offense, it’s the two-headed rushing attack of Spiller and Fred Jackson that makes everything work. Jackson, the elder statesman of the group, is averaging a workman-like 4.0 yards per carry, racking 423 yards and three touchdowns on the year.
If Jackson is the grinder, then Spiller is the lightning bolt. Spiller is averaging a ridiculous 6.6 yards per carry this season. Combined with his abilities catching the ball out of the backfield, Spiller has over 1,200 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns.
Rams defenders know they’re in for a challenge Sunday.
“They’re two different headaches,” linebacker James Laurinaitis said of the pair. “Jackson is obviously a very powerful, slasher-type runner. And C.J. Spiller is an every-down home-run threat.”
Former Ram Ryan Fitzpatrick is also capable of slinging it around, but he comes with his fair share of interceptions as well. Where the Bills are one of the best rushing attacks in the league, their passing game is just 28th. Only one Bills receiver has over 420 yards receiving.
On defense, the unit is particularly susceptible to the run. The Bills rank 30th in stopping the run, allowing 4.9 yards per rush. They’ve allowed a league-high 17 scores on the ground this year.
One thing they do well is rush the quarterback, with Williams leading the charge. In his first year with the club, the All-Pro defensive end has 9.5 sacks. He’ll be a tall order for right tackle Barry Richardson on Sunday.
With the weather expected to be rainy and cold – it’s Buffalo in December, after all – the game should be won and lost on the ground. Whichever team does the best job of running the ball while simultaneously stopping the other team’s ground game will likely come out ahead Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.