Two middling teams with questions at quarterback and suspect run defenses. This should be “fun.”
The Chargers host the Bills on Sunday at the StubHub Center in Carson, their road away from home. Buffalo benched their starting QB to let a rookie take the reins against one of the NFL’s best pass rushes. The Bolts have a QB coming out of the NFL’s concussion protocol. And both teams have been gouged by opposing running backs this season.
So this might end up looking like the Army-Navy game. Run it 50 times, throw it 10 times, and see what happens. The Bills, somewhat shockingly, start the day as the 6th playoff seed, which makes their switch from Tyrod Taylor to Nathan Peterman quite curious. Several Chargers admitted during the week they need to win out to have any shot at the post-season.
So who stays in the post-season hunt and who starts booking January tee times? Fernando Ramirez takes a look at what the Chargers should do to win while Derek Togerson examines the Bills path to victory.
Chargers Key #1: Run Forrest Run
The Buffalo Bills are one of the worst defenses against the run. They are giving up around 117 yards on the ground and last week versus the Saints they surrendered 298 yards rushing and six touchdowns on the ground. Chargers running back Melvin Gordon needs a jump-start on a count of he had 27 yards last week versus the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team needs to keep on feeding him because at some point the Bills defense will allow those big runs. The Chargers should also mix and match their backs. Using Gordon then Austin Ekeler and maybe Andre Williams could change the game because all three of those backs are different. Coach Anthony Lynn also needs to make quarterback Philip Rivers day go smoothly as he is coming off a concussion. If the team wins and Rivers only dropped back 20 times that is a double win for the team.
Bills Key #1: Get McCoy Going
LeSean McCoy has not looked like himself in 2017. He’s averaging 3.8 yards per rush, which if it holds would be the first time in his career he’s been under 4.0 for a season. But he still has the ability to unleash explosive plays and the Chargers are a prime candidate. Their secondary as a whole is really bad at tackling so if McCoy can find that second and third level he can break off some chunk plays, which will help a ton as they put a rookie QB out on the field. Last week Denzel Perryman’s return was a huge help in stymying the Jaguars potent rushing attack. Now we get to see if Perryman’s presence has altered the defense of if that was a one-off.
Chargers Key #2: Pressure the Rookie
On Wednesday morning Buffalo Bills coach Doug McDermott announced that he was benching quarterback Tyrod Taylor and he would give the nod to rookie Nathan Peterman. He scored his first touchdown last week versus the Saints. The Chargers defense will need to show him different formations and make him nervous all game long. Defensive end Joey Bosa has at least sack in the last five games he will need to continue that because once Peterman feels Bosa or Ingram hit him, he will be trying to get the ball out and will make mistakes. The Bills will probably try to make run Shady McCoy a lot during the game so the defense will need to stay disciplined like they did last week when Leonard Fournette was held to 33 yards rushing. If the Chargers can rush the rookie and stop McCoy from going crazy they will have a chance to win the game.
Bills Key #2: Win on Special Teams
According to the statistical website Football outsiders the Chargers have the NFL’s 2nd-worst special teams unit (better than only the Broncos, which is ironic since Denver beat the Bolts in Week 1 with a special teams gaffe). The Bills have the 7th-best special teams in the league. So this is simple: take advantage of what has been arguably the Chargers’ biggest weakness for nearly a decade while you keep on doing good things in the kicking and punting games. It’s a bonus if Travis Benjamin provides another safety.
Chargers Key #3: Keep the Ball Safe And Take it Away
The Chargers offense had played a clean game last week versus the Jaguars until it came down to crunch time. Oddly enough that is the most crucial part of the game. The Buffalo Bills know how to take of the football as they have given it away only 11 times and when it comes to taking the ball away the Bills are tied for second in the NFL with 18 takeaways. They have a young, but very aggressive defense, which will make quarterbacks make mistakes. As of late Philip Rivers has had a tendency to throw up a jump ball that gets intercepted. Rivers is actually the leader in the NFL in balls thrown away, which he must do because he shouldn’t force anything. Ekeler also fumbled last week in a crucial time, but he did mention on Wednesday that it happened last week and he has forgotten about it, which he must do because fumbling issues will get him benched quickly.
Bills Key #3: Stay Patient and Wait For the Big Mistake
During Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series the Yankees were getting all they could handle from the Red Sox. The game was at Yankee Stadium. The Curse of the Bambino was still very much alive. Derek Jeter said to Aaron Boone, who was a little nervous at the time, “The ghosts will show up eventually.” Jeter believed it and sure enough, Boone hit a walkoff home run to send New York to the World Series. How does this apply to a football game preview? Because you know it’s coming. EVERYBODY knows it’s coming. The Bolts are good for at least one monster mistake a game and it usually costs them the contest. Buffalo just needs to sit tight, keep the game close, and wait for that mistake to happen. Because much like the Curse of the Bambino, the Curse of the Deano will show up eventually.
Fernando’s Prediction: Chargers 28, Bills 17. The Chargers will make Peterman uncomfortable and the offense will finally use tight end Hunter Henry consistently.
Derek’s Prediction: Bills 16, Chargers 13. Don’t ask me how but we’ll see something ridiculous again in another close Chargers loss.