The line for the Bills Week 3 matchup with the Cardinals is listed as Arizona -3.5. Somewhat surprising as a group that is a potential Super Bowl contender, but Vegas always has their reasons. For starters it’s a 1 p.m. East coast game for a West Coast team. Not always an easy transition. There’s also some mystery that comes with Buffalo this week due to their offensive coordinator switch, which certainly made them somewhat difficult to gameplan for.
Even considering those factors, Buffalo is going to have their hands full this weekend. Here’s three things they must do to earn their first victory of 2016.
1) They can bend, but can’t break in the secondary
For as bad as the Bills secondary looked in spots during their Week 2 meeting with the Jets, lets give credit where credit is due. Ryan Fitzpatrick was dialed in with his wideouts and poised under pressure. There were numerous occasions where a Bills DB was in perfect coverage and the 33-year-old QB just simply put the ball in a perfect spot. That said, it’s rare to see them exploited the way they were that night and they will have to bounce back against an even better QB in Carson Palmer and an offense loaded with talented skill players. It’s naive to think Arizona won’t be able to move the ball against the Bills defense and honestly that’s okay. They can bend, they just can’t break. When they get the Cardinals up in some longer third down conversions, they need someone to make a play to force a stop. The Bills are one of only 6 teams that haven’t forced an interception yet this season – a few of those would be nice. Last week was clearly an anomaly for this group, but they need to reassert their dominance to have any chance in this one.
2) Get pressure on Carson Palmer
As Sal Capaccio of WGR 550 in Buffalo eluded to on my show this week, the Cardinals O-line is good, but not great. He didn’t go as far as calling it a weakness, however it’s an area the Bills can possibly look to exploit. Whether your facing a veteran QB or a rookie, the best way to force them into mistakes is by getting pressure on them. Through two weeks the Cardinals front has surrendered four sacks –three of which came against NE – and nine QB hits. There’s certainly some opportunity there and Buffalo has some talented pass rushers in their front seven. Jerry Hughes, for example, has been arguably the best player on the Bills roster this season. He’s already compiled two sacks and 11 combined tackles, and side note, he’s looked pretty good in coverage as well. He needs to have a big day and the defensive line as a whole needs to get a consistent push into the backfield, if they want any shot at winning.
3) Better third-down efficiency
The Bills have converted just six, yes six third downs on 23 tries through the first two games of the season. That equates to a putrid 26.1 conversion percentage, fourth worst in the league. There’s no denying those numbers played a role in Greg Roman’s dismissal. Now, under Anthony Lynn’s guidance that’s an area they need to correct, and fast. When Lynn spoke with the media on Thursday he said one of his biggest goals in staying on the field. That generally happens by picking up decent yardage on first and second down, so you set yourself up in manageable third downs. The Bills average yards per third down is 6.7 and they’ve faced third downs of 6 or more yards 12 times – more than half of their total third down attempts. Also, when working with a third-and-four or less the Bills have only converted three of eleven opportunities. Those numbers won’t cut it in any NFL game, but especially not against a team as talented as Arizona. Correcting the issue could pay dividends in Week 3. Hopefully Lynn is up for the challenge.
Week 3 Injury Report:
So far, only two players are officially ruled out for tomorrow in S Colt Anderson (foot) and LT Cordy Glenn (ankle) Anderson has yet to play in a game this season, while Glenn will sit for the second straight week.
The list of questionable players consists of TE Charles Clay (knee), WR Sammy Watkins (foot), QB Cardale Jones (shoulder), Ronald Darby (hamstring) and Greg Salas (groin). It was reported on Sunday morning that both Watkins and Darby will not play today, making the prospect of beating Arizona that much more daunting.
I’m not much of a betting man, but if I was I’d take the Cardinals to cover this week. The Cardinals are too good, even coming east. They play stout defense across every level, have a veteran QB leading the offense and too many weapons for the Bills defense to wrap their head around. The secondary will bounce back this week and the Anthony Lynn led offense will show some promise, however, Arizona is the better team and they’ll prove it by pulling away in the second half. Cardinals 31, Bills 20