The Bills make their first of three trips out west for a meeting with the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5. Buffalo comes in hot off of two crucial wins that brought them to .500 on the season and will look to win a third consecutive game for the first time since the first three weeks of the 2011 season. The Rams aren’t particularly impressive offensively, but are 3-1 largely because they have a very stout defensive line.
Here’s three things the Bills must do to come back east at 3-2.
1) Neutralize the Rams defensive line
The Rams D-line has been talked about all week long at One Bills Dr., and for good reason. It features, arguably the best defensive player in the game in Aaron Donald who’s recorded 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks and an NFL-best 11 quarterback hurries. Joining him up front are several other highly rated pass rushers by Pro Football Focus, DT Michael Brockers and DE Rob Quinn. It’s worth noting that both Brockers and Quinn are listed as questionable for Sunday and neither practiced on Friday. Still, when they’re on the field together they’re flat out nasty. Buffalo’s O-line has to be in constant communication and everyone needs to know their assignments, because even the smallest hiccup and Los Angeles will make you pay. The best way to neutralize a good D-line is use their aggression against them. We saw the Bills do it last year against Houston when facing J.J. Watt. Watt was so quick and aggressive off the line that the Bills tackles would simply shadow him up the field to the point where he’d take himself out of the play. The Bills will surely have to deploy similar strategies and use extra blockers at times in order to have any sort of production offensively.
2) Limit Todd Gurley
No brainer here. He’s by far and away the Rams best offensive weapon and it’s not even close. Through four games he has a whopping 218 yards rushing and two touchdowns, both of which came in a 37-32 win over Tampa Bay in Week 3. He’s averaging just 2.1 yards per carry, this a season removed from winning the AFC Rookie of the Year for piling up 1,106 yards and 10 TDs over a 13 game span. There’s no denying Gurley has struggled through the first quarter of the season, but any game could quickly turn into his coming out party. This is a situation where having Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby on the back end becomes a massive luxury for the Bills. They know that if they load up the box with a few extra defenders, their corners will be fine in man-to-man coverage. That’s not even considering the fact that Case Keenum is the guy throwing the ball. Gurley is the only threat in a Rams offense that ranks dead last in total yards per game and 30th in passing yards per game, rushing yards per game and points per game. Stop Gurley and their offense becomes very limited.
3) Play with the same hunger we saw in weeks 3 & 4
This matchup has all the makings for a Bills let down. Win two straight, head out west and lay an egg. Two weeks ago this team was driven by the fact that at 0-2 people had written them off and that they hadn’t played to their full potential. Now that the critics have been silenced by back-to-back convicting wins, how will they respond? Will they keep playing hungry like they have something to prove? Or will they rest on their laurels a bit too much? It better be the former. Regardless now that Bills fans have been sucked back in, there’s no doubt this one has them feeling a little uneasy.
RB LeSean McCoy and DT Marcell Darues headlined the Bills Week 5 injury report, falling under the questionable designation. Don’t forget that the NFL did away with the “Probable” designation this season, otherwise McCoy would likely be listed under that category. As for Dareus, Rex Ryan had a “wait and see” approach to his status for Sunday, so we’ll do just that.
Other players that are questionable include
Four players have already been ruled out for Sunday’s contest: C Patrick Lewis, T Cyrus Kouandjio, CB Corey White and WR Greg Salas, who the Bills placed on the IR Friday to make room for Dareus.
Storyline to keep an eye on: The Bills have said they have a “special” package on standby specifically for Reggie Bush. They have yet to use Bush for much of anything and he didn’t even dress in Foxborough last weekend, however how could Rex Ryan deny the former USC Trojan some reps at his old stomping grounds? We’ll see if Bush gets an opportunity to relive the glory days tomorrow.
My Prediction:This is a classic trap game for the Bills. They dug themselves out of an 0-2 hole, and now they head west to take on a beatable Rams team. This game is all about the trenches. On the offensive side, Buffalo has to be able to slow one of the best defensive fronts in the game, barring Quin and Brockers play. On the defensive side the Bills have no excuse to dominate a feeble Los Angeles O-line and shut down one of the worst offenses in the game. Especially if Marcell Dareus is able to go, Buffalo’s pass rush should leave the Coliseum looking like a scene from Gladiator.
There’s that real concern of Buffalo falling asleep at the wheel, but I think they came west focused. Bills eke it out 17-10
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