If you’re hoping for a repeat of Thursday night’s 41-39 barnburner between the Rams and 49ers, you’re not gonna find it with the Broncos and Bills. This matchup pins two of the league’s top defenses against each other. That’s both good and bad for the Bills, who scored just three points in their loss to Carolina last weekend but were in the game until the closing seconds of the fourth quarter. This game could have a similar feel, so Buffalo needs a better offensive performance to have a shot at winning.
Here are three keys to victory for the Bills in Week 3…
1) Create a turnover, or two
While the defense played lights out in defeat last weekend in Carolina, the one thing you kept hearing from the defensive players afterward was “we didn’t do enough.” As unfathomable as that may sound considering they held the Panthers to just nine points, many of them kept pointing to the fact that they didn’t cause any turnovers. In that sense, yes, they absolutely could have done more. This matchup with Denver could have a very similar feel to last week’s with Carolina. With a line of -3 in favor of the Broncos, even Vegas thinks so. If the defenses are clicking, points are going to come at a premium, which means forcing a turnover and setting up your offense with a short field could turn the game in one team’s favor. For the Bills it’s also of the utmost importance because the Broncos enter Sunday having won 30 consecutive games when they win the turnover battle. A streak that dates back to 2012.
2) Converting on third-down
Last week, Buffalo’s offense struggled mightily to put together extended drives. They went three-and-out on three of their four, first half series and didn’t put together a drive of more than six plays until their final two possessions of the fourth quarter. Part of putting together long drives is converting on third-down and in Week 2 the Bills were flat out miserable on third-down, converting only four of their 13 attempts. On the season they’re converting just 40-percent of their third downs. That’s not conducive to winning. Tough as it may be against Denver’s defense this weekend, Buffalo has to find a way to move the sticks on third-down.
3) Establish the run game
Okay, so this one is sort of a no-brainer, but that’s exactly why it has to be mentioned. It became abundantly clear against the Panthers that the Bills offense is nothing without its run game. Sean McDermott can hype up this group of receivers all he wants. Fact is, teams don’t fear Buffalo’s passing attack. Quarterback, Tyrod Taylor can stand at the podium and deny that the blueprint to shutting down their offense is out there, but it is, and really, it was obvious even before last week’s meeting with Carolina. You may recall the Baltimore Ravens deploying the “make Tyrod Taylor be a quarterback” strategy in last year’s season opener. That said, not every team has the personnel to pull it off. In Week 1, the Jets tried to shut down LeSean McCoy and make the offense one-dimensional, to no avail. They simply didn’t have the speed or talent on defense to do it. Carolina on the other hand did. Denver does as well. Difficult as it may be, the Bills are going to have to establish the run to have any shot at winning this game.
When I went game-by-game predicting the Bills record earlier this month, Denver was an opponent I actually had Buffalo beating. My reasoning was that they always seem to beat a team at home that they’re not supposed to. The Broncos fall into that category, however, making picks in the NFL is all about what have you done for me lately and what we saw most recently from Buffalo, particularly on offense in a 9-3 loss to Carolina, was uninspiring to say the least. Facing another athletic, suffocating defense this week isn’t ideal. If the Bills can’t establish the run game, they’re in for another rough day moving the football, especially with the “no-fly zone” lurking on the back end. Fortunately, Buffalo’s defense is equally as dominant, which is why the line on this game is -3. Like Week 2, that unit could singlehandedly keep the Bills in the game and maybe even fuel that upset I predicted initially. A turnover or two could help, but I don’t have enough confidence in the offense to hold up their end of the bargain. Broncos by a touchdown, 17-10.
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