Looking to bounce back from a frustrating loss to the Panthers last weekend, the Bills welcome the Broncos to New Era Field on Sunday. Through two weeks, the defenses have stolen the show for these two teams and there are plenty of similarities between them ahead of the 37th all-time meeting between the two franchises. The comparable defensive numbers aren’t the only thing that makes this intraconference matchup unique though.
Here are 5 noteworthy tidbits to remember:
1) To be the best, you have to beat the best
Buffalo’s meeting with Denver is the second of five games the Bills will play this season against a team was a participant in one of the last two Super Bowls. First was their Week 2 meeting with Carolina, who of course lost to Denver in Super Bowl 50 two seasons ago. Still to come are the two representatives from Super Bowl 51, with the Atlanta Falcons on the docket next week and two matchups with the defending champion New England Patriots slated for December. Playing each of the last four Super Bowl participants as well as the last three Lombardi winners is a daunting challenge for a team in the midst of a 17-year playoff drought.
2) Defenses rule
These two suffocating defenses have put up some pretty comparable numbers through the first two weeks of the season. Both units rank in the top five in yards per game (285.5 for Denver, 234.5 for Buffalo), yards per play (4.2 for Denver, 3.9 for Buffalo) and rushing yards per game (52.0 for Denver, 57.5 for Buffalo). While the Broncos secondary has dubbed themselves “the no-fly zone,” it’s the Bills secondary that has actually done a better job against the pass so far. They’re allowing 177 yards through the air on average, in comparison to 206.5 yards for Denver. Additionally, the Bills defense is yielding just over 10 points per game, while Denver’s is surrendering 19 on average. One area where the Broncos defense ranks significantly higher than Buffalo’s is third-down defense, where they’ve allowed conversions on just 23-percent of third-down attempts. The Bills opponents have converted 36.7-percent of their third downs.
3) Big pay for 2011 picks
In 2010 the Bills and Broncos finished with identical 4-10 records, but Denver edged the Buffalo for the second overall pick in the 2011 Draft based on strength of schedule. After Cam Newton famously went off the board at No. 1 overall to Carolina, the Broncos selected LB Von Miller, which the Bills followed up by taking DT Marcell Dareus. In 2017 Miller and Dareus are the highest paid players on their respective rosters. Miller has a base salary figure of $16.5 million and an overall cap hit of $19.9 this season, while Dareus counts $16.4 million against Bills salary cap. Another similarity between the two is that at they have both served suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy at some point during their careers. In 2013, Miller sat out six games after reportedly submitting a diluted urine sample to the league for testing. Dareus served a one-game suspension in 2015 for failing a drug test, then sat out four games last season for the same violation. Of the two, Miller has certainly done a better job earning his money, considering he’s avoided suspension since and been named a Super Bowl MVP.
4) First-year head coaches
Bills head coach Sean McDermott and Broncos head man Vance Joseph are two of five first-year head coaches in the NFL this year. And when they face off on Sunday it will actually be the second matchup of the weekend between two first-year head coaches, after Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers and Sean McVay’s Rams did battle on Thursday night. The similarities don’t stop there though for McDermott and Joseph. Both were also defensive coordinator’s (McDermott in Carolina and Joseph in Miami) prior to accepting their respective head coaching gigs this offseason. Philosophically, McDermott and Joseph each prefer a 4-3 defensive scheme, and while McDermott brought his with him to Buffalo, Joseph actually took a different approach, sticking with the 3-4 defense that led Denver to two Super Bowls in three years.
5) Super Bowl woes
The Bills and Broncos share an unfortunate Super Bowl trend that only three franchises have ever experienced: losing each of their first four trips to the Super Bowl. Buffalo infamously lost four straight Super Bowls between 1990-1993 – a tragedy unique only to the Bills franchise. The first of Denver’s four losses came in January of 1978, a 27-10 loss to the Cowboys. Almost a decade later they went on to lose three more big games in four years in 1987, 1988, and 1990. Fortunately for the Broncos, John Elway led them to back-to-back Super Bowl wins in 1998 and 1999, then helped build the team that won it all two years ago. Oh, and if you’re wondering, the Vikings are the only other team to lose its first four Super Bowl appearances, and share an 0-4 record with the Bills.
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