Overlooking the Bills Will No Longer Be A ConcernPosted:Sep 28th, 2018 3:02 pm
This was supposed to the game where the Packers could take a breath. Here come the Buffalo Bills, a team that looked so hapless through two games that whispers of 0-16 were being heard. And then came the Bills' stampede at US Bank Stadium last week. No matter what happens the rest of the season, that result will be the most shocking of the 2018 NFL season.
There's no question that caught the Pack's attention, assuaging any fears that they might take the Bills lightly. Toss in the Green Bay's uninspired, mistake-laden effort in DC last week, and they should be focused and razor sharp when they take the field at noon.
Let's start with the health of the team. There's concern on the right side of the offensive line, but Bryan Bulaga's return to practice (limited) on Thursday, provides hope that he won't miss a start. Justin McCray is likely to miss this one--he appears to be the one starter on that side of the ball who won't play.
With Aaron Rodgers returning to the practice field for the first time since suffering the knee injury in the opener, he'll get some much-needed reps and should be sharper than he was last week. We'll have to monitor Jimmy Graham, whose knee injury kept him out of practice on Wednesday. He returned on Thursday and all signs point to him playing on Sunday, but we'll have to see if he's limited in any way.
Look for Davante Adams to be followed around by second year corner Tre'Davious White. That will be a great matchup and could cause Rodgers to focus his attention elsewhere. I see Geronimo Allison having a big day--he's been an unsung hero through three games. There should also be opportunities for Randall Cobb, who needs a nice bounce back, following a dud of a game in Washington.
The Bills' defense is 10th in yards, but has struggled against the run (in the first two weeks), where they rank 30th. Could this be the week that Aaron Jones grabs the leading role in the backfield? In limited snaps last week he made his presence felt and showed why fans are excited to see him get more opportunities. It would be nice to see him get at least 15 touches on Sunday.
The strength of the Bills defense is up front, with Kyle Williams and Star Lotulelei on the interior and veterans Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy on the edges. Hughes is the biggest threat, but fortunately he lines up on the right side, so he'll be dueling with David Bakhtiari all afternoon. This front four wreaked havoc on Kirk Cousins and the Vikes' interior line. A legit run game should slow them down, so Mike McCarthy needs to stay balanced in his play call.
Rookie quarterback Josh Allen had to have gained loads of confidence from his performance against the Vikings, but he is making just his third start and Mike Pettine will assuredly try to confuse him all afternoon with different looks and pressures coming from everywhere. He's been cautious about blitzing so far, but his unit has been dynamite when blitzing and the Bills offense is dead last in the league against the blitz.
Allen will be aided by the return of LeSean McCoy, who's been nursing a rib injury the last two weeks. He'll likely split carries with battering ram Chris Ivory. The Pack's run defense will need to focus on stopping the run first and foremost. Of course jumping out to a lead would be the best way to put a stop to the Bills' running game.
The Bills' passing game does not present much to fear. Top receiver Kelvin Benjamin has been a disappointment and second year guy Zay Jones is the leading receiver with six catches for a little over 100 yards in three games. The Packers should have more than enough depth to cover this unit, even if Kevin King misses another game. It will be interesting to see the debut of Bashaud Breeland, who replaces Davon House. If he flashes the talent he showed with the 'Skins the past few years, he'll be an upgrade over House.
Look, bottom line, despite what happened to the Vikings, the Packers cannot lose this game and expect to be a factor in the NFC, not to mention the NFC North. They'll be wearing their throwbacks and it will feel like and old-style game with gray skies, possible rain and temperatures in the 50s. The Pack will run the ball well, Allison will have a big game and the defense will take the ball away a couple of times.
We're going to learn a lot about the 2018 Packers on Sunday. I think we're going to like what we learn.
Packers 23 Bills 13