In the 2016 NFL season, only one team has had ten days to rest after a loss. The Carolina Panthers, after losing on a last-second missed field goal in Denver, blitzed the San Francisco 49ers 46-27. Is it possible that the Buffalo Bills could do this?
Well…anything is possible, as the recently retired Kevin Garnett waxed in 2008 during a failed attempt at a spontaneous Adidas commercial. But that notion feels as foreign to Bills fans in 2016 as a sober tailgate. Hope is not part of the culture at One Bills Drive, and things keep getting darker. Already, the season feels lost. But the players will be out there on Sunday at New Era Field, and so will the fan base, full-throated and ready to riot at the sound of a train whistle.
So yes, person reading this…the Bills can absolutely beat the Arizona Cardinals, 2015 NFC runners-up and juggernauts on both sides of the ball. But lots of breaks need to happen, and Buffalo straight up needs a smarter game plan than the one deployed against the Jets.
1. The defensive backfield just needs to perform. Look, if you are reading a preview capsule on the weekend before a professional football game, you aren’t remotely capable of hanging with a professional wideout (and if you can, contact us please...love to get an interview). But even the dumb and common amongst us could see Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby getting torched by the New York receivers last week. The law firm of Decker, Marshall and Enunwa combined for 18 catches and 319 yards, which is a real bummer when Chan Gailey exploits your supposed strength. Without the corners providing the ability to stop guys on an island, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown could put up similar numbers.
2. The defensive line has to get more pressure. Lines in a 3-4 philosophy will never rack up a ton of tackles…but Jerry Hughes led the (listed) defensive line players in tackles against the Jets, and those five tackles tied for seventh. Yikes. Combine that with one sack and it’s pretty clear the Bills need to attack the Cardinals’ d-line in a more unique fashion. Sustained pressure is never Carson Palmer’s friend; his immobility is a big deal if you can get to him.
3. David Johnson is a better Matt Forte. Johnson is the most unique weapon in the NFL right now not being crushed under the inability of Jeff Fisher to understand offense. Thankfully, Bruce Arians is, ya know...good. As a result DJ has 275 yards from scrimmage in two weeks. Could that go over 400 after this week? It certainly seems that way, unless Rex and Rob can figure out a way to attack on multiple levels without leaving big holes open. That said, stopping Johnson stops a big part of the Cards, and can kill the diversity of the attack.
4. Just give me something unique on offense. Notice this is the first mention of the offense. Offense wasn’t the issue last week, but it could be this week without the illusion of Sammy Watkins on the field. Last week we saw the bomb to Marquise Goodwin, which was cool. We also saw EJ Manuel on a QB sneak…with the same motion…and the same play…three…separate…times. So…Greg Roman may not have been a genius, but he was at least capable of delivering a semi-cohesive offense playbook. We are officially in the unknown with Anthony Lynn, so its impossible to even predict what could happen. If the offensive line can’t open holes, LeSean McCoy is a moot point. If you don’t think about the intermediate areas, Charles Clay and Robert Woods cannot matter. But if Lynn can allow guys to play to their strengths, there are playmakers on this side of the ball, even minus Sammy.
Sunday is truly a cannonball into the unknown for Bills fans. From the beginning of the season, Arizona looked like an opposing goliath. The first two weeks have done nothing to quell this. It’s basically impossible to find a way that Buffalo gets this done. That’s right…all in on the reverse jinx. Cardinals win 24-14.