(Photo Courtesy of Fansided)
After another topsy-turvy week at One Bills Drive, the Bills will host the Green Bay Packers, the league’s hottest team, with the goal of keeping their faint playoff hopes alive. This weekend’s opponent is led by arguably the number one quarterback in the league, Aaron Rodgers, and the future hall of famer has led his team on a five game winning streak after some early-season struggles. The Bills’ defense will try to force Green Bay’s dynamic offense to revert to its form from the beginning of the season, but with the way this team has been playing, such a task will undoubtedly be difficult. Ultimately, with their backs against the wall and the season on the line, Buffalo will need a complete game from all three phases in order to make the final two weeks of the season have any meaning.
Now though, let’s go ahead and preview this weekend’s contest to see how the Bills might pull this one out.
1. Get After Rodgers
For the second Sunday in a row the Bills’ defense will have its hands full against one of the league’s best, and like last week, the team’s chances will hinge largely on whether or not they can shut down the opposition quarterback. While Peyton Manning had an uncharacteristically poor day against the Bills defense, it would be unwise to bet on Rodgers playing just as badly.
For one, unlike Manning, Rodgers possesses a deceptively good degree of mobility both in and out of the pocket. Although he’ll never be confused with Michael Vick, Rodgers would never pull up two-yards short on a first down scramble in the red zone, or simply give up and turtle into his own offensive line and take a sack. Also, Rodgers has one of the best young running backs in the league to give the ball to in Eddie Lacy, and the former Alabama standout has been consistently productive during the Packers’ winning streak after overcoming a poor start to his sophomore campaign.
The Bills defense will be without starting safety Da’Norris Searcy, a nice surprise for the team this season, but will have the rest of its starting rotation ready for tomorrow’s game. And one player that Buffalo will need a big day from is DT Marcell Dareus who, after a slight drop off in production over these past two weeks, will be counted on to collapse the pocket and prevent Rodgers from stepping up into a clean space to throw downfield. He’ll be lining up against rookie Corey Linsley and, while the young center has had a good season thus far, this is a match up that should clearly favor the Bills’ defense.
2. Open Up the Offense
The hardest part of watching last week’s loss to the Broncos had to be the timid play from Kyle Orton and the Bills’ offense. Although such a performance was hardly out of the ordinary for this unit, it was especially disheartening to see because it wasted yet another solid performance by Jim Schwartz’s defense. One thing is certain, if Kyle Orton and the Bills’ offense squander another good defensive outing this Sunday, then Nathaniel Hackett, Doug Marrone, and Kyle Orton will need a security escort to their vehicles after the game.
Simply put, the coaching and quarterbacking was too conservative last week. Knowing the team needed to keep the offense on the field, Hackett and Orton seemed to forget that staying on the field is useless if you don’t score points. I’ll admit that CBS’ atrocious broadcast often left me wondering about whether the Bills actually committed such dubious penalties or whether the receiving corps was even creating enough separation for Orton to get them the football, but at this point I’ve just had enough. Kyle Orton and Doug Marrone would rather take three than run the risk of trying to get seven, and I might die if I have to go through another season of this ineptitude. With the season on the line this Sunday, Marrone has no excuse not to let his quarterback try and air it out, and if the swing passes and tight end dump-off’s continue (which they will), it’ll be an ugly scene at the Ralph.
3. Don’t Allow the Referees to Decide the Game
Many fans, myself included, pilloried Ronald Torbert and his officiating crew for their poor performance on Sunday. While I hope the NFL decides to send a more seasoned group of referees to the Ralph this Sunday, let’s not ignore the fact that the Bills are simply not a well-disciplined team. As one of the top-five most penalized teams in football, there is more than enough blame to go around. But let’s look at the defense, where Jerry Hughes and Nigel Bradham are racking up boneheaded personal foul penalties at an alarming rate this season. The members of the secondary have been a frequent guilty party as well, and while I understand that recent rule changes have made things significantly harder for defensive backs to do their job, other teams don’t seem to have the same knack for giving up a backbreaking holding or illegal contact penalty on third down like the Bills do.
In his postgame comments after last week’s loss, Aaron Williams talked about the Bills having to play against the Denver offense as well as the referees. Aaron, I’m sorry but you’re wrong, you were playing against the Denver offense and yourselves, and like so many times over the last 10+ seasons, you couldn’t overcome both. So try not to do it again this Sunday, please?
Prediction: Dan Carpenter kicks six field goals, Bills win 18-17.