Packers-Bills: 3 things to watch

Weston Hodkiewicz
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New York Jets quarterback Michael Vick is sacked by Buffalo Bills' Mario Williams (94) and Kyle Williams (95) during an Oct. 26 game in East Rutherford, N.J.

What a rush

Jim Schwartz left one strong defensive front behind upon his firing in Detroit, but immediately walked into another as the Bills' first-year defensive coordinator. Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and former Indianapolis draft pick Jerry Hughes combine for 36½ of Buffalo's league-leading 48 sacks. Mario Williams has made quite a career for himself after fans howled about the Houston Texans taking him No. 1 in 2006 over USC's Reggie Bush, but Dareus is a freak of nature in his own right. The third pick of the 2011 draft, the 6-foot-3, 331-pound nose tackle has 10 sacks to go along with his natural run-stopping ability. The Bills rarely blitz, mostly relying on their line to get home without an extra attacker. If there's been one key to being able to hang with the Packers' offense and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, it's been the ability of opposing defenses to get pressure with a four-man rush. According to Pro Football Focus, Rodgers still has a 96.2 passer rating in the face of pressure, but only a 47.3 completion percentage (44-of-93 for 681 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception). The Packers' offensive line has been stout since the bye week. If the pace holds, Rodgers' 2.0 sacks taken per game would be the lowest of his seven seasons as starter. At the core of the line, guards T.J. Lang (ankle) and Josh Sitton (toe) have looked no worse for wear despite being limited most weeks. "Everybody's good, but they're certainly a talented group," said Packers offensive line coach James Campen of Buffalo. "You don't get 48 sacks by not being good. It's a good challenge."

Buffalo Bills quarterback Kyle Orton, right, throws to running back Fred Jackson during a game against the Denver Broncos last week.

Orton out of nowhere

Kyle Orton isn't a five-star quarterback, but his 74.1 career passer rating against the Packers doesn't tell the whole story. The 32-year-old quarterback still can keep a defense honest and even won his share of battles with Green Bay. His most memorable victory came when he landed with Kansas City late in the 2011 season. While Romeo Crennel's utilization of a Cover-2 defense was the catalyst for a 19-14 Chiefs victory, Orton was efficient in throwing for 299 yards to stymie the previously unbeaten Packers. That's pretty much the book on Orton. Denver passed on the pocket-pacing journeyman in 2011 in favor of Tim Tebow's intrigue, but it's Orton who's still playing in the NFL despite teasing retirement last summer. He won't wow you with his athleticism, but he's good enough to man the fort in a quarterback-starved league. Orton got off to a tremendous start after usurping 2013 first-round pick E.J. Manuel for the starting job in October, but has come down to earth since the bye week. Orton threw 57 passes in last week's loss to Denver and could find himself in similar territory if Rodgers keeps his footing. Orton said during his conference call with Green Bay media this week he feels the Packers' secondary "has the best ball skills of just going up and playing the ball in the air of any secondary that we've played this year." The Packers are equally leery of Orton, who's getting the most out of rookie receiver Sammy Watkins and has won four of his six meetings with the Packers. Generating pressure will be key for Green Bay's defensive front. "I think he's an excellent addition," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Played very well against us in Kansas City down there in 2011. He has complete understanding of the offense. He can make all the throws. He can still sling it. I think he does a very good job with their offense."

Quiet on the set

The Packers believe their no-huddle offense can function fine regardless of the venue, but the statistics show they've achieved the most success inside the friendly confines of Lambeau Field where they're undefeated (7-0) and outscoring opponents 41.1-20.4 per game. On the other hand, Green Bay is 3-3 on the road and actually is being outscored 26.8-22.5. The Packers' three losses came inside some the league's noisiest environments (Seattle, Detroit and New Orleans). Buffalo is a much different challenge. Ralph Wilson Stadium is an open-air facility that holds 73,967, but McCarthy and quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt cautioned this week how loud that crowd can be. There's a lot of parallels that can be seen between the Packers and Bills, teams in two of the NFL's smallest cities. Although the Bills organization hasn't made a playoff appearance since 2009, its fan base isn't afraid to let its feelings be heard. The Packers will have to overcome whatever noise they encounter with solid communication and discipline, particularly on offense. "They can get loud when they need to," said Van Pelt, who played and coached in Buffalo. "The quarterback starts to audible, you'll hear the crowd get higher and higher. They understand what's going on. It's just that passion that they have for the team."​

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