GREEN BAY – In the first of four interconference matchups for the Green Bay Packers, the Buffalo Bills will head to Lambeau Field on Sunday fresh off one of the bigger NFL regular-season upsets in decades.
A playoff team a year ago, the Bills essentially went back into rebuild mode in the offseason by jettisoning their starting quarterback and left tackle and allowing key veterans to depart via free agency.
Basics on the Bills
Winless the first two weeks, the Bills went into U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota as 16.5-point underdogs and promptly boat raced the host Vikings, jumping out to a 27-0 halftime lead and winning 27-6. Buffalo took advantage of the fact that Minnesota was without stars Dalvin Cook and Everson Griffen, but they also forced three Vikings turnovers.
Defensively, the Bills run a 4-3 base defense under coordinator Leslie Frazier. But interestingly, Frazier had his play-calling duties stripped by coach Sean McDermott at halftime of Buffalo’s Week 2 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. McDermott, a former defensive coordinator in Carolina, returned those duties to Frazier last week.
Offensively, the Bills are running a new system under first-year coordinator Brian Daboll. Daboll is generally considered a coach in the “Erhardt-Perkins” offense, named for former New England offensive assistants Ron Erhardt and Ray Perkins. It’s generally considered one that relies on a powerful run game and a pass game that is concepts-based (as opposed to numbers or language), which allows for multiple players to move around in multiple formations.
Total touchdowns scored by the Bills' offense.
Completion percentage by Bills quarterbacks through two games.
Yards rushing by QB Josh Allen, tops on the team.
Players to watch
Josh Allen, QB
It’s hard to ignore the player with the ball in his hands on every play, but the Bills moved up to No. 7 in April’s draft to take the strong-armed quarterback out of Wyoming. And while the plan was for Allen to bide his time behind AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman, the Bills summarily traded McCarron and benched Peterman after a half. Allen’s 55.7 percent completion percentage is awfully similar to his 56.2 percent career number at Wyoming, but he has improved in that regard the last two weeks. He also can make things happen out of the pocket, as he leads the Bills in rushing with 97 yards. He has been sacked 11 times, however.
Trent Murphy, DE
Murphy signed a free-agent deal with Buffalo after missing all of 2017 due to two torn knee ligaments. He seems to have recovered, as he has 1.5 sacks rushing off the left edge through three weeks. Murphy, a 6-foot, 6-inch, 260-pound rush end, was a second-round pick by Washington in 2014 who came into his own in 2016 with nine sacks. He’s one to watch as he’ll be rushing against the Packers' right tackle, whether it be Bryan Bulaga (back injury) or backup Jason Spriggs.
Zay Jones, WR
As a group, the Bills' offense hasn’t been very good. But Jones, 23, is tied for the team lead with six catches for a team-high 106 yards (17.7 yards per reception). He ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash before being drafted in the second round a year ago, but his strength is more catch-and-run.
Reasons to worry
The Bills are one of the worst offensive teams in the league, ranking No. 31 in total offense and No. 29 in scoring. They are No. 30 in passing and No. 19 in rushing. They have gotten incrementally better week-to-week after being shutout in Week 1, scoring two touchdowns in Week 2 and three last week against Minnesota. That said, they haven’t had many explosive plays, so if they can somehow move the ball and score points against the Green Bay defense it may be a sign of larger problems for the Packers.
Reasons to relax
While the Bills are coming off an unexpected upset a week ago, they haven’t been consistent. Defensively they’re OK (No. 11 in total defense, No. 24 in scoring defense) and they’ve gotten after the quarterback (eight sacks). But they’ve given up seven passing touchdowns and four rushing scores. And it’s still clearly a work in progress offensively with Allen. The victory over Minnesota should prevent Green Bay from overlooking them, and while the Packers' offense could be slow-starting again with Aaron Rodgers nursing his knee injury and potential backups playing at right guard and right tackle, they should be able to execute more effectively and consistently to score points.
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Allen may not be able to complete many passes yet, but he is athletic.