While it’s been a bit hyperbolic in past weeks, the Buffalo Bills really don’t have many other options for the rest of the 2015 season. The Bills need loads of help, but, the most simple factor is that they have to win the remainder of their three contests in the regular season.
It all starts in Washington against the leaders of the NFC East. Do they stand a chance?
Five things to watch in the upcoming matchup:
1) Cousins leaving turnovers behind?
- Since being inserted into the starting lineup for Washington, quarterback Kirk Cousins has dealt with turning the ball over quite a bit, with that often times making a big difference in the team’s eventual loss. In the first six games of the season, Cousins carried a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 7-to-8 and Washington struggled to a 2-4 start to the year. Even dating back to last season, in five games started Cousins had a 10-to-9 ratio, and the team had a 1-4 record in his starts. So, how have they turned things around to go 4-3 over the last seven weeks? Cousins’ efficiency has gone way up, that’s how. Since October 25, Cousins has a 12-to-3 ratio, and he’s thrown for over 300 yards in all four of the Washington victories. As head coach Jay Gruden continues to try and mold this team and his new quarterback, Cousins — an unrestricted free agent at year’s end — is making his case to be the guy for Washington moving forward. Cousins has also been quite effective at home, throwing only two interceptions to 12 touchdowns. He’s able to be picked on and will force some errant passes, and to stay alive this season, the Bills will need to force him to do just that.
2) McCoy’s game to win
- LeSean McCoy put a lot of pressure on himself to perform in his homecoming to Philadelphia last weekend, and in the second half, fell woefully short of living up to his expectations. This weekend, the Bills will need him even more. Despite having some solid interior defensive linemen in Chris Baker and Jason Hatcher (if he plays), the drop-off to the play of their starting linebackers is fairly steep. The three men that have seen the most snaps at inside linebacker has been Will Compton, Keenan Robinson, and Perry Riley. All three, as graded by ProFootballFocus.com, rank near the bottom of linebackers league-wide. If McCoy can get into the second level, he can do some real damage by making those linebackers miss in space. The Bills have been doing it quite a bit this season, but against yet another good defensive line, it would be fair to expect them to try and stretch the defense to run east-west, which would allow McCoy to diagnose the play and use a quick cut to get upfield.
3) Jordan Reed will be a chore
- Washington has both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon on its roster, and neither of those players are leading the way in receiving in 2015. Those honors go to none other than Kirk Cousins’ best friend on the field, tight end Jordan Reed. The undersized, yet speedy player has 67 receptions for 694 yards, seven of which that went for a touchdown. He leads Washington in all three categories, and is in the top five of tight ends in both receptions and touchdowns. Just last week, Reed was uncoverable against the Bears and accumulated nine receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown. Without Nigel Bradham on the field, the responsibilities to cover Reed will fall on to either Manny Lawson, or Corey Graham. The most desirable of those options is Graham, but he’s had his share of struggles in coverage in the intermediate areas this season as well. Reed could be the single biggest factor if the Bills are able to come away from their final road game of the season with a victory.
4) Attack the interior OL
- Washington is much improved from last season, and much of that is due to Kirk Cousins being able to limit his turnovers in 2015. That has certainly been helped by how well his two tackles, Trent Williams and Morgan Moses, have played this season. The duo will be a tough matchup for both Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams on Sunday, but if you had to pick the necessary poison, lining up Hughes against the humongous Moses would be the best bet for pressure on the quarterback. Regardless, the way to attack Cousins will be through the interior, and Marcell Dareus can play a humongous role in the game against center Josh LeRibeus, who Pro Football Focus ranks as one of the worst starting centers this year. The offense will give LeRibeus help, but that’s where a blitz from linebackers and safeties will come in handy to overload the Washington front.
5) A Clemson battle out wide
- A quietly fun battle that will be had on the field on Sunday will occur between Bills top wide receiver Sammy Watkins, and Washington top cornerback Bashaud Breeland — and it will be an advanced matchup thanks to familiarity. Both are playing at an extremely high level this season, and both just so happened to be drafted out of Clemson in 2014. Watkins certainly knows quite a bit about Breeland’s game, as does Breeland about Watkins. Just because Breeland is having a good season, Watkins has taken off in recent weeks which will likely dictate more rolling coverages to his side of the field. Even still, watching those two square off will be a fun look at two of the younger, better players at their position.
OUT: TE Charles Clay (back), LB Nigel Bradham (ankle), CB Ron Brooks (concussion), T Seantrel Henderson (illness)
QUESTIONABLE: S Bacarri Rambo (knee), DE Mario Williams (illness), HB Karlos Williams (back)
PROBABLE: LB Preston Brown (hamstring), WR Robert Woods (hip), FB Jerome Felton (back), G John Miller (ankle)
OUT: WR Andre Roberts (knee), LB Perry Riley (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: DE Jason Hatcher (neck), HB Chris Thompson (shoulder), LB Keenan Robinson (shoulder), S Jeron Johnson (hamstring)
PROBABLE: S Dashon Goldson (wrist), WR DeSean Jackson (knee), CB DeAngelo Hall (toe), T Trent Williams (foot), LB Will Compton (shoulder), WR Ryan Grant (abdomen)
Prediction: Bills over Washington
- With their backs against the wall for the postseason in 2015, a win over Washington to stay afloat is crucial. As long a the Bills come away with a victory, they will not be eliminated from playoff contention just yet. Granted, they still need quite a bit to go their way outside of winning the rest of their games, but, all they can control is handling their own business. Against a team like Washington, that has some nice pieces to their roster, but no real standout players that strike fear into an opponent, this should be the type of game the Bills come away with. Granted, the Bills are dealing with quite a few injuries, and the ones to Charles Clay and Nigel Bradham are especially concerning. However, the Bills still have enough talent on offense, and on the interior of the defensive line to pull a victory, and avoid ending their road campaign in 2015 with a 1-4 stretch.
Season long record predicting Bills games: 7-6
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