It’s week 3 of the NFL season and the 1-1 Washington Football Team will be facing a 1-1 Bills team on the road at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, NY. The Bills were a popular pick for AFC Champion amongst Hogs Haven prognosticators, so this should be a very tough matchup by any measure.
On offense, the Bills still feature the same high-power passing attack as last year. QB Josh Allen frequently looks for the big play and WR Stefon Diggs is often there to provide an outlet. The Bills rushing game was a weakness of the offense last season, but seemed to find life last week against a moribund Dolphins team.
Defense has been a problem for the Bills in recent years, but seems to have taken a step forward this year. The Bills shut out the Dolphins last week after edge rusher AJ Epenesa injured QB Tu’a Tagovailoa, knocking him out of the game in the first quarter. The Bills also held the Steelers to 23 points in week 1 and were particularly effective and shutting down the run game, holding RB Najee Harris to 45 total rushing yards and an efficiency of 2.8 yards per carry.
I asked Corey Giacovelli of Buffalo Rumblings five questions to better understand the state of the Bills and what to look for in this game.
1) Overall, what do you think of Josh Allen and how he’s developing and where he needs to improve? How much of Allen’s breakout year do you attribute to his own growth and how much do you attribute to him finally having the right supporting cast?
Josh Allen is the guy for the Buffalo Bills plain and simple. He has all of the traits that you look for in a franchise quarterback and he was able to show that off last season. This season however, he has gotten off to a slow start only completing just over half of his passes. His accuracy just seems off but he has also faced two touch defenses in the Steelers and Dolphins. The breakout year he had last season can be attributed to all of the work he put in the offseason with Jordan Palmer to improve all of his skills along with the team surrounding him with weapons that believe in his abilities. Allen has the potential to be one of the top faces in the league but much like Lamar Jackson before Sunday night, he has yet to conquer the mountain that is Patrick Mahomes.
2) Tell us about the Bills RB group? Do you see any of them emerging as a clear lead back this year?
The running back room is one of the more interesting ones in the league. We saw Devin Singletary show off his speed and elusiveness on his touchdown run against the Dolphins on Sunday. Then, we saw Zach Moss lower the hit stick on both of his touchdown runs showing off the power that he possesses. I do not believe that a lead back will emerge this year for two reasons. The first is that clearly the identity of the offense is to spread out the formation and pass the football. The second is that the two backs compliment each other well and make up for the others weaknesses. There is also the fact that there does not appear to be enough touches to enable one of them to take over the lead role.
3) The Bills defense has really flashed so far in the season. What changes have they made on that side of the ball and how would you gameplan to beat it?
It is still the same scheme that the team has been running the past couple of seasons. The difference is the development that the defense has gone through. For example, A.J. Epenesa has an up and down rookie season but this year he came in with a better attitude and better physique that better suits his playing style. He may not have the numbers in the box score but he has been a disruptive force in the passing game and the running game. Then there is rookie Greg Rousseau who appears to be a steal of a second round pick. Last week he had a couple of sacks with multiple quarterback hits. Usually, when teams have success against the Bills defense they either use a lot of misdirection to get them out of position or they try to pick on the cornerback opposite of Tre’Davious White to see if they can get some big plays down the field.
4) What areas would you most like the Bills to improve, whether in front office, coaching, scheme, or play of personnel?
When it comes to the front office and coaching, the roster appears as good as it’s ever going to be. The players have placed their trust in Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott to get them to a Super Bowl and to raise the trophy at the end of the year. These guys know how to get the best out of their players and Beane has done a great job at navigating the salary cap for the team. What needs to change so far this season is the rhythm of the offense. Everything does not seem to be clicking like it was last year which is weird to say after scoring 35 points last game. Allen appears to be in a little bit of a slump so it will be important for him to break out of it. Also, the running game needs to play more of a role in the games. That way the passing game can get even better by utilizing play action concepts.
5) What do you expect to happen in this game and what does each team need to do to win?
The difference for the game on Sunday will come down to the battle in the trenches. We saw what Pittsburgh was able to do against the offensive line against Buffalo. With Washington having possibly a better front four with Chase Young among others, it will make the difference whether or not Allen has time in the pocket to go through his reads. Ultimately I feel the Bills defense will be able to force a turnover or two to help the offense pull off a hard fought 21-17 victory.
Thanks again to Corey Giacovelli for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the Bills.
As of right now, Vegas has the Bills as 7 point favorites over Washington. How would you bet?
This poll is closed
The Bills win by more than 7 points
The Bills win by 7 points or less or it’s a tie
Washington wins outright
As of right now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 45.5 points. Which would you bet?
This poll is closed
46 points or more are scored (both sides combined)
45 points or fewer are scored (both sides combined)
If you could take any player from the 2018 draft for Washington, who would it be?
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A non-QB (specify below)