Bills/Cardinals: Four Key Matchups


Can Peters rebound from 3 sloppy starts? (buffalobills.com)

The Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals are set to square off this coming Sunday as the Bills look to extend their record to 5-0 for the first time since 1991.  The Cardinals, meanwhile, will look to end a two-game skid in their first home game since a Week 2 trouncing of Miami.

Several key matchups will hold huge importance in this game.  We're glad to be joined once again by cgolden of Revenge of the Birds, SB Nation's Cardinals blog, as the two of us break down four key matchups for the Bills/Cardinals tilt.  On to the matchups...

Bills WR Lee Evans vs Cardinals CB Roderick Hood
cgolden - Lee Evans is a tough match-up for any cornerback because of his big play ability and Roderick Hood will certainly have his hands full on Sunday. Evans is having a great year, averaging over 23 yards per catch, so Hood will have to bring his A-game to keep Evans from getting deep. Evans is not only a legitimate down the field threat, he's also shifty enough to turn every short pass into a huge play. Roderick Hood is a good tackler but the Cardinals don't play much press coverage, which could leave Evans open for some quick, short passes. Hood is the Cardinals' best corner by far but he's not anything spectacular so I wouldn't be surprised to see the Cardinals keep a safety over the top. Much of the Cardinals defensive game plan will depend on Adrian Wilson's avaliability on Sunday, but either way, Hood will need to some help to contain Evans.  Advantage: Bills

Yours Truly - Evans is off to a fast start.  He'll never be a guy who catches a large volume of passes, but he definitely makes his catches count (see his 23.7 YPC average through four games).  When Evans is at his best, he's making a play or two early in the game, letting other receivers keep the offense efficient in the middle quarters, and putting the final dagger in a win late in the fourth quarter.  He lulls defenses to sleep in this manner.  There isn't a corner in the league who can cover Evans for an entire game (when he's got competent quarterback play), so I fully expect Evans to make a big play or two in this one.  Advantage: Bills

Bills DT Marcus Stroud vs Cardinals C Lyle Sendlein and RG Deuce Lutui
cgolden - Lyle Sendlien got his first taste of a big, powerful defensive tackle last week when Kris Jenkins abused him a couple of times, and things won't get any easier when Marcus Stroud comes to town.  Stroud benefited from playing on a great defensive line in Jacksonville and he's got some pretty good defensive line mates in Buffalo as well with Aaron Schobel, Kyle Williams and Chris Kelsay. Stroud, like Jenkins, is strong enough to bull rush nearly any center or guard but also has the quickness and agility to be a decent pass rusher. Sendlien is a young guy who's still coming into his own and Lutui has been performing just well enough not to be benched. They'll have to double team Stroud most of the day but I still wouldn't be surprised to see him blow up a running play in the backfield and be in Warner's face a couple of times on Sunday.  Advantage: Bills

Yours Truly - Stroud's importance to this defense can't be measured just by his stats alone.  You have to take into account what Stroud has done for Kyle Williams as well; Buffalo's starting defensive tackles have combined for 28 tackles and 3 sacks in the team's first four games.  Stroud's a force against the run, and he's proven over and over this season that he can routinely beat the double team.  He's been impossible to block.  I don't expect Arizona to establish much of a run game on Sunday, but it would be nice to see Stroud collapse the pocket a handful of times around Kurt Warner, who is a fabulous rhythm passer.  Advantage: Bills

Cardinals OLB Travis LaBoy vs Bills OT Jason Peters
cgolden - This should be a strength on strength match-up and should be worth the price of admission. Oddly enough, these two guys have probably faced off before considering that LaBoy spent his first four seasons in Tennessee. LaBoy is the Cardinals best pass rusher and if Clancy Pendergast decides to be aggressive this week, he should be able to apply some pressure.  Jason Peters is the Bills' best offensive lineman and is one of the better left tackles in the league.  Since LaBoy will at times focus too much on rushing the passer, Peters should be able to handle him in the running game.  In passing situations, though, it'll be much more interesting.  LaBoy is a natural pass rusher and has the ability to get around almost any tackle in the league. He may not register a sack but I'd be surprised if he wasn't able to apply some pressure to Edwards a couple of times.  Advantage: Push

Yours Truly - Peters has been off his game since deciding to return from a prolonged pre-season holdout.  As such, he's only got about a month's worth of football under his belt this year, and with a new offensive coordinator and line coach, he's had some difficulty adjusting to what Buffalo does offensively.  He's been very streaky - looking awful at times and dominant at others - and he's currently dealing with an ankle sprain as well, hindering his footwork.  I fully expect LaBoy, who is very sudden in his pass-rushing, to make some plays on Sunday.  But Peters will have help, and he's still very adept at neutralizing the speed rush.  Advantage: Push

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald vs Bills CB Jabari Greer
cgolden - Larry Fitzgerald has had a great year through four games and he's on pace for over 1,600 yards. His size and ability to snatch the ball out of the air at its highest point are second to none.  He'll have a four inch height and 40 pound weight advantage over Greer, so I wouldn't be surprised to see them test Greer early and often. Whatever the Cardinals' game plan ends up being, Greer shouldn't be underestimated though.  He's a slightly undersized corner back (5'11", 180) who is coming into his own and he plays much bigger than his stature would suggest. He's pretty good about getting his hands on a pass or two during a game and he sealed the Bills' victory over the Rams with a 33-yard pick six.  Overall, Greer's a solid corner but he'll need help because Fitzgerald is a special reciever.  Advantage: Cardinals

Yours Truly - Buffalo employs a Cover 2 shell on pass downs, so it's a virtual certainty that the Bills will have two guys on Fitzgerald at all times.  That number could balloon to 3 on occasion if Anquan Boldin doesn't play as expected.  Greer will get the Fitzgerald assignment most often, and I actually think that his aggressiveness and surprising reach match up better with Fitzgerald than most people believe.  But Fitzgerald is undeniable; he'll get his touches.  The Bills will be lucky if they can hold him to one score.  Advantage: Cardinals

***

Not much of a debate here.  We'd love to hear your thoughts on these matchups and on this exercise in the comments section.

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