If the Buffalo Bills want their best shot at beating the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, they'll need to take care of the basics: win the turnover battle, run the football and cut down on penalties.
Through 10 games this season, Indianapolis has forced a league-low six takeaways - and half of those occurred in a Thursday night road win over lowly Jacksonville. They have gotten takeaways in just four different games this season, meaning that teams have avoided turning the ball over against Indy in 60 percent of contests this season.
Buffalo would do well to up that percentage to 70. They did not turn the football over in last Thursday's 19-14 win over Miami, but they still have the sixth-highest number of turnovers (21) in the NFL this season. 13 of those 21 turnovers have occurred on the road. Knowing that Indianapolis is much better at home than they are on the road - just three of Indy's 19 offensive turnovers have occurred at Lucas Oil Stadium - it's imperative that the Bills take care of the football.
Why, you ask? Here's a stat that will shock you: Buffalo is 4-0 when they finish ahead or even in the turnover battle this season, and 0-6 when they don't. Likewise, Indianapolis is 4-0 when they win or draw in the turnover battle, and 2-4 when they don't.
That puts Ryan Fitzpatrick front and center for the Bills; the good news there is that he's only thrown three interceptions in his last six games (though, of course, that might mean he's due for an outburst). It also puts running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson in the spotlight, as the Bills will likely try to control the football as long as possible not just to limit turnovers, but to keep Andrew Luck off the field. Jackson, especially, will be worth two eyeballs on the turnover front; he's fumbled four times this season, including twice in the last game he played.
We can talk until we're blue in the face about individual matchups, but unless the Bills can take care of the basics - i.e. control the flow of the game, win the turnover battle and cut down on penalties - the rest won't matter. Buffalo has proven time and again this season that they're good enough to beat anyone, but not when they can't take care of the simpler, cliched aspects of the game. That will be true against Indianapolis, as well.