Just because the Buffalo Bills are only looking at their next opponent, that doesn't mean we can't jump the gun and see what's coming. Each week, we'll be looking at the next few opponents on the schedule to see what might be in store when they face off against the Bills. We call it our Pro Personnel Department series.
Week 5: Bills at Titans
Week 4: bye week
Week 3 review: Tennessee had the Colts at death's doorstep, leading 27-14 with seven minutes remaining, but couldn't finish them off. Three quick touchdowns from the Colts and a failed two-point conversion in the waning moments left the Titans with a 35-33 loss and a 1-2 record on the season, the victory coming against the winless Buccaneers. Marcus Mariota had a good game on paper, throwing for 367 yards and two scores, but threw two interceptions (one of which was an admittedly fluky pick-six) and missed some open receivers by a pretty significant margin. His receivers, however, have been dangerous when Mariota can put the ball on target. Kendall Wright, in particular, can really make people miss in the open field. Tennessee's run offense, unfortunately for them, is not nearly as elusive. The Titans ran for 88 yards on 27 carries, a figure that includes three runs of ten yards or more. If they can't hit a home run, they're really not going anywhere.
Defensively, the team put good pressure on Luck, forcing him into the mistakes that he's prone to making. Their run defense, on the other hand, was not nearly as strong. Whereas the Bills easily bottled up Frank Gore when he hit the corner, the Titans were letting him run to the outside and across the line of scrimmage for a few yards each time. The Buffalo defense held Gore to 31 yards on eight carries; Tennessee let him run for 88 on 14 rushes. They'll need to work on that during the bye if they want to stay competitive against the hard-running Bills.
Week 6: Bills vs. Bengals
Week 4: Bengals (3-0) vs. Chiefs (1-2), Sunday, 10/4, 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 3 review: The Bengals made it to 3-0, and they sent the Ravens to 0-3, but it was a close and fairly ugly affair. A total of 22 penalties were called during the game, which ended with the Bengals on top 28-24. Cincinnati struggled to run the ball compared to their usual output, as Giovani Bernard led the team with only 49 yards on the ground. However the Andy Dalton-to-A.J. Green show was in full force. Dalton threw for a career-high 383 yards and three scores (but also lost a fumble late that Baltimore ran back for six), while Green caught ten passes for a career-high 227 yards and two of those touchdowns, including a beautiful 80-yarder late in the game and the eventual game-winner with just outside of two minutes left.
Defensively, the Bengals let the Ravens look a lot like their own offense did. Baltimore couldn't run to save their lives, only tallying 36 yards on 18 carries, but Joe Flacco (362 yards, two touchdowns, one pick) and Steve Smith (13 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns) kept the Ravens in the game right to the end. As one might have guessed from those stats, Cincinnati's defensive line did great work at the line of scrimmage, and kept Flacco moving in the pocket, but their tackling left much to be desired. Still, they're an undefeated team and easily the Bills' biggest challenge until the rematch against New England.
What to watch for: Can the Bengals re-balance their offense against the Chiefs? Green might be the most dominant receiver in the NFL, but if teams don't have to worry about the run then they can pay a little more attention to number 18. The Bills currently have the top rushing defense in the NFL, allowing only 74 yards a game. Kansas City's run defense is in the middle of the pack at 14th overall, allowing 94 yards a game. If they can't have a strong day on the ground against the Chiefs, they probably won't do much better against the Bills, allowing Rex to keep his safeties back to help out in coverage.
Player to watch: WR A.J. Green. While Buffalo has generally played well against the pass this season, current pass defense ranking notwithstanding, they have shown a penchant for letting the opposition's top receiver (T.Y. Hilton, Rishard Matthews, and just about anybody on New England) have a pretty good day offensively. With Green, that kind of day could decide the game in his team's favor. Green is easily the best receiver that the Bills will face all season, so his performance should be the best barometer we'll have for how good Stephon Gilmore truly is as a shutdown cornerback.
Week 7: Bills at Jaguars (London)
Week 4: Jaguars (1-2) at Colts (1-2), Sunday, 10/4, 1:00 p.m. ET
Season review: The Jags currently sit at 1-2, with a victory over Miami and losses to the currently-undefeated Panthers and Patriots. While they don't have the look of a playoff team at the moment, they do look a lot better than the foundering Jaguars we've all come to know and love. Blake Bortles seems to be carrying some of the preseason poise he's become known for into the regular season, and there's a fairly decent cast of supporting players around him, led by Allen Robinson and rookie T.J. Yeldon. The offensive line is still struggling, which is really holding them back from being truly competitive.
Defensively, while they did just let New England hang 51 on them and are missing third-overall pick Dante Fowler, Jr. for the season, they have some strong points. Our old friend, Paul Posluszny, currently leads the NFL with 34 tackles, and has been a standout linebacker for his entire career with both the Bills and Jaguars. They've struggled with pass defense, allowing 300-yard days to both Ryan Tannehill and Tom Brady, which could be something for the Bills to exploit. Still, at this point I have a hard time calling this game a 'gimme' for the Bills. There's still plenty of time for that to change, however.
What to watch for: Simply put, can the Jaguars beat the Colts? Indianapolis hasn't been this vulnerable since the lost season that netted them Andrew Luck. A victory in Indy would be a definite statement that the Jaguars aren't the same old pushovers they've been for the last few years. Of course, at the same time a loss to a team that struggled to beat the second-worst squad in the NFL last season would have their fans preparing for another long season and another top-five draft pick. We'll know a lot more about this team after Sunday.
Player to watch: LT Luke Joeckel. Joeckel went through a full practice for the first time since injuring his ankle in the first game of the season, so he could be a go against the Colts. He's been largely underwhelming since Jacksonville picked him second overall in 2013, and if they hope to take the next step into relevance he's going to need to step his game up. Indianapolis hasn't excelled in the pass rush, recording only four sacks and generally failing to put pressure on the opposing quarterbacks, so if they can exploit Joeckel it's not going to bode well for him going forward.