As the Buffalo Bills look to make it four wins in a row for the first time since 2008, the team will deal with some changes coming from the other sideline. A “new-old” quarterback will start for the 49ers, while the Bills look to continue the good vibes that come from allowing as many points in their last 3 games combined (37) as they did in their week two loss versus the Jets. Here’s what we’ll be watching:
A Bounce-back Performance from Gilmore and Darby
Neither of Buffalo’s starting corners played particularly well last weekend against the Rams. With Case Keenum slinging it for L.A., Stephon Gilmore allowed 4 catches on 6 targets for 55 yards, and Ronald Darby allowed 7 catches on 8 targets for 87 yards. Overall, the Bills’ “dynamic” duo has underwhelmed thus far, and it would certainly help if they could return to the form that had many ranking them as a top-five duo coming into the season.
Robey-Coleman vs. Kerley
San Francisco’s leader in receptions, targets, and receiving yards this season is our old friend from New Jersey, Jeremy Kerley. As he does most of his damage from the slot, one would assume that Nickell Robey-Coleman will spend most of his day defending the shifty receiver. In terms of overall production, Robey-Coleman has easily been Buffalo’s best corner this season, and arguably, he’s been the best corner in football. He’s allowing a minuscule 16.7 QB rating on throw his way, which tops the NFL. In his performance last week, he was targeted three times. He came away with 2 picks, a touchdown, and a pass breakup. Forcing Colin Kaepernick to throw to the outside of the field, away from his best option, will put Buffalo in great position today.
Speaking of Colin Kaepernick...
I know it wasn’t much of a newsworthy item this week (ha), but the 49ers made a quarterback change, moving away from the perpetually mediocre Blaine Gabbert and back to the man who led them to a Super Bowl in 2012. After beginning his career 17-6 as a starter, with the aforementioned Super Bowl and another NFC championship game appearance under his belt, the wheels began to fall off for both Kaep and the Niners. In the 2014 and 2015 season, he was 10-14 as a starter, and his passer rating declined every year, from 98.6 in 2012 all the to 78.5 in 2015. He threw 31 TDs and 11 INTs in his first two seasons as a starter, and followed it up with 25 TDs and 15 INTs in the next two seasons. His yards per attempt declined, as well, moving from 8.3 to 6.7 over the four-year span. If the Bills can contain his athleticism and make him look like the most recent version of himself, then all will be well; if not, New Era Field could be the coming-out party for the starter-turned-backup-turned starter.
Tyrod Taylor Needs to be Better
If Taylor’s Jekyll and Hyde pattern to the 2016 season continues, he should be in line for a better game today. In odd-numbered weeks, he has totaled 354 passing yards. That’s it. In even-numbered weeks, he’s thrown for 543. He needs to be consistent today, both in hitting his receivers and making sound decisions. Since Anthony Lynn became the offensive coordinator, Taylor has dinked and dunked his way to a pedestrian stat line (61% completions, 489 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 5.62 Y/PA, 83 rating). The 49ers are 21 in yards against on defense, 23rd in passing yards allowed, and 31st in rushing yards allowed. If ever there were a week for Taylor to have a great performance, this is it.
Shady Running Wild
LeSean McCoy is having a vintage season. He’s 4th in total rushing yards (447) and 4th among players with 50 carries or more in YPC (5.3). As I mentioned above, the 49ers have been awful defending the run, so McCoy should continue to do damage this week. Look for some more Mike Gillislee sprinkled in to take advantage of the speed that he, McCoy, and Taylor possess together out of the backfield.
That’s our outlook, Rumblers—what will you be watching for this afternoon?