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Bills vs. Seahawks: Five things to watch


How often the Bills run the football

Earlier this week, MRW posted a statistical FanShot on how successful teams have been this season against the Seahawks when they consistently run the ball on first down.

This was the featured tweet:

Here are the amount of first-down runs the Bills have deployed this season.

In wins:

49ers - 24

Cardinals - 15

Patriots - 20

Rams - 15

Average - 18.5

In losses:

Patriots - 12

Jets - 8

Dolphins - 16

Ravens - 8

Average - 11

Let me stop you before you scroll down to the comment section. I know Buffalo’s first-down run numbers were likely a bit skewed in blowout wins over the Cardinals and 49ers. But that doesn’t make the point moot. The Bills stayed dedicated to the run in tightly contested victories over the Rams and Patriots, but didn’t continually prioritize the ground game in narrow defeats at the hands of the Jets and Ravens.

Regardless of who they’re playing, the Bills, who lead the NFL with a 5.5 yards-per-carry average — which is more than a half-yard higher than the second-place Dolphins — should be dedicated to the run in every game.

Against Seattle, a persistent ground game will:

— (Likely) keep Tyrod Taylor out of 3rd-and-long situations.

— Wear down the Seahawks defense.

— Add considerable pressure the Seahawks’ rather inefficient offense. (Seattle is currently 26th in both yards and points gained per drive.)

No, running on the Seahawks isn’t easy, but it will be less difficult for the Bills tonight than it normally is, as Seattle will be without defensive lineman Michael Bennett and hard-hitting safety Kam Chancellor.

Run, Bills. Run.

(Added note: Per Football Outsiders, the Seahawks’ defense currently sees play-action 19% of the time, the 23rd-most in football. On those plays, it allows 8.4 yards. Against non-PA, Seattle’s defense allows just 5.8 yards. That 2.6-yard difference was the 8th-highest in the NFL heading into Week 9. The play-action pass should be Buffalo’s complement to its run game tonight.)

The Seahawks’ offensive line

The offensive line is, by far, Seattle’s most glaring weakness. In his Q&A with us, Kenneth Arthur of Field Gulls placed 55% of the Seahawks’ offensive woes on the five guys up front.

Here’s what he wrote:

“Center Justin Britt's been okay, left guard Mark Glowinski seems fine, but everything else has been rather terrible. They had J'Marcus Webb at right guard for a few games while rookie Germain Ifedi healed from a high ankle sprain. Ifedi's been alright but definitely still a rookie. And right tackle Garry Gilliam's looked not so good while left tackle Bradley Sowell, and now UDFA rookie George Fant (who was strictly a basketball player at Western Kentucky two years ago) is the starter after Sowell sprained his MCL. The line is the biggest problem.”

We all are fully aware of the season Lorenzo Alexander is having, and Jerry Hughes hasn’t been that bad either.

Buffalo has a clear-cut advantage rushing from the outside tonight, and the play of Alexander, Hughes, and Shaq Lawson is undoubtedly worth watching.

Percy Harvin’s involvement

Should we expect a monster game from Harvin tonight? No. Does he at least pose a formidable threat to the Seahawks’ defense. Yes.

And the Bills desperately needed the latter.

Nothing against Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Walt Powell, and Justin Hunter, but that quartet doesn’t exactly strike fear into opposing secondaries, especially not one as talented and experienced as Seattle’s.

Although Harvin hasn’t even been back with the Bills for a full week, a luxury of his skill set is that he doesn’t need to necessarily be “fully” up to speed on everything Anthony Lynn wants to do — although Harvin does know the offense — to be a weapon right away.

Buffalo has sparingly used the screen game this season, and Harvin could change that, starting this evening.

He’s always been best as a “space” player, so Tyrod Taylor can get him the ball on a few easy, high-percentage throws to get the juices flowing again.

Harvin should see about 15-20 snaps tonight, per Chris Brown of

The containment of Russell Wilson

In 2014, Russell Wilson led the NFL with 7.4 yards per rush on 118 carries and scored six rushing touchdowns. Last year, he toted the rock 103 times and accumulated 553 yards.

Seven games into 2016, Wilson has 25 carries for 44 yards with no scores on the ground.

He’s labored through a knee injury and a right pectoral injury all season, which is likely the main reasons why he’s been so unproductive as a runner.

However, earlier this week, Wilson told reporters he feels the best he has since Week 1. Regardless of how mobile he truly is, Buffalo needs to make sure he is contained within the pocket.

He did demonstrate he is capable of being an effective pocket quarterback down the stretch in 2015, but the Bills want to deal with a one-dimensional Wilson, not a two-dimensional Wilson. Like Tyrod Taylor, he’s obviously made a myriad of plays outside of the original play script in his career when routes and coverages break down and receivers scramble to get open.

How well the Bills limit Wilson as a runner/scrambler will have a huge impact on this game.

Jerel Worthy’s presence

Without Marcell Dareus and Corbin Bryant tonight, Jerel Worthy will likely see his largest, single-game snap total of the season.

For the Bills defense, that’ll probably be a positive thing.

Among those who’ve played at least 50 snaps thus far in the 2016 regular season, Worthy is leading Buffalo’s defense in “Efficiency Score,” a feature from my grading system I’ll debut during the bye week. It’s a player’s overall grade divided by the number of snaps he’s played, multiplied by 100 (for bigger numbers across the board).

As the name of that metric suggests, it’s the most logical way to measure each player’s overall efficiency.

On just 73 snaps this season, Worthy has a +2.6 run-stop grade, which is higher than the run-stop grade of both Corbin Bryant (224 snaps) and Adolphus Washington (185 snaps).

He’s oddly been an extremely limited role player so far and was even a healthy inactive in Week 8 against New England.

Worthy hasn’t offered much as a pass-rusher (+0.4 grade) but has shined as a run-stopping specialist. His burst off the snap, point-of-attack power, and hustle have all stood out.

After seeing 17 snaps in the first two games of the year — with pedestrian results — Worthy has been on the field for just 39 plays in the past five outings. In his last appearance, against the Dolphins in Week 7, Worthy played four snaps and received a +0.6 run-stop score. In my system, a +0.2 score is the most common positive grade a player receives on a given play. So, yeah... he certainly “flashed” efficiency.

Worthy will be integral to Buffalo’s defensive plans to convincingly win the battle in the trenches.