The Buffalo Bills come into Sunday’s match-up with the Philadelphia Eagles as a slight favorite. The odds makers have Buffalo favored to win by 1.5 points, less than the standard three points granted to most home teams in tight contests.
The odds mean little, however, as both teams enter in the midst of different trajectories. The Bills are playing the second of three straight home games, and they are 5-1, with their last victory a closer-than-expected 31-21 win over the Miami Dolphins. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is playing the third of three straight road games. They were blown out by the Dallas Cowboys last week, losing 37-10 to drop their record to 3-4 on the season.
Which Buffalo players are our guys to watch this weekend? Glad you asked.
QB Josh Allen
Against one of the league’s worst secondaries, it’s safe to assume that most fans will want to see a dominant performance out of Allen, who had an up-and-down showing last weekend. After struggling in the first half (6-of-15, 90 yards), Allen rebounded after intermission, completing 10-of-11 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns. He added a 2-point conversion run to his ledger, as well. If Allen’s struggles with the deep ball are going to be reversed, this would appear to be a good week for it to happen. The Eagles have allowed eight passes of 40 yards or more this year, the second-highest total in the league. If John Brown (and perhaps even Robert Foster) are unleashed, and the Bills can protect Allen, then the young quarterback may have a chance to hit on at least one big play this week.
TE Tyler Kroft
Buffalo’s big-ticket free-agent tight end made his team debut last weekend, and it was a largely anonymous day. Kroft played 25 snaps, which was less than Dawson Knox (29) and slightly more than Lee Smith (23). At 6’6” and 252 lbs, Kroft gives the Bills a huge red-zone target for Allen. Now that the big tight end has his first game in a Bills uniform under his belt, perhaps it’s time for him to see his first target as a member of the squad, as well. If the Eagles focus on containing Buffalo’s wide receivers, especially inside the red zone, Kroft could not only secure his first pass in Buffalo, but he may even convert his first touchdown with his new team.
DE Trent Murphy
Sure, most of the focus has been on Jerry Hughes at defensive end, but how many of you knew that the team’s snap-count leader at the position is actually Murphy? I’ll admit that I didn’t until just looking at it. Granted, the spread is narrow (Murphy has played on 255 snaps to Hughes’s 251), but the veteran has been a valuable part of the Bills’ rotation along the defensive line. Murphy hasn’t quite made the impact that Hughes has, with eight tackles, three pass breakups, an interception, and two quarterback hits, but that could change this week. Carson Wentz was under constant duress against Dallas last weekend, and if the Bills can remain as effective on stunts as they’ve been up front, they can take advantage of a weak Eagles’ offensive line in notching a few more sacks this week. Murphy will be a big part of the game plan.
LB Tremaine Edmunds
Whether Matt Milano (hamstring) can play or not, Edmunds has a big task this weekend, as the Eagles boast a phenomenal tight-end group consisting of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goeddert. Ertz leads all tight ends in targets with 59; in fact, that total is tied for eighth in the entire NFL regardless of position. Goeddert has been targeted 22 times, which is also 22nd in the league among tight ends. Wentz loves to use his tight ends to exploit mismatches in the middle, and if the Eagles can manipulate Edmunds with misdirection and play action, then it will open up his two best weapons. Edmunds needs to be sharper than he was last week against Miami, where his aggressiveness was used against him at times.
S Jordan Poyer
I’m picking Poyer over teammate Micah Hyde, but anything I write here about one could just as easily be said about the other. Poyer will be an important part of the plan, as his ability to blitz will allow the Bills to use him in the box to disguise their intentions before the snap. Poyer could be used in run support, as a press option against the Eagles’ tight ends, or as an edge rusher, and the best part is that all three of those options could come with the same pre-snap look. Poyer is in the midst of another great year (41 tackles, one sack, one fumble recovery, one interception, one forced fumble, three tackles for loss), and the Bills will need him to be at his best on Sunday.