The Buffalo Bills come home to Orchard Park this weekend to take on the Denver Broncos. The game is much like most of Buffalo’s contests to date—the Bills have more wins than their opponent, their opponent has issues at quarterback, and the Bills are favored to win. However, that doesn’t mean that a victory on Sunday is inevitable.
Buffalo looked good in last week’s victory over the Miami Dolphins, finally coming out and dominating an opponent by winning 37-20. Buffalo’s offense looked to be more complete than it has all season against Miami, and the team would love to continue that trend this weekend.
If the Bills are going to win their eighth game of the season, they’ll need some big performances from the players listed below.
QB Josh Allen
Fresh of an AFC Offensive Player of the Week award, Allen looks to continue building on what has been a much-improved sophomore campaign in the NFL. If he keeps on his current pace, Allen’s projected 16-game numbers would give him a 60.3% completion rate, 3,480 yards passing, 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 118 rushes, 530 yards rushing, and 11 rushing touchdowns. I’m pretty sure that if someone told us before the season began that those would be Allen’s numbers, nearly all of us would have been thrilled. The fact that Allen has actually been better than his season-long pace over the course of the last five weeks is even more encouraging. Against a very strong Denver pass defense, however, Allen will face one of his stiffest tests of the season. The Broncos have only allowed 2,103 yards and ten passing touchdowns on the season. Both totals rank fifth overall. Allen has been strong in his checks over the last few weeks, and he was absolutely dominant for much of the game against Miami. He’ll need to be much more good than bad this week if Buffalo is going to move the ball consistently enough to win what should be a hard-fought game.
TE Dawson Knox
The rookie has taken his opportunity to play and run with it this season, as he’s even managed to dominate snaps at the position after veteran Tyler Kroft returned from injury. Knox already has 20 catches for 279 yards and two touchdowns on the season, and he’s the clear third target behind wide receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley. Knox’s best season in college saw him catch only 24 passes for 324 yards, so he’s on pace to beat that easily. While his drops have been problematic, he has shown himself to be a better-than-expected blocker, which has allowed him to excel in ways most fans didn’t expect. With Denver sure to commit extra people to Brown, that could leave Knox in favorable situations in the middle of the field. I expect the young tight end to have a big second half of the season, and a big game on Sunday would make it two in a row for him.
RT Cody Ford
The official starter now at right tackle thanks to Ty Nsekhe’s ankle injury, Ford will have a really difficult assignment in his first solo start: he’ll have to contend with All Pro edge rusher Von Miller. That’s not a match-up favoring Buffalo, as Ford has struggled at times with fast players off the edge. Miller is as good as they come, so Buffalo would be wise to commit some help—perhaps in the form of tight end Lee Smith—to Ford’s outside shoulder. The Bills were able to run some up-tempo offense last week against Miami, and doing so again could take Miller’s legs right out from under him. Whatever happens, Ford will have to play a great game in order to keep Allen upright and the Bills’ offense moving in the right direction.
DE Jerry Hughes
The defensive end was able to play through a groin injury last week, but he missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday this week—will he be able to do it again? The Bills have stuck mostly to using the top three defensive ends, leaving Hughes in most of the time and allowing Shaq Lawson and Trent Murphy essentially to platoon on the other side. Darryl Johnson only saw six snaps last weekend. Hughes has been solid against the run, and even though he doesn’t have the sack numbers, he is consistently disruptive rushing the passer. His health is worth watching, especially with a quick turnaround for a Thanksgiving Day game against the Dallas Cowboys next Thursday.
CB Tre’Davious White
Denver’s top wide receiver, Courtland Sutton, is a bad man. He’s big (6’4” and 216 lbs), fast, and strong, and he’s exactly the physical kind of receiver that Buffalo has struggled with in years past. Sutton is second among all AFC wide receivers in receiving yardage with 805—only Buffalo’s John Brown has more yards so far among AFC receivers (817)—and it’s almost a given that White will have to shadow Sutton for most of the day. Tre’ has had at least a Pro Bowl-caliber season, and perhaps even an All Pro-caliber one, and he has already slowed some great receivers this year. He’ll need to bring his best on Sunday.