The Buffalo Bills face the Arizona Cardinals this week in an unfamiliar position. They have a 1.5-game lead on their nearest competition in the division, the Miami Dolphins, who just defeated Arizona last week. Buffalo also defeated Miami when the teams met earlier this year, so Buffalo holds the edge in the tiebreaker department, as well.
Buffalo is 7-2, and this is the earliest the team has notched its seventh win since 1993—the last time the Bills went to the Super Bowl. If they defeat the Cardinals on Sunday, it will be the earliest they’ve won their eighth game since that same year. More importantly, it will help them to maintain their lead over the Dolphins within the division.
In order to earn a big road victory, Buffalo will need some big performances from their big players. Here’s who we’ll be watching this week.
QB Josh Allen
The MVP talk resurfaced this week after Allen’s huge performance against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Allen is averaging 287 passing yards and two touchdowns per game while completing 69% of his passes on the year. He’s run for an average of one score in every other game so far, as well. Allen had a performance dip in October after a scorching-hot September, but that downturn still featured him playing very good football. The Cardinals have been stingy in terms of scoring on defense, as they have allowed the eighth-fewest points on the season, but they have allowed plenty of yardage throughout the year. Opponents average 244 passing yards per game, which is just 19th overall. As Allen goes, so go the Bills—so he’ll need to have another strong day in order to emerge victorious.
RB Zack Moss
It’s been an interesting before-and-after for the rookie running back. He was brutal in the early going, carrying 22 times for just 58 yards in his first three games. A toe injury cost Moss some time, and after a rough game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Moss has found his footing. Over his last three games, he’s carried 30 times for 146 yards and three touchdowns. During the same timeframe, Devin Singletary has just 24 carries for 116 yards. Moss’s emergence has given the Bills more diversity in their offense, as his bruising style perfectly complements the shifty Singletary. If Moss can continue gaining tough yards, the Bills can control the clock, which might be the best way to slow Arizona’s top-flight offense.
WR John Brown
For the first time in his career, the former Cardinal returns to face the team that drafted him. Brown was the third option in Arizona’s offense during his time with the Cardinals, serving as a deep threat for veteran Carson Palmer in head coach Bruce Arians’s offensive scheme. Since arriving in Buffalo, Brown has shown himself to be much more than a deep threat. He led the team in receptions and receiving yards in 2019, setting career highs in both categories with 72 catches and 1,060 yards. While Stefon Diggs has taken the mantle as the clear number-one wideout, Brown is still a deadly second option. He’s missed some time or has been limited due to knee and calf injuries this year, but after an eight-catch, 99-yard performance last week, he finally looks fully healthy. That bodes well for Buffalo.
LB Tremaine Edmunds
Last week was the first time this season that Edmunds finally looked like Tremaine Edmunds. He was decisive in his reads, quick in coverage, and excellent on blitzes and open-field tackles. He looked like the Pro Bowl player from 2019. Perhaps he’s finally starting to overcome the lingering effects of a shoulder injury he suffered in the season opener against the New York Jets. In any case, he’ll surely be the spy on quarterback Kyler Murray, who leads all quarterbacks in rushing yards with 543—and in fact, he’s eighth in the entire NFL in that category—and rushing touchdowns with eight. Murray’s ability in the read-option game is legit, and Edmunds will have to be disciplined in reading his keys yet again in order for the Bills to stop Arizona’s high-flying offense.
CB Tre’Davious White
After suffering an ankle injury at the end of the Seattle game last week, White missed practice on Wednesday. He was able to suit up on Thursday, however, so he’s likely good to roll this week for his rematch with DeAndre Hopkins. White shadowed Hopkins for much of the Wild Card Playoff loss to the Houston Texans last January, and he’ll be tasked with slowing the All-Pro wideout down in the desert, as well. White notched his first interception of the season last week, and he continued his strong play by locking down DK Metcalf on most of his routes when the two were across from one another. The Bills can’t afford to have White play off of Hopkins this week—whenever the team is in man coverage, the goal has to be to make Murray hit Larry Fitzgerald or Christian Kirk instead. This will be a spotlight matchup all afternoon, and I expect to see plenty of those cut-away graphics during the broadcast that show Hopkins and White hand-fighting throughout. Hopefully, that graphic will be followed by one that shows Hopkins with a much higher number of targets than he has receptions.