The Buffalo Bills will try to begin a season 7-2 for the first time since 1993 by defeating the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Doing so will be no easy task, as the Seahawks have one of the NFL’s best offenses. While their defense has struggled mightily this season, their offense has been able to make up for deficiencies on that side of the ball.
Buffalo is coming off of consecutive divisional victories, having defeated the New York Jets and New England Patriots over the last two weeks. Seattle, meanwhile, rebounded after suffering their only loss of the season in Week 7 by defeating the San Francisco 49ers last week. Seattle is first in the league in points, averaging 34 per game, but just 24th in points allowed.
Which Bills players need to step up in order for Buffalo to earn a big victory? Here’s our list.
QB Josh Allen
After a hot start that garnered some MVP talk, Allen has cooled considerably, though he has continued to play efficiently. He threw a bad interception last week at the end of the first half, but the pick seemed to come as the result of a miscommunication between Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Against a team that has allowed more passing yards than any squad in the league, the Bills should able to do plenty of damage through the air. Last week’s game plan was run-heavy by design, as the Patriots stayed in their dime package even in the adverse weather conditions. As a result, Allen only needed to throw 17 passes in the win. With a balmy weather forecast this weekend—it’s supposed to be around 66 degrees and sunny at game time—Allen should have no trouble driving the ball downfield. Seattle has allowed quarterbacks to complete 68% of their passes this year for 2,511 yards and 13 touchdowns in just seven games. Allen needs to have an MVP-type day if the Bills are going to keep pace with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ high-octane offense.
WR Stefon Diggs
Let’s not be cute here—Buffalo’s passing game needs to come up big this week, and the team’s top target needs to perform. It’s not a good sign that John Brown (knee) has been limited in practice again this week, but Diggs and Cole Beasley have been outstanding with or without Brown in the lineup. Against that subpar Seattle secondary, Diggs is almost certain to see double-digit targets. If he can make double-digit receptions, as well, then the Bills will be in good shape.
G Jon Feliciano
Mongo was excellent in his return from injured reserve, clearing the way for the running backs to have their best game of the season. Many of Buffalo’s more successful run plays went to the left side, where Feliciano was playing until center Mitch Morse suffered a concussion. That’s one of the reasons we’ll be watching Feliciano—will he be at guard or at center? While Feliciano took plenty of reps there last year, he hasn’t been able to do much work at center until this week, as he was recovering from a torn pectoral muscle he suffered in the summer. In what’s sure to be a tight, high-scoring affair, one slip-up could make all the difference. The QB-C exchange will be especially noteworthy this week if it’s Feliciano at center rather than Morse. UPDATE: With Morse ruled out, I assume that Feliciano will start at center in his second game back. Ike Boettger will probably play left guard, with Ryan Bates serving as the backup center for the game.
DE Jerry Hughes
Someone has to prevent Russ from cooking, and the pass rush will be a big part of that. Wilson is a master of evasion, so the edge rushers will have two separate worries: containing the quarterback in the pocket so he doesn’t burn them with his legs while also trying to sack him before he can make a throw. Seattle runs some read-option, as well, and Hughes can be a little over-aggressive at times. I expect offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to work in some misdirection to slow Hughes early.
S Micah Hyde
Will Hyde be back from his concussion after missing last week’s game? If he is, he’ll be tested early and often, as Wilson is one of the league’s best deep-ball throwers. Hyde and fellow safety Jordan Poyer will be tasked with controlling a vertical passing attack that includes Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. After missing a week, Hyde needs to step right back in and play his best football against arguably the league’s best offense.