The Buffalo Bills travel west to meet the Los Angeles Chargers this week, and the teams could not possibly find themselves in more opposite situations. Buffalo enters as the winners of consecutive games, having defeated the Kansas City Chefs and Dallas Cowboys in successive weeks. The Chargers enter as losers of five of their last six, and they fired both their head coach and general manager after allowing 63 points to the Las Vegas Raiders last week.
The Bills can’t dip to the level of their opponent’s situation, as the Chargers appear right now to be a team in complete disarray. However, this is the second time that the Bills will face an AFC West club that allowed at least 60 points in a season, and we all know how that turned out the last time it went down, as Buffalo lost 24-22 to the Denver Broncos.
This week, I’m going to focus a little less on some of Buffalo’s more obvious play-makers so that I can shine a light on some of the other folks on the roster. These aren’t necessarily guys that the Bills need to step up in order to win as much as it is players who I’d like to see more from this week. Whether they’re going to slide into a larger role or are just looking to expand upon what they’ve been doing, these are players who could really help Buffalo in their playoff push.
Here are five Bills players to watch this week.
WR Gabe Davis
Buffalo’s WR2-in-name-only has seen just 15 targets in four games since Joe Brady was named interim offensive coordinator. Twelve of those targets came against the Philadelphia Eagles. In the last two games, Davis has seen three passes thrown his way — and he hasn’t caught any of them.
Buffalo is also 3-1 in those four games, with the one loss coming in arguably the offense’s best performance of the season against the Eagles. This tells me that the Bills don’t need Davis to put up huge receiving numbers in order to win games. However, both for Gabe’s confidence and for the continued growth and diversity of Brady’s offense, I’d like to see a little more receiving success out of Davis this week.
This is a Los Angeles defense that allowed the Raiders to accumulate 13 receptions for 192 yards and four touchdowns to its wideouts last week. While most of that went to No. 1 receiver Davante Adams, there were plenty of chances for the ancillary pieces to shine. Davis has been great as a blocker. This week, I want to see him make a few catches, and hopefully one’s in the end zone.
TE Dawson Knox
The veteran has been overshadowed this season by rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid, thanks both to an injury and the rookie’s fantastic performance of late. However, Knox continues to see plenty of snaps when he’s healthy, as he appeared on over 60% of the Bills’ offensive snaps last week for the seventh time in nine games he’s played.
Knox has come a long way as a blocker, turning what was once a weakness into a major strength — and he’s still a reliable underneath target for quarterback Josh Allen. With Kincaid dealing with both shoulder and thumb issues, the latter of which may have contributed to his uncharacteristic drops last week, I’m interested to see if Knox is a bigger part of the game plan this week.
DT Tim Settle Jr.
Buffalo’s defensive line has been excellent this season, as years of investment in both salary cap dollars and draft capital has finally turned into a dominant unit. However, that doesn’t mean that each member of the line has put up big numbers, and arguably, Settle has been the least impactful member of the defensive line among those who play regularly. True, he’s often used as a one-tech next to Ed Oliver or Jordan Phillips, eating space and blockers rather than penetrating to make plays, but he’s been a clear “weakest link” among the rotation that also includes Linval Joseph.
Last week, I saw the Bills going with three defensive ends quite a bit, as Shaq Lawson shifted inside next to Oliver with some combination of Leonard Floyd, Greg Rousseau, or Von Miller playing on the outside. With Phillips out thanks to a dislocated wrist he had surgically repaird, that means veteran Poona Ford is likely to be active. I’d guess that Joseph will start next to Oliver, with Settle having the chance to play more as a three-tech this week thanks to Joseph and Ford serving as the other two active defensive tackles.
Settle has just 10 tackles, one sack, and two quarterback hits on the season. It would be nice to see him make an impact this week if he’s given a larger role.
LB Tyrel Dodson
So the three guys above Dodson are players I’d like to see more out of, but in Dodson’s case, I’m going to do my best Cris Collinsworth impression: Now here’s a guy who, man, I did not see this comin’. Dodson has been a pleasant surprise this season, as he is one of only two Buffalo players to earn a Pro Football Focus grade of at least a 90. The other is quarterback Josh Allen. PFF grades certainly aren’t the end-all, be-all, but the eye test shows me a player who has really stepped up of late.
Dodson has always had good instincts in the run game and struggled in coverage; however, he has done well over the last month or so to stick to his zones and play his assignments well. Buffalo has mitigated some his struggles, as well, by playing safety Jordan Poyer at linebacker on obvious passing downs, using either Taylor Rapp or Cam Lewis as a sixth defensive back in place of Dodson. Still, while all the attention at linebacker has gone to second-year man Terrel Bernard, Dodson deserves plenty of praise for his improvement.
Given that running back Austin Ekeler is still a very capable receiver out of the backfield, it’s imperative that Dodson remains disciplined in his reads. The Chargers are definitely going to try to isolate Dodson in coverage, and he’ll need to keep winning in order to force quarterback Easton Stick to throw to other areas of the field.
CB Rasul Douglas
Star wideout Keenan Allen missed last week thanks to a heel injury — and while he was held out of practice on Tuesday, he did work with trainers. If he plays, then Douglas is going to be a key factor in keeping Allen in check. Even in what has been a terrible year for the Chargers, Allen has 108 catches, 1,243 yards, and seven touchdowns.
Buffalo’s secondary locked down wide receiver CeeDee Lamb last week, and they kept tight end Travis Kelce in check the week before, as well. Douglas has been about as good as any midseason trade acquisition as I can ever remember, and if he can keep it up this week, the Bills will be just fine.