The Buffalo Bills will take on the Washington Commanders in a Week 3 interconference showdown. The Bills (1-1) look to turn their first win of the season in Week 2 into a winning streak, and the Commanders (2-0) will look to stay undefeated. Here are some things to pay attention to in this weekend’s matchup.
A tropical cyclone has the potential to bring severe weather during today’s game. Currently, it looks like the worst of the storm will be done by game time but there will likely be some after-effects to deal with. The Weather Channel calls for rain early then cloudy skies with showers in the afternoon. There is potential for heavy rainfall, up to a quarter inch, but the rain should be less steady by game time.
Regardless of the severity, it looks like it will be a wet game. It will be tough to judge just how much the weather will affect the game until players get on the field. I’d expect both teams to make adjustments to their game plan based on footing and wetness. FedexField is a grass surface, so the players might choose to wear longer cleats in the event of slippery conditions. We may see both teams elect to keep it on the ground more than usual, and when they do pass they likely will look to execute high-percentage throws.
In 2022, the Bills played in a rainy game versus the Baltimore Ravens when they had a come-from-behind, last-second 23-20 victory. If this game against the Commanders is really wet and rainy, I would anticipate it looking a lot like the game versus the Ravens in 2022 where the Bills ran it 25 times for 125 yards. Buffalo’s rushing attack is coming off its best performance in recent memory. Another solid performance in Week 3 would go a long way to a Bills victory.
Commanders’ D-line versus Bills’ O-line
The Washington Commanders boast one of the most impressive defensive lines in the NFL. The unit has Chase Young and Montez Sweat at defensive end, and Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen at defensive tackle. All four of these players were selected by Washington in the first round of the NFL Draft between 2017-2020. It is an impressive feat to hit on four draft picks on the D-line four years in a row, and it’s paying off for the Commanders. This fearsome unit has tallied 10 sacks through two games — good for most in the NFL. They also have 16 tackles for loss, which is good for second in the NFL. It’s no secret that most of Buffalo’s game planning will revolve around slowing down the Commanders’ front four, but it won’t be an easy task. Buffalo proved to have a solid game plan in Week 2 to limit Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby, but this week the offense will have four elite defensive linemen to plan for, not just one. The Bills’ tight ends executed chips on the Crosby last week and I expect to see more of the same, maybe even on both sides of the line. The Bills can’t double-team everybody, so whoever gets the one-on-one matchup needs to win their rep more often than not. Weather will play an important part in what the Bills are able to do scheme-wise. But attacking these pass rushers with draws, screens, and powers might be the ticket to a successful game plan.
Commanders QB — “Howell” will he play?
Commanders second-year quarterback Sam Howell has played well so far in his first year as the full-time starter. Through two weeks he has thrown for 501 yards, completed 65.7% of his passes, while tallying three touchdowns and one interception. Howell has a lively arm that enables him to stick the ball into tight windows. Check out this throw from Week 2:
This ball was on a rope . The #Commanders are on the rise. Is NFC East the best division in football?— B.J. Monacelli (@bjmonacelli) September 19, 2023
Lucky for Buffalo, the #Bills get to test their luck versus all four teams in the NFC East this year. https://t.co/A6dNWC4TaW
The Commanders have surrounded Howell with good weapons at wide receiver and he isn’t afraid to sling it. However, Howell stands only a little over 6’ tall, so Buffalo’s big defensive line could take advantage of knocking some balls down at the line of scrimmage like the video below:
I bet the Bills worked on getting their hands up this week. Using timing and length to clog passing lanes should be emphasized. And length is something the Bills defenders have up front.— Erik Turner Cover 1 Jefe (@ErikJTurner) September 22, 2023
Commanders QB Sam Howell leads the league in Batted Passes with 5 (2 games)! His 6'5/8"… pic.twitter.com/PiyGZET7Sh
Additionally, McDermott & Co. have a good reputation against first-year starting QBs, I anticipate McDermott and the Bills' defense to give Howell some confusing looks and force him to make decisions under pressure.
Stefon Diggs’ homecoming
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs grew up in Gaithersburg, MD, which is less than an hour away from FedexField. For certain, Diggs is excited to perform in front of some familiar faces.
The Commanders have a solid veteran cornerback in Kendall Fuller, but he doesn’t have a big shadow rate versus the other team's best receiver. As such, I would expect Buffalo to get Diggs matched up plenty with Commanders rookie cornerback Emmanuel Forbes. If the Bills are able to exploit this matchup early and often, watch out — a monster Diggs homecoming game may happen regardless of what the weather does.
Josh Allen & the short passing game
Reference my recent short-passing game article for a deeper look into how Buffalo has been able to win underneath. Josh Allen is a staggering 49/54 in passes that travel 10 yards or less this season. I would expect, especially with the impending wet weather, that Allen continues to take what the defense gives him underneath. Personally, I’m looking to see how they use Kincaid this week. He has had two solid weeks so far, but with Dawson Knox dealing with a slight injury, wet weather, and a solid Commanders D-line, I think Kincaid is in line for an increased workload. Simply keeping the chains moving with easy throws and running the ball when the numbers in the box are right should bring the Bills offense success this week.