Buffalo Bills vs. Arizona Cardinals: 3 Key Matchups to Watch for Arizona

Tyson Langland@TysonNFLNFC West Lead WriterOctober 13, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 05: Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball after a reception against the Buffalo Bills during tthe first half of their NFL Game on October 5, 2008 at Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo By: Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Even though the Arizona Cardinals are coming off of an embarrassing loss to the St. Louis Rams on the road, a win at home against the reeling Buffalo Bills will allow them to stay atop the NFC West. 

Poor offensive line play has plagued Coach Whisenhunt's group the past couple weeks. Last week against St. Louis they allowed nine sacks and 11 quarterback hits. Two weeks ago they allowed eight sacks and 10 quarterback hits. That means over the last two games they've allowed 17 sacks and 21 hits. 

By breaking down those numbers even farther, we learn that Arizona's offensive line is allowing a quarterback pressure 46 percent of the time when Kevin Kolb drops back to pass. Compare that to Tom Brady. He's only facing pressure 27 percent of the time. 

To make things worse, Pro Football Focus has left tackle D'Anthony Batiste and right tackle Bobby Massie as the two worst offensive tackles in the game. Together they have allowed 62 total quarterback pressures through the first five games. That's more than some offensive lines have given up all together. 

Even if Mario Williams hasn't been playing up to the level we expect him to, there's no question he could turn it on at any moment against a struggling rookie right tackle. So, let's take a look at the three key matchups that will matter the most come Sunday afternoon.

Arizona's DL vs. Buffalo's OL

At 2-3, not many people would expect the Bills to have one the best pass-blocking offensive line's in the NFL. Their 28 combined sacks, hits and hurries is tops in the league. Through Week 5, PFF has handed out positive grades to every single one of its offensive linemen except for right tackle Erik Pears. 

He has been their only real weak spot in pass-protection. Out of the 28 pressures they have allowed, he has given up 25 percent of them. Not to mention the fact Pears leads the offense in individual penalties as well. The only clean game to his name, was the Week 2 contest against the Kansas City Chiefs. By games end, he hadn't allowed a pressure, or been penalized. 

However, the likes of Chris Hairston, Andy Levitre, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik and Pears haven't taken on a defensive line with the tenacity of Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell. San Francisco's defensive line is strong, but I could make a case for Dockett and Campbell all day long. 

Both players are two of the best at getting upfield in the quarterback's face. Aside from J.J. Watt, there aren't two better pass-rushing 3-4 defensive ends. On 198 pass-rush attempts, No. 93 has disrupted the quarterback one out of every 11 snaps. Not the most impressive number, but think about it—he plays over 90 percent of the defensive snaps. 

After a strong start to the season, Dockett has cooled off a bit as of late. His Week 3 hamstring injury has appeared to slow him down the past couple of weeks. He started the season off by single-handedly shutting down Seattle's offensive line. He's listed on the injury report as questionable, yet there's no question he will be ready to go on Sunday. Hopefully, those 10 days of rest will help him return to form.

If he's not looking like his normal self, look for Levitre, Wood and Urbik to get the best of him. 

All 11 Cardinals' Defenders vs. C.J. Spiller

Given the fact Buffalo has been one of the most efficient pass-blocking teams in the league, it's hard to believe they do just as well in the run-game. The only difference between the two areas is that the Bills' backfield doesn't get nearly as much help as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. 

Third-year running back C.J. Spiller has shouldered the load despite being injured. Chan Gailey's group is averaging 144.2 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry. The 5.1 yards per carry is tied for the third highest average in the NFL. Only San Francisco and Kansas City have higher marks. 

Individually, Spiller is averaging an astonishing 7.6 yards a pop on 48 carries. Out of the 365 yards he has piled up, 249 of those have come after contact. Here is an even more impressive stat than his 7.6 yards per carry. He is averaging a full 5.2 yards after contact. The next closest player in that category is Andre Brown. And he is only averaging 3.5 yards after contact. Over a full yard and a half difference.

So, how can Arizona slow down the phenomenon? It's simple, they need to wrap up and gang tackle him. When No. 28 is on the field, he has proven to be the most elusive player out there. Heading into Week 6, he has already forced 13 missed tackles. Based on the number of snaps he has played, Spiller forces a missed tackle one out of every three handoffs. 

Luckily for Arizona, they are one of the most sure-handed tackling teams in the league. Through five games they have only missed 21 tackles. Which averages out to be about four a game. Compare that to the No. 1 defense and their 24 missed tackles. I would say based on the numbers, Arizona is right where they want to be. 

Larry Fitzgerald vs. Aaron Williams

For all the good things the Bills do on offense, there are equally as many bad things they do on defense. The front-four has been underwhelming and the secondary has been down right atrocious. Especially, 2011 second-round draft pick Aaron Williams. 

Williams only appeared in nine games last season for Buffalo. So, you know defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt is counting on him for a full 16 game slate. Unfortunately, his poor level of play may not allow him to appear in all 16 games. 

He is currently the second worst cover corner on Coach Gailey's roster. His play could be best described as streaky. Williams will look good one game and then totally fall off a cliff the next. For example, in Week 1 he only allowed 33 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed. Then the following week, he allowed 66 percent of his targets to be completed. 

By looking at his total numbers, I hope the second-year player is ready for Larry Fitzgerald. Opposing quarterbacks have a quarterback rating of 124.8 when throwing his way and he has allowed five touchdown passes. Not really the kind of shaky play you want to be haunted with when going against a future Hall of Famer. 

Despite his slow start, Fitzgerald is finding his groove. In the last three weeks he has caught 25 balls on 37 targets. His most successful game of the young season was against the Philadelphia Eagles. It was the only time all year that he topped the 100-yard mark. 

The emergence of Andre Roberts has seen his production dip, yet it's safe to say the Bills' coverage will be soft. A monster day for Fitz should be expected.


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