The Buffalo Bills (5-7) host the St. Louis Rams (5-6-1) at Ralph Wilson Stadium in a Week 14 contest with some underlying playoff implications at stake. Buffalo is coming off of a thumping of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and St. Louis won its overtime nail-biter with the San Francisco 49ers last week.
The Rams are built to play hard-nosed, NFC West football. That's evident by the team's 4-0-1 record against the division. Unfortunately, the Rams have had to play teams outside the NFC West. In those games, the team has posted just a 1-6 record.
Buffalo is somewhat of an enigma this season. Each week the product on the field looks completely different. Sometimes the disparity comes during the halftime rest. The Bills led the New England Patriots 21-7 in the third quarter of their Week 4 matchup before the Pats bounced back to thump them 52-28.
Where: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, N.Y.
When: Sunday, Dec. 9 at 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL Direct Ticket
Betting Line: Buffalo (-3), according to Covers
St. Louis Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 12/4/2012)
|WR Danny Amendola||Foot||Questionable|
Buffalo Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 12/4/2012)
|DL Mark Anderson||Knee||Doubtful|
|WR Steve Johnson||Hamstring||Questionable|
|WR Donald Jones||Calf||Questionable|
|C Bill Wood*||Knee||Out|
|OL Chris Hairston*||Ankle||Doubtful|
*Status reported in AP report by John Wawrow (via Yahoo! Sports).
What's At Stake?
Both teams are virtually out of the conversation for their respective division titles. However, there is still hope for a playoff berth for both of them. A win here is absolutely essential. That's a problem because a loss could mean an end to those hopes.
Sure, it's a long shot that either of these teams ends up in the postseason. But, if some things happen ahead of either of them in the standings, a win like this could go a long way to helping that comeback run come to be.
St. Louis RB Steven Jackson
The Buffalo Bills have been absolutely gouged on the ground this season. Most of it has come in large chunks and in four of the team's 12 games. In those four terrible games the Bills allowed 50, 32, 43 and 33 points to opposing running backs for an average of nearly 40 points per game. In all other games, they have allowed just 12 points per game.
Overall, that's good enough for 30th in the NFL and presents a very good opportunity for Jackson and the Rams offense. It's going to be cold in Buffalo and getting the ball into his hands should be a priority.
There's also the fact that the veteran back has been steadily improving as the season has worn on. Jackson has had his three highest rushing totals of the season over the past four games.
Buffalo RB C.J. Spiller
St. Louis has gone through stretches of decent run-stopping defense during the season. However, it's been awful at other times. On an average, the team is allowing 17 points per game to opposing running backs. In the last five games, that number has risen to 21.
Spiller will continue to share the backfield duties for the Bills with Fred Jackson. Both backs have demonstrated durability issues, and a committee seems like the best option for the Bills to solve that problem.
Even as a part of a two-headed rushing attack, Spiller has still seen an average of 18 touches over the last three games. Given the poor Rams' defense and the explosiveness Spiller maintains, it could end up being a very beneficial game for fantasy owners who employ the running back this weekend.
What They Are Saying
So what about playoff possibilities? Jeff Fisher, head coach of the Rams, said the team isn't looking past the Bills this week, according to an AP report (via Yahoo! Sports).
This team is focused on Buffalo. It's our next opponent. There's too much that could happen right now. I don't even know what the record is of some teams in the division. So, we just go play.
Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams didn't shy away from talking playoffs after the team's Week 13 win over Jacksonville, according to an AP report by John Wawrow (via Lockportjournal.com)
What happened before is in the past, and we just have to keep pushing. We are still there. Even though nobody else thinks of it that way, we do. We still have games left. Anything can happen.
Key Matchup: Buffalo's offensive line vs. Rams front seven
St. Louis' defensive front has been gouged for over 130 yards per game on the ground in each of its past five games. Buffalo's offensive line has been doing a good job of moving defenders and creating holes for both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
If the Bills can control the line of scrimmage at home against the Rams they will be able to dictate the pace of the game and ultimately its outcome.
Despite the Rams struggles in run stopping, they have also struggled to run the ball themselves. Buffalo has been suspect in defending the run at times but has also shut it down in others. This game will come down to stopping the run.
If that's the case, look for the Rams to tighten things up and have one of their better weeks against the run. Buffalo will try its best to establish the run, but the Rams will be ready for it. They will also be focused on forcing Ryan Fitzpatrick to make mistakes with the football.
Odds are in favor of the Bills quarterback having another rough outing in Week 14.
Rams 17, Bills 16