San Diego Chargers vs. Buffalo Bills: Complete Week 3 Preview for Buffalo
The Buffalo Bills are flying high heading into a Week 3 showdown with the San Diego Chargers. Both teams are coming off big wins, with the Bills' 29-10 victory over Miami Dolphins and the Chargers' victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
Against Miami it was the Bills' special teams that stepped up in a major way. It started early with a blocked punt by Anthony Dixon to C.J. Spiller's 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter. Dan Carpenter chipped in with five field goals and Colton Schmidt helped control the field position battle, with three kicks being downed inside the 20-yard line.
The defense is sure to face a tougher test than they did against Miami, when they take on an explosive Chargers offense led by Philip Rivers. The Bills defense is currently ranked 27th in the NFL against the pass, but the Chargers offensive line is beatable. If the Bills' pass-rushers are able to put pressure on Rivers, they should be able to force turnovers like they did against Chicago.
The following slides will preview everything fans need to know heading into this Week 3 matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the San Diego Chargers.
Buffalo Bills' Week 2 Recap
There aren't many games fans in western New York get excited for every year more than when the Miami Dolphins come to town. This game, though, meant just a little more with news of a new owner earlier in the week and an emotional ceremony for the late Ralph Wilson Jr. before the game.
The Bills made sure fans went home happy as they played nearly a perfect game, excelling in almost every facet of the game. The special teams unit stood out the most and dictated the game with a blocked punt, a 102-yard kickoff return by C.J. Spiller, five field goals by Dan Carpenter and punter Colton Schmidt pinning the Dolphins inside their 20-yard line three times.
The offense, led by E.J. Manuel, played mistake-free football moving the ball up and down the field, but it struggled in the red zone, which was really the only blemish for this team. The Bills were able to score one touchdown on six red-zone trips. This is one area they will need to improve on against the Chargers, who have the potential to score touchdowns quickly.
It will be the defense's responsibility to slow down Rivers and the Chargers offense, keeping the game within reach. So far this season, the Bills have been a bend but not break defense giving up huge yardage totals (358.5 yards per game) but keeping teams off the scoreboard (15 points per game).
When the Dolphins lost Knowshon Moreno, it forced their offense to become one dimensional and move the ball through the air. This played right into the defense's strength as the defensive line got to Ryan Tannehill early and often with four sacks and five QB hits.
If the Bills defense can duplicate this kind of performance against the Chargers, the Bills should have an excellent chance at extending their win streak to three games.
News and Notes
Sammy Watkins has had an Impressive Start to Rookie Season
Bleacher Report's Matt Bowen does an excellent job breaking down how the Bills have incorporated rookie Sammy Watkins into the offense. So far this season, Watkins has 11 receptions, 148 receiving yards and one touchdown and has been able to do this with nagging rib injuries.
The main story from this offense has seemed to be about E.J. Manuel and his development. However, I believe Watkins deserves a lot of this credit by giving the second-year quarterback a reliable target. If Watkins continues to have big games, opponents are going to need to devote more attention his direction. This should open up opportunities for other wide receivers like Mike Williams and Robert Woods.
Special Teams a Big Deal for Bills
Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News wrote this week that there has been no ego among Bills starters' willingness to contribute on special teams. Special teams has always been that third aspect that is often forgotten among fans. This is not the case for Bills supporters who were frustrated week in and week out with this unit's performance last year.
It has been almost a complete 180 from a season ago as this unit could arguably be the strength of this team. This is due to veterans like Brandon Spikes and C.J. Spiller, and their desire to contribute. As Skurski noted in his article, Spikes threw the key block that sprung Spiller for the touchdown on the kickoff return.
The play of special teams has set up the offense with short fields thanks to returns and blocked punts, as well as the defense with opposing offenses being pinned deep in their end of the field thanks to the punting of Colton Schmidt. As long as veterans are leading the way, this should continue to be a strength for this team.
Injury Statuses courtesy of BuffaloBills.com
The Bills' injury list has steadily grown each week, but this week has a few starters like Chris Williams and Robert Woods. There are the regulars such as Jonathan Meeks (who was placed on injured reserve), Lee Smith and Sammy Watkins, who have ended up on the list every week this season.
The linebacker position has to be a bit of concern for the Bills, not in regards of who will replace Keith Rivers. Preston Brown filled in last week for Rivers and played well. The concern lies in the depth at the position with Randell Johnson already ruled out and Rivers most likely missing his second game. The team did add linebacker Larry Dean this week as insurance and used the spot created with Meeks being placed on IR.
Robert Woods was the surprise to be added to this list as he rolled his ankle in practice Wednesday and missed Thursday's practice. This seems more like it was precautionary as he was able to practice on Friday and should be ready to go Sunday, being designated as probable.
X-Factor and Matchups to Watch
Keenan Allen vs. Stephon Gilmore
Last week, Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen went up against arguably the best cornerback in the game Richard Sherman. He finished that game with five receptions and 55 yards, but the news came after the game when Allen said Sherman is "not really a shutdown corner."
Bills' Stephon Gilmore is sure to have his hands full and will certainly need to bring his best against one of the best young receivers in the game. After missing the first week, Gilmore did not have a good start to the season against Miami. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Gilmore was thrown at five times against the Dolphins, allowing four catches for 80 yards and one touchdown.
The Chargers are going to be entering this game without starting running back Ryan Mathews and will look to rely on the passing game. If Gilmore is able to contain Allen, this will go a long way to keeping the Chargers off the scoreboard.
Chargers' Tight Ends vs. Bills' Linebackers
The other advantage the Chargers seem to have entering this game is their tight ends against the linebacker group that has struggled in coverage this season. Through the first two games, the Bills defense has given up 16 receptions for 113 yards and one touchdown.
The Chargers have two good tight ends in Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green, who have combined for 15 receptions, 201 yards and three touchdowns so far this season, with Gates doing most of the damage. However, Green is an athletic tight end, who could exploit the matchup if the Bills defense focuses too much of their attention on Gates.
The Bills' best chances to contain the Chargers may come down to the team's X-Factor listed below.
Bills X-Factor of the Week: Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams
One matchup where the Bills look to have a clear advantage is their defensive tackles versus the interior of the Chargers offensive line, which isn't at 100 percent. The team had already lost Nick Hardwick, who was placed on injured reserve before last week's game.
This week they could be without Hardwick's replacement, Rich Ohrnberger, who has missed practice time this week. If he is not able to go, the Chargers will look to rookie Chris Watt to control the middle of the offensive line in his first career NFL start.
He, unfortunately, may not have the luxury of having the Chargers' starting right guard, Johnnie Troutman, lining up with him, who also has missed time this week with back injuries. This means the Chargers may have to go with recently signed, and former Buffalo Bill, Doug Legursky.
No matter the pairing the Chargers use at these two positions, the Bills defensive tandem at Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams should be able to win these matchups consistently. If they are able to do that, and continually get in the face of Rivers it will have a positive impact on every level of this defense. The less time the Bills are asked to cover some of the Chargers weapons, the likelihood of success is sure to go up.
This game should be a good test for the Buffalo Bills to find out exactly where they stand in the AFC and if they are truly playoff contenders. The San Diego Chargers were a playoff team from a season ago and are coming off a win over the defending Super Bowl champions last week.
I see this game coming down to one big key and that is whether the Bills defense can regularly put pressure on Philip Rivers and disrupt him in the pocket. The fact that the Chargers offensive line is banged up, particularly at center and right guard, gives Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams a great opportunity to have a big game.
This is not going to be an easy win and will be a grind it out kind of game, like the one they had against Chicago. However, this team have already shown they can win those kind of games and playing in front of the home crowd should give them enough of an edge to get the win.
Prediction: Bills 24, Chargers 21