Bills vs. Giants: Week 6 Preview and Keys to the Game
This coming Sunday, the high-flying Buffalo Bills will travel to face the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. The game is set to kickoff at 1:00 p.m. The game will be telecast by CBS and will be announced by the CBS' A-team duo of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.
The Bills (4-1), who are tied with the New England Patriots for first place in the AFC East, are coming off of their first NFC East contest last week, when they outlasted the Philadelphia Eagles 31-24 in Buffalo.
The Giants, meanwhile, are coming off an upset loss to the Seattle Seahawks last week, and they are 3-2 coming in to this game. They trail the Washington Redskins (3-1) by one-half game in the NFC East.
Both teams have some serious injury issues coming in to the game, so check back later this week to see who will be active on Sunday. The Bills are trying to prove every week that they are for real, and both teams are trying to make a push to return to the playoffs. The Bills' absence from the postseason has been far longer than the Giants' absence has been, but both teams are motivated to be there this year.
With their defeat of the Philadelphia Eagles last week, the Bills are now 3-0 this year against playoff teams from the 2010 season. The Bills have won six of the past eight games in their series with the Giants. Of course, they still would trade all those wins in for a victory in Super Bowl XXV.
On Sunday, I will be writing a live blog on the game, so check in with Bleacher Report to get live reactions to the game and analysis of the action.
Bills Stars Through First Five Weeks
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The most consistent player for the Bills so far this season is Fred Jackson. Every week, Jackson is proving to be the heart and soul of the Bills team, as he is asked to carry the ball, catch passes out of the backfield and help pick up the blitz. He excels at every facet, and that is why he is worthy of consideration for the NFL MVP award. If he continues this pace, he should receive strong national consideration.
The Ralph was rocking last Sunday to the chants of "Freddy, Freddy, Freddy." Well deserved.
The players on defense that have stood out to me are Nick Barnett, George Wilson and Jairus Byrd. This trio has been very steady so far. All three can now be found in the top 10 leader board in the NFL for tackles. Wilson is No. 4 (47), while Barnett and Byrd are tied for No. 9 with 42 tackles each.
Barnett is showing the speed that Paul Posluszny wished he had, as he goes from sideline to sideline and comes up with key tackles. The two interceptions last Sunday that Barnett made against Michael Vick were huge.
George Wilson is such an upgrade over Donte Whitner that it is a shame it took him so long to have this chance. He is making more tackles near the line of scrimmage, yet is also making plays on the ball in the passing game.
Wilson is a sure tackler, and that was a difficult interception he made on Vick last Sunday, which required great reactions. There is no way that Whitner would have been able to make that catch. But that is what a converted wide receiver is capable of doing. Wilson is tied for the lead in the NFL with three interceptions on the year. He has also defended five passes so far, good for a rank of No. 14 in the league, along with Drayton Florence.
Although Jairus Byrd hasn't made a single interception yet this season, he has been very solid in his tackling and run support. Not only that, but his physical presence in the secondary continues to become more impressive every year. He made some jarring tackles last week and forms a very talented safety duo with Wilson.
Ryan Fitzpatrick Continues to Make Offensive Line Look Good
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Out of any quarterback in the NFL with at least 50 pass attempts on the season, Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been sacked only three times, the least sacks in the NFL. That is a tribute to the Bills improved offensive line and to the quick release of Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick is very decisive with the ball and due to how fast he releases the ball, it must be very frustrating to the opposition that they are unable to put any pressure on him. The Bills have faced formidable defensive lines in the form of the Oakland Raiders and the Philadelphia Eagles, but neither unit were able to inflict any damage to Fitzpatrick. Considering that the Bills started a rookie at left tackle in Chris Hairston, it is all the more remarkable.
That will be the case again this Sunday, as the Bills face the No. 1 team in sacks in the NFL this week with the New York Giants. That was the same situation the Bills faced last week with the Philadelphia Eagles, but they were able to execute their offense and prove that the Eagles pass rush wasn't quick enough to be able to get to Fitzpatrick. Whether or not the Giants can get to Fitzpatrick remains to be seen.
It should be noted that the Bills are catching the Giants at an opportune time from the standpoint of being somewhat banged up. The Giants sat out Justin Tuck last week due to injuries to his neck and groin. He did not practice yet this week and is probably doubtful to play this week. Osi Umenyiora is still coming back from his knee surgery and did not practice yet this week, either. If he misses the game, that will be a major boost to the Bills ability to withstand the Giants pass rush.
The other aspect of the Bills offensive line play that deserves some accolades is the run blocking. The Bills rank No. 9 in the NFL in rushing attempts with 139, yet are No. 4 in the NFL with 691 yards gained on the year. The Bills are one of four teams that are averaging at least five yards per rush. That is a tribute to the line blocking and to the running abilities of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
Bills Are No. 1 in Red Zone, N.Y. Giants Are No. 2
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The Buffalo Bills are ranked No. 1 in the NFL in red zone, scoring at 75 percent on the year. Interestingly enough, their opponent this week, the New York Giants, are ranked No. 2 at 71.4 percent. For an updated list of where every team is ranked, you can find a link here.
The Bills pose a difficult matchup for defenses in the red zone because of their many weapons. You have to be able to defend against two very big targets in David Nelson (6'5") and Scott Chandler (6'7"). There is the shiftiness of Steve Johnson, combined with the smooth overall power-game of Fred Jackson, the speed of C.J. Spiller and the running ability of Wildcat QB Brad Smith. Add in the formations of Chan Gailey and the quick release of Ryan Fitzpatrick, and you have a very efficient red zone offense.
The Bills started out the 2010 season strong in the red zone as well, but they eventually faded in the second half. Teams are well aware of what the Bills do in the red zone, now that we are 21 games in to the Chan Gailey era in Buffalo, yet they still are having trouble defending against all of the Bills weapons. The new additions of Scott Chandler and Brad Smith are proving to be key additions to the Bills attack.
Who Is the Best Quarterback in New York?
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The answer to that question looks to be coming down to Ryan Fitzpatrick versus Eli Manning. If you have watched the New York Jets offense lately, you know that Mark Sanchez is running a distant third.
So far after five weeks, Eli Manning is ranked No. 4 in the NFL with a QB Passer Rating of 102.3. Manning is averaging 297 passing yards per game and is averaging 9.06 yards per attempt. He has thrown 11 touchdown passes to just five interceptions. Manning has been sacked 14 times so far this year. He is completing 63 percent of his passes. Manning threw for a season-high 420 yards against Seattle last week.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, has completed 65 percent of his passes this year. Fitzpatrick is ranked No. 7 in the NFL with a QB Passer Rating of 96.4. Fitzpatrick has an average of 7.17 yards per pass. His touchdown to interceptions ratio (10 to 4) is similar to that of Manning. Fitzpatrick, as we stated earlier, has only been sacked three times on the year. He is averaging 247 passing yards per game.
Manning has completed passes to 12 different receivers, while Fitzpatrick has completed passes to nine different receivers. Each team has five receivers that have received at least 10 targets on the season.
The biggest difference is that the Bills offense is better balanced, as the rushing attack is No. 4, while the Giants rush offense is surprisingly way down the list, at No. 25, as they are averaging a paltry 3.2 yards per rush. This is obviously not the same Giants team that we have seen in prior years.
Interceptions Galore and Pick Six Streak Intact
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The Buffalo Bills leads the NFL in a number of categories (besides Red Zone Scoring). They are also ranked No. 1 in interceptions (12), interception returns for a touchdown (three) and turnover ratio (plus-11).
The Bills are led in interceptions by George Wilson (three), followed by Nick Barnett, Bryan Scott and Drayton Florence (two each) and Leodis McKelvin, Reggie Corner and Da'Norris Searcy (one each). Conspicuously absent from this list is safety Jairus Byrd. Funny how interceptions can come and go.
Another interesting statistic is that the Bills, New England Patriots and the Detroit Lions are the only three teams in the NFL that have not yet lost a fumble. It is not a coincidence that all three teams are tied for the best record in their respective conferences. All three teams are taking good care of the football.
The New York Giants defense is also noteworthy, in their own right. They lead the NFL with 18 sacks and have generated five interceptions despite all the injuries to their secondary. Jason Pierre-Paul is No. 3 in the NFL with 6.5 sacks, and Osi Umenyiora has only six tackles on the year, but four of those are sacks. The Bills have only four sacks for their entire team this year.
The Giants are second in the NFL with six fumble recoveries. The Bills aren't far behind in sixth place with four fumble recoveries. While the Giants are happy with their sack totals, the Bills will gladly take their turnover totals in exchange for the sacks.
Ranked NFL Stars in This Game
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Fred Jackson is the No. 3 rusher in the NFL, with 480 yards on 90 rushes. He is averaging 5.3 yards per rush. Jackson is averaging 96 rushing yards per game. His seven rushes of 20 yards or longer are tied for the lead in the NFL.
For the Giants, Ahmad Bradshaw is their leading rusher, as he has picked up 286 yards on the year, good for No. 19 in the league. He is averaging 4.0 yards per carry.
Steve Johnson is the Bills leading receiver, and with 343 yards receiving on the year, he is ranked No. 22 in the league. Johnson has 28 catches and is averaging 12.3 yards per catch.
The Giants have two receivers ranked higher than Johnson, as Hakeem Nicks is ranked No. 10 and Victor Cruz is ranked No. 16. Nicks has 412 yards on 28 catches for an average of 14.7 yards per catch. Cruz has 386 yards on 19 catches for a whopping 20.3 yards per catch average.
Looks like there should be plenty of offense again this week, as the Bills defense allows 24 points a game, while the Giants defense allows 24.6 points a game.
Inside the Numbers: When the Bills Have the Ball
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Buffalo's offense overall is ranked No. 10 (averaging 379.4 yards per game), while the Giants defense is ranked overall No. 22, allowing 373.4 yards per game. These totals are almost identical.
The Bills passing offense is No. 13 (241.2 yards per game), while the Giants pass defense is No. 18 (251.2 yards per game), and those numbers match up almost the same as well.
The Bills rushing offense is ranked No. 4 (138.2 yards per game), while the Giants run defense is ranked No. 21 (122.2) yards per game.
The Bills offense is converting 25/64 third down opportunities (39.1 percent), which ranks them No. 12 in the league. The Giants defense has allowed 24-of-74 third down conversions (32.4 percent), which ranks them No. 28 in the league. This statistic means that the Bills should be able to move the chains on the Giants defense, so expect a number of long drives.
Inside the Numbers: When the Giants Have the Ball
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The New York Giants offense is ranked No. 12 in the NFL (averaging 359.2 yards per game), while the Buffalo Bills defense is ranked No. 30 overall (allowing 421.8 yards per game). The Giants have the No. 9 ranked pass offense (275.4 yards per game), while the Bills pass defense is No. 26 (283.4 yards per game). The Giants rush offense is No. 28, (83.8 yards per game), while the Bills rush defense is No. 29 (allowing 138.4) yards per game.
The Giants offense converts on third down opportunities 29 percent of the time (18-of-62), which ranks them No. 29 in the league. The Bills defense allows third downs to be converted 38 percent of the time (21-of-55), which ranks them as No. 17 in the league.
The Bills defense has allowed at least 450 yards in four straight games. The Bills don't have any real reason to fear the Giants running attack this year, but will have to worry about the Giants talented receiving duo of Nicks and Cruz. If they focus on rushing Eli Manning, since he has been sacked 14 times (which is tied for sixth most in the NFL), they might leave themselves vulnerable to some draws.
The Giants are averaging about 360 yards a game in offense, so if the Bills can hold them to their average, that would mean this 450 yards in offense streak would be broken. That would be a good thing for both the Bills defense and the Bills offense. The longer the Giants offense is on the field obviously, the shorter the time the Bills offense can be out there.
Bills Health Coming in to This Game
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The Bills will not have tackle Demetrius Bell, corner Aaron Williams, wide receiver Donald Jones or linebacker Chris Kelsay for this game. Taking their place respectively are rookie tackle Chris Hairston, corner Terrence McGee, wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt and linebacker Arthur Moats.
Nose tackle Kyle Williams (ankle) is going to be a game time decision. He sat out practices on both Wednesday and Thursday to keep him off of his foot. If he can't play, then expect the duo of Torell Troup and Kellen Heard to play in his place. Rookie Marcell Dareus can always slide over and play some nose tackle, as he did last week against the Eagles.
The Giants will probably want to test rookie Chris Hairston often in the first half to see how well he can stand up to their defensive ends. Their healthiest pass rusher right now appears to be Jason Pierre-Paul, so it would not be a surprise if he lines up across from Hairston.
The Bills have not yet decided if McGee will play corner or slot corner. With the number of big plays that Leodis McKelvin has allowed so far, it would not be surprising to see McGee playing against either Cruz or Nicks while Drayton Florence takes the other. The Bills also have to contend with tight end Jake Ballard and third receiver Mario Manningham, which should fall to McKelvin and the safeties Wilson and Byrd.
Giants Health Coming in to This Game
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It should be noted that both the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants have their bye weeks scheduled for next weekend, Week 7. With that being the case, any of the players that are game time decisions might wind up being declared inactive, since they would have two straight weeks off from playing and improve their chances of getting healthier that much sooner. The bye week factor is definitely an issue regarding this contest for the coaches decisions of who to dress.
This week, defensive end Justin Tuck has sat out practices on both Wednesday and Thursday, so he could very well wind up being a game-time decision. Running back Brandon Jacobs has also missed practices this week due to a sprained MCL, so if either Tuck or Jacobs misses this game, that would be a major blow to the Giants. In addition, starting guard Chris Snee has been missing practice due to a concussion, so if he is out, the Bills defensive line would look to attack his replacement.
First-round draft pick Prince Amukamara is still out due to his broken foot and won't return to practice until after the bye week. The Giants just learned that defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy has been suspended for four games due to violating the league's performance-enhancing substances policy.
Just like every other opponent the Bills faced this year, the Giants are no exception at losing key players each week. Some losses are more important than others, so if Tuck, Jacobs and Snee all sit out, that is a boost for the Bills chances.
Final Thoughts and Prediction
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The Buffalo Bills are truly a team. Sure, they have individuals that are playing well, but they are quick to acknowledge the role that their teammates play in their success. The Bills defense gives up a bunch of yards, but they have found a way to rise to the occasion and make a stop when they need to. That is just like the offense, finding a way to score the winning touchdown when they need to when the game is on the line.
The Bills need to keep winning to keep pace with the New England Patriots. Forget about the surprise team of the year, the Andrew Luck draft sweepstakes and all of that noise. The Bills are looking to keep the amount of respect that they are earning every week with their play.
The only way that they can do that is to continue to go out every week, play hard and walk away with a win. Losing close games doesn't do anything for them. That might have been good for a moral victory last year, but that was last year.
This should be a very interesting contest, especially in the play calling. You have two quarterbacks in Manning and Fitzpatrick that are ranked in the top 10 in the NFL, yet you also have two run defenses that are both allowing 5.5 yards per carry. Which area of the offense will both teams decide to turn to, and for how many plays on each side of the ball? The team that can continue to take care of the ball and have the best balanced offense will come out with the win.
The Bills defense appears to be capable of creating more big plays, and it is based on that part of their game that sways me to believe that the Bills will win another close game. Remember to visit us on Sunday for the live blog of the game.
Final prediction: I see this game coming down to the wire, with the Bills winning it 30-27.