Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo Bills travel to the west coast this weekend to take on Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers. Both teams feature potential high-octane offenses, despite the terrible play of Rivers throughout the season.
However, in order for the Bills to earn a victory, they absolutely must contain All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates and running back Ryan Mathews.
The Bills have been woeful against the run all season long, ranked 24th in the league in run defense, allowing an average of 129.1 yards per game on the ground.
Ryan Mathews has played well since returning as a full-time starter, rushing 35 times for 249 yards and a score in the past two weeks combined. On the year, Mathews has carried the ball 165 times for 829 yards and four touchdowns.
The Bills were hopeful to improve on the league-worst rush defense they had a year ago by adding key players in defensive lineman Marcel Dareus, inside linebacker Nick Barnett and outside linebacker Shawne Merriman. However, injuries sidelined Merriman and nose tackle Kyle Williams, among others, forcing some of the inexperienced players into the lineup.
The Bills' struggles against opposing tight ends have continued, as the team has allowed 55 receptions for 703 yards and seven touchdowns, for an average of 12.8 yards per reception to tight ends this season. That trend seems like it will continue, as the Bills face one of the elite tight ends in the National Football League in Gates.
Gates has 46 grabs for 533 yards and four touchdowns despite missing time with nagging injuries. Buffalo will need to find a way to take Gates out of the picture while still keying in on wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who is also a weapon. The Bills have tried covering tight ends with their inside backers, safeties and even corners, yet still to no avail.
Luckily for the Bills, safety George Wilson is expected to take the place of rookie Da'Norris Searcy, who has filled in for him while the veteran has dealt with injuries of his own.