You can’t ask for a much better week if you are a Bills fan. First, the explosive offense that we all wanted to see finally made a return in a dominant win over the Seahawks. Then we had Allen winning his second AFC Offensive Player of the Week award. Finally, and most significantly, we had Bills Mafia doing what they do best: showing up for people in a time of need. Once again, the generosity and uniqueness of the fanbase has been on full display this week around the league, as donations to Oishei Children’s Hospital have surpassed $423,000 (and counting) in memory of Patricia Allen. This truly was a banner week for the Bills, and they will look to keep the good vibes rolling in the desert. Let’s dive into a preview of the final game before the Bills’ bye week.
The Last Five
Bills 33 Cardinals 18 (2016)
Bills 19 Cardinals 16 (2012)
Cardinals 41 Bills 17 (2008)
Bills 38 Cardinals 14 (2004)
Bills 31 Cardinals 21 (1999)
History has been good to the Bills in their matchups against the Cardinals. Some notable games are listed above, including the 2008 game that essentially ended Trent Edwards’s career. This will be the first time facing the Cardinals under Sean McDermott, and based on his history against NFC teams, I like the Bills chances. Since McDermott arrived in Buffalo the Bills have played all but two NFC teams: the Cardinals and the 49ers. In the 14 games against the NFC that he has coached, the Bills are 9-5. While it is of the utmost importance to win your division games, winning your games against the NFC crossovers helps in the final standings as well. In a season, the Bills have never been worse than 2-2 their 4 games against the NFC under McDermott, a stat that is guaranteed to survive another year.
What To Watch For: Bills
Can They Replicate? After four weeks away from the offense that we learned to love in the first quarter of the season, the high-scoring offense returned and just in time! The most impressive part of the win last week was that everyone was expecting it. The Bills knew the only way to beat the Seahawks was to end up on top of a shootout. Despite knowing exactly how the Bills would attack them, the Bills dominated Seattle’s defense. I was encouraged to see the Bills move away from the game plan they had against the Chiefs, which was to hang with them, don’t give up anything deep, and have a chance to beat them at the end. I believe in order to win this Sunday, the Bills should have the same mentality they had against Seattle: outscore them in a shootout. I would sign up for another game of the defense giving up 30+ points if it results in the Bills getting to win number eight.
Secondary Health: For the first time since the Raider game, the Bills should have their full secondary available to them. Mind you, the starting secondary played together for just a few plays in that game, as Levi Wallace was injured very early. Finally, White, Wallace, Norman, Hyde, and Poyer are expected to start for Buffalo this week. It will be interesting to see the secondary that McDermott and Beane envisioned finally playing together. Both Josh Norman and Micah Hyde were limited on Thursday and are trending in the right direction for Sunday. The secondary, and whole defense for that matter, has taken a lot of flack this season; they will be anxious to prove the doubters wrong.
Turnovers: A key part of what made Buffalo’s win so decisive and dominant last week were the turnovers. Any drive that ended in the Seahawks not scoring was a “win” for the Bills, not to mention the four drives that they forced turnovers. If the Bills are winning the turnover margin by four on a weekly basis, then they are winning nearly every game. Even a one or two positive turnover differential might do the trick against a team like the Cardinals, who also have an offense capable of scoring every time they have the ball. If the front four can get the type of pressure that they put on Wilson last week, it would go a long way in forcing Murray and the Cardinals into some mistakes that could prove costly.
What To Watch For: Cardinals
Running Wild: The Cardinals are averaging just over 5 yards per carry and nearly 163 yards per game on the ground, good for second in the league. Although both of those stats are benefitting from Kyler Murray and his legs, this strength for the Cardinals cannot be ignored and is most likely their best path to victory this week due to Buffalo’s struggles against the run. The Bills defense is giving up 4.6 yards per carry and nearly 126 yards per game, which is 22nd in the league. A key injury to make note of here: Kenyan Drake has been limited in both days of practice this week. While Arizona might have him for the game, he clearly won’t be 100%, and the fallout of that might be something we are looking back to if the Cardinals fall short in this one.
Murray Magic: While I touched on this during the previous paragraph, when you have a quarterback as unique as Kyler Murray, he deserves his own section. Murray is coming off of his biggest game of the year and is averaging 7.1 yards per carry (good for 1st in the league), 67.9 yards per game, and has 8 touchdowns. Murray’s mobility is one of the biggest reasons why they are second in the league with only 10 sacks against. Despite having a rebound game last Sunday, the Bills linebackers have been a weakness at times this year and Murray would be wise to exploit that.
Secondary Health: Look familiar? Both the Bills and Cardinals are hoping to have their full secondary back in time for this game. In a game that is expected to be a shootout, one defensive turnover or stop may make all the difference. If the Cardinals do not get both starting cornerbacks back, that will make covering the NFL’s leading receiver much harder for them. As of now, it is looking good for them, as Byron Murphy was activated from the COVID-19 list. Dre Kirkpatrick also practiced Thursday and is trending in the right direction for Sunday’s game. Safety Budda Baker has not practiced but is expected to play according to defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. Against a passing attack as dangerous as the Bills, the Cardinals need to have all three of these players available and as close to 100% healthy as possible.
Bills 37 Cardinals 31 I picked against the Bills last week, and quite honestly, they made me look silly for doing so. In order for me to believe the Bills could beat a playoff team, I had to see them do it. Not only did they do it, but they seemed to find the formula to do so. Now, they can replicate it against another playoff-caliber team. This game reminds me of the Ravens game from last year. In that game, the Bills used a similar game plan to the one put in place for the Chiefs game this year. Limit the damage from the elite players, bend don’t break defense, and give yourself a chance to win it at the end. If you remember, they did have a chance to win it at the end of last year but couldn’t score from the red zone. In that game, the Bills held Jackson to one of his worst games on the season, and I think they do the same to Murray this weekend. Plus, as I mentioned at the top, everything seems to be going in the Bills favor this week. It feels like the universe is in the Bills favor right now…why should we think that stops this Sunday?