Friday Preview: Buffalo Bills vs. Las Vegas Raiders

When this game was announced back in April, Bills fans quickly circled this matchup. Not because the Raiders are a can’t-miss team, but because of their new city. A weekend in Las Vegas sounds pretty great for anyone, but especially for the Mafia. Needless to say, 2020 had some different plans. The Bills and Raiders will play in a beautiful, empty stadium Sunday at 4:30 pm EST, as the Bills look to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2008.

The Last Five

Bills 34 Raiders 14 (2017)
Raiders 38 Bills 24 (2015)
Raiders 26 Bills 24 (2014)
Bills 38 Raiders 35 (2011)
Bills 24 Raiders 23 (2008)

Clearly, there hasn’t been much defense in recent matchups between these two clubs. For me, the most memorable game of the five above was the 2014 contest. The Bills were coming off of one of their greatest wins of this millennium against Aaron Rogers and the Packers but followed that up with a dud in the “Black Hole” ending their playoff hopes. Sean McDermott had a great deal of success in his one game against the Raiders in 2017, dominating from start to finish on a rainy day in Orchard Park.

What To Watch For: Bills

2nd Half – This was on my list last week, and until the Bills find a way to play a complete game and truly put away an opponent, it will stay on the list. This is a considerable concern for the Bills. They are 3-0 but could easily be 1-2. Josh Allen is the main reason why the Bills remain undefeated. His late-game heroics have catapulted him to MVP candidate discussion and just won him AFC Offensive Player of the Month, but a second-half slump will not work every week, as most times your offense will not spot you a 25-point 3rd quarter lead.

Defense – If you gave me a choice of problems that the 2020 Bills were going to have, I think I would have mentioned a fireball crashing to earth before I brought up the defense. They are a complete shell of themselves from last year. Leslie Frazier and Sean McDermott will need to put their heads together on this one. Two weeks ago, the Dolphins exploited Levi Wallace and the depleted linebackers, and last week the Rams took advantage of Taron Johnson. Too often we are watching offenses just have their way with what should be a top-5 unit.

Offensive Line – With John Feliciano out, the Bills have been shuffling players around their offensive line. The results have not exactly been stellar. The Bills clearly wanted to give Cody Ford a good look at the guard position, and while he performed alright against the Rams, it is fair to expect more out of a 2nd-round player that the team traded up for. Brian Winters has been underwhelming, and Quinton Spain has been benched entirely. The line doesn’t look awful live on TV, but it is a weakness for the Bills on a very loaded football team. Things should settle when Feliciano returns from injury, but I expect a better outing from this unit this week. After all, not playing against the best defensive player in football should certainly help the cause.

What To Watch For: Raiders

Key Injuries – Health is a legitimate concern for the Raiders this week, and I’m not talking about members of their team being spotted at a party maskless. Both of the Raiders’ first-round picks will miss this game. One of those is cornerback Damon Arnette. This is a concern for them considering the talent that the Bills have at the wide receiver position. Their other first-round pick, wide receiver, Henry Ruggs III, and receiver, Bryan Edwards, are not expected to play. For the Raiders to pull this one out, they will need their reserves to play very well against a talented Bills team.

Run Defense – The Raiders have struggled against the run in the early-season. They are giving up an average of 5.6 yards per carry and are ranked 29th in the league in total rushing yards against. With Devin Singletary coming off of his best game of the year, the Bills will look to get Singletary involved early and often in this game. For as well as Josh Allen has been throwing the ball this year, I still think Brian Daboll wants to have a more balanced approach, and this week against a struggling run defense might be the week to start.

Allegiant Stadium – For the longest time, the Raiders had the most recognizable stadium in the NFL. The “Black Hole” was truly an advantage for the Raiders. Teams hated playing there and opposing fans were lucky to make it out in one piece. Time will tell how raucous their new stadium will get, but I am excited to get a look on TV. These new NFL stadiums that are being built continue to look better and better and more impressive each time. Just years ago Cowboys Stadium was the model, but that has been passed up many times over. This will be a great stadium to see in-person someday, but for now, the TV will have to do.

Prediction

Bills 34 Raiders 20 On paper, this game is much easier than last weeks for the Bills, and I think it will show in the result. I expect the Bills to play a more complete game this time around and not let the Raiders hang around. Look for Devin Singletary to get his first TD of the season in this one. It appears the new benchmark for Josh Allen is 300 passing yards and 4 TDs. I think he hits 300 again in this one, as the Bills’ hot start continues and they tighten their early-season grip on the AFC East.

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