Saturday Preview: Buffalo Bills vs. Washington Football Team
After a more expected showing from the Buffalo Bills last Sunday in Miami, the team will return to Orchard Park looking for their first home win of the young 2021 season. Let’s dive into the preview.
The Last Five
Bills 24 Football Team 9 (2019)
Football Team 35 Bills 25 (2015)
Bills 23 Football Team 0 (2011)
Bills 17 Football Team 16 (2007)
Bills 24 Football Team 7 (2003)
Naturally, these two teams don’t play very often. Thanks to the NFL adding a 17th game this year, the Bills will host Washington as their “9th home game”. The Bills will next see Washington in 2023, along with the rest of the NFC East. Since their loss to them in Super Bowl 26, the Bills are 7-1 against Washington.
What To Watch For: Buffalo Bills
Concern for Josh Allen? – “Paging 2020 Josh Allen…” Despite stomping the Miami Dolphins last week, Josh Allen’s lack of production and accuracy issues have been talking points among the fanbase and some of the local media. Allen admitted that he is aware that he’s underperformed and it is eating at him. Frankly, the only way for Allen to get the media and fans off of his back is to play like a player deserving of the contract he received last year. The shutout win overshadowed some concern. But until Allen can get back to 2020 form, he will remain the top storyline for Bills fans on gamedays. The Bills will not find success without the Allen that finished 2nd in MVP voting last year.
Matt Haack – Another player that has caught the ire of Bills fans early in the year is punter Matt Haack. To an average observer, like myself, he just looks slow. Many things went into the blocked punt in Week 1, but Haack’s slow progression certainly contributed to it. Last week, the protection up front was better, but Haack still looked slow. Does Haack just have a slow wind up/progression? Is that even something he can change? As inconsistent Cory Bojorquez was, I don’t remember worrying about punt blocks as much as I have the past two weeks. We have already seen a blown special teams play be the difference in one game this year. And I’m sure we’ll be holding our breath that it does not happen again. I know that I will be keeping a keen eye on Matt Haack for the foreseeable future.
McDermott’s Mentor – Sean McDermott talks a lot about the mentors he had as he rose through the ranks to an NFL head coach. The two coaches that get the most credit for helping mold Sean McDermott are Andy Reid and Ron Rivera. Oddly enough, McDermott has had a really difficult time against them since getting the Bills job in 2017. McDermott is 0-1 against Rivera and 1-3 against Reid. The games against Reid are arguably more important, but will the Padawan snatch the pebble from Rivera’s hand?
What To Watch For: Washington Football Team
Where’s the defense? – In the offseason, Washington’s defense was billed as a Top-10, if not Top-5, unit in the league. Rivera has a reputation for fielding strong defenses. He has spent his first two seasons in Washington building a defense to live up to that reputation. The problem is, through two games, Washington’s defense has been nothing special. The unit is ranked 25th in yards against per game, 24th in passing yards allowed (giving up nearly 300 yards per game), while surrendering 24.5 points per game. Combine that with a quarterback making his 3rd NFL start, and this Sunday might smell disaster for the Football Team.
Chase Young – If there is a path to victory for Washington in this game, it likely goes through defensive end Chase Young. The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year can disrupt a lot of what Brian Daboll and the Bills will want to do on offense. Young is an advantage for Washington. And he will line up across from Dion Dawkins, who has had some weak moments so far as he continues to get back to playing form after a difficult offseason battle with COVID-19.
Young is a player that offenses must spend a considerable amount of time preparing for. Look for the Bills to test out the Young-Dawkins matchup early before offering Dawkins help on the left side of the line. If Young is consistently winning the battles, the Bills will send help his way, which could hamper their gameplan.
Heinicke vs. Bills Defense – What a task for a player starting his 3rd career NFL game. He’ll face an away game with a raucous crowd against a dominant defense coming off of a 35-0 shutout against a division opponent. For Washington fans hoping Rivera would take pressure off of his quarterback after being thrust into the starting lineup, week 2 provided everything we needed to know. Heinicke attempted 46 passes in their win over the Giants, finishing with 336 yards and a 99.5 passer rating. The Bills secondary appears much weaker than their run defense. If Washington’s offense is going to find success on Sunday, it will probably be through the air.
The Bills have a much better defense than what Heinicke saw in the Giants last week. This has to be a terrifying matchup for Washington fans. The Bills come in with a clear advantage in this matchup and, barring a failure on the back end, Heinicke will be hard pressed to replicate his success from last week.
Bills 30 Football Team 13 I think we see the Bills offense gain a little more of their 2020 footing in this game. This is a matchup that favors the Bills in almost, if not every, category. It would have been great for Bills fans to experience Fitzy one more time, but from a competitive standpoint the Bills are better off facing Heinicke this week. I also suspect we will get at least one completely baseless “Riverboat Ron” mention in the broadcast, as they hang on to one or two gutsy 4th down calls from a decade ago in Carolina while they conveniently ignore that he is punting from the opponent’s 39 yard line.