Many fans of both teams who shall play each other this Sunday would not (on a surface level) place the greatest emphasis on a cross-conference matchup like this one. Alas, here in Spy World, the goal is to peel as many layers of the onion back as possible. First and foremost, you may wonder how this game came to be on the 2021 NFL schedule. Simply put, with the addition of the 17th game to the NFL schedule, the Bills will now host and battle the WFT’s based on the NFL’s determination that the 1st place team will play their opposite-conference 1st place counterpart. As such, the matchup is as it is.
Make no mistake, Washington has a team that has become moderately good, in impactful but “under-the-radar” ways. Led by Sean McDermott’s mentor, “Riverboat” Ron Rivera, this team is no slouch and will present a challenge for the Bills. Moreover, who could complain? A sluggish start for the Buffalo offense meets an equally sluggish start for the Washington defense. Both units were pegged as elite and were given high expectations; sounds like a match made in gridiron heaven. It is not unrealistic nor unwise to measure the Buffalo Bills as the superior team on paper, but paper blows in the wind on the turf on Sundays, as Tre White has shown us in the past.
This is, most definitely, a measuring stick matchup for both teams, but especially the Bills. Reactions, emotions, and snap-judgements have run high for the Bills Mafia. Those concerns will continue to gain credibility if their struggles continue. Washington brings some weapons to this fight, surely hoping to make that happen.
SPY 1: A Front Four of Firsts
Washington’s incredibly talented and powerful defense is spearheaded by a quartet of former 1st round picks, all complete with high ceilings, high motors, and violently beautiful skill sets. DE Chase Young, DT Daron Payne, DT Jonathan Allen, and DE Montez Sweat. It doesn’t get much more promising than that as far as defensive lines are concerned. During the 2020 season, Washington’s defense was the team’s biggest asset and producer against a weak schedule. Thus far in 2021, Washington’s defense has been rather uninspiring.
Ironically, in 2020 PFF had Washington’s defense ranked #2 whereas in 2021 Buffalo is ranking as the #2 Unit. Through 2 weeks of play, Washington has allowed (shockingly) 49 points and 815 yards against offenses (and opposing QBs) who are not at the top of the food chain. As a result, Washington has begun to blitz heavily. This is dangerous because Bills QB Josh Allen has (historically) shredded the blitz, most notably in 2020. Last week vs. NYG, the Washington Defense was inconsistent in the application of pressure on Giants QB Daniel Jones; they failed to contain him on numerous occasions. Josh Allen, a superior athlete, may be able to utilize his own running abilities in an even more dangerous fashion.
Similarly, to the Bills defensive line, Washington built theirs with some of the same characteristics and tactics in mind. The goal being, overwhelm the opposing line with superior speed, agility, and power. In games this season, defensive approach and subsequent adjustments by Washington seem to amount to a “tale of two halves”, showing further evidence of inconsistency. Expect Washington’s approach to change more than once on Sunday against the Bills.
SPY 2: Wary of Scary Terry
Washington WR Terry McLaurin is quickly budding into a superstar in the NFL. He is coming off a 100+ yard performance and (interestingly) has never recorded back-to-back 100+ yard stat lines. “Scary Terry” is Washington’s most dangerous threat nonetheless and will likely be shadowed by Tre White. However, with injury and shades of inconsistency hampering the Bills CB corps, Washington’s receiving corps presents quite the challenge. This point is especially true when considering who’s under center.
Spy 3: Don’t Sleep on Heinicke
Current QB and underdog hero Taylor Heinicke has the spirit of a reckless gunslinger, not dissimilar to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Do not make the mistake of thinking that Heinicke won’t push the ball down the field, he will do so enthusiastically. He has underrated mobility and is also well versed in Washington’s offense, having played for OC Scott Turner the majority of his professional career (Minnesota, Carolina, and Washington). He has done enough in his limited time as a starter to earn a vote of confidence from former teammate (and current ESPN analyst) Alex Smith.
If there is one weakness Buffalo could exploit, it is Heinicke’s propensity to key in on the first read. If he tries to go to the Scary Terry well too much, it could lead to disastrous results (see his late-game interception last week). And one (of the many) things Tre White is good at is anticipating routes.
DARKHORSE BONUS POINT:
Washington starting TE (and former Bill) Logan Thomas makes his triumphant return to Orchard Park on Sunday. Bills Mafia must be happy for a good football player who (now) has found his niche, true potential, and won himself a starting job as a TE1 in the NFL. This is no small feat.
THREAT RATING: Each opponent will be ranked on a 1-10 scale; the higher the number = The greater the threat to the Bills.
Threat Rating = 4
In closing, please follow The Buffalo Fanatics on all platforms, trust the process, and go Bills.
I would also like to give a special shoutout to BF Editor in Chief Zach Vaughn for his Taylor Heinicke insights.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.