The word of the day for Sunday’s matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the Seattle Seahawks? Injuries. And oh boy, there’s a lot of them. Throughout the entire week, the Bills added even more names than one might have imagined possible to the weekly injury report. Defensive centerpiece Matt Milano, national punching bag Josh Norman, and key special teamer Taiwan Jones have already been ruled out. However, the most important absentee may be center Mitch Morse.
Morse has been the leader of an improved Bills offensive line throughout the season. He’s been creating clean pockets for Josh Allen to work in and served as a dominant run blocker all season. Unfortunately for the Bills, however, Morse played a mere three plays during last Sunday’s thrilling win versus the New England Patriots before coming out with what would later be announced as his fifth career concussion. That’s more than a little concerning, to be sure. Hopefully, he will not suffer the same fate as former Bills center Eric Wood, who was also forced to retire early due to neck-related issues.
With what may be the most important game of the season this Sunday, the Bills’ offense needs to pick it up. Despite the promising run performance against the NFL’s number 14-ranked defense, the Bills need to show up with a much smoother offensive performance against the league’s worst. And it all starts up front.
As stated earlier, the loss of Mitch Morse will be a significant loss on the line for the foreseeable future, especially for the interior. However, the Bills have benefitted from the return of 2019 starter Jon Feliciano. Coming off shoulder injury earlier this year, Feliciano had quite the performance on Sunday playing both guard and center for the Bills. He helped the team put up its best rushing performance of the season, with both Devin Singeltary and Zach Moss racking up more than 80 yards apiece, along with Moss adding two scores, one that would not have been possible without Feliciano, and was rewarded with a 79.6 PFF grade. A solid outing for someone who missed the first seven games of the season.
With Feliciano manning the center position, both left and right guard are still question marks. After tweaking his knee against the Kansas City Chiefs, former tackle Cody Ford has been marked as questionable for this weeks game game. If he is active, he will most certainly play; which side of the center he’ll man may depend on the availability of Brian Winters, who has a similar injury, but he appears likely to start after a full practice on Friday. If either one of them is out, up and coming backup Ike Boettger will serve as a replacement. Subbing in for Ford against the New York Jets and filling in for Feliciano once he moved to center, Boettger has proved himself as a solid option at guard, earning a 94.1 PFF grade in week 8, the highest-graded Bills player of the game.
Whoever mans the interior on Sunday, their number one priority should be to play smash-mouth football in the run game, create clean pockets for Allen, and to certify that Brandon Beane made the right decision in getting rid of Quinton Spain.
Unlike the interior, the exterior play has been quite consistent this year. “Shnowman” Dion Dawkins and Darryl Williams have both earned multiple PFF team-of-the-week nominations throughout the season, and have only allowed a combined three sacks on the season. That level of play should continue this week, as the Seahawks defense has only 12 sacks this season, 24th in the league.
It helps both Dawkins and Williams that defensive end Benson Mayowa, who is in a three-way tie for first on the team with two sacks, has been ruled out for the game. His successor, Syracuse alum and rookie Alton Robinson, has been impressive from the edge this season, with eleven tackles and two sacks. Although not necessarily eye-popping, he is still someone to keep an eye out form, and impressive statline for a late-round pick. The biggest name to watch on the line is two-time Pro Bowler and newly acquired end Carlos Dunlap. Although he has regressed the past few seasons, he is still a reliable player who will certainly make some plays.
Player(s) to Watch: Bobby Wagner and Jamal Adams
The Seahawks have the worst defense in the NFL, which is shocking when they have two of the best defensive players at their positions in the league. All Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner is someone all teams should fear. Wagner is the best defender in football not named Aaron Donald. Constantly in the backfield, pressuring the quarterback, making tackles for loss – this all makes up just ⅓ of his game. If the Bills want to establish their offense often and early, Wagner NEEDS to be neutralized.
Another name to watch out for is a familiar foe in Jamal Adams. Notoriously known in Buffalo for badmouthing Josh Allen, Adams bitched and moaned to get his way out of New York (for which, frankly, I can’t blame him), Adams will be making his first appearance after a four-game absence. He is well known for blitzing the quarterback and has produced the most sacks for a safety in the league over the past few seasons, along with being part of the three-way tie for sacks inspight of his absence. He may come out rusty this week, but he’s another name the Bills line must focus on.
If the Bills want to win this Sunday and upset one of the best teams in the league, they need their offense going early. I may be pointing out the obvious, but it hasn’t gotten to Brian Daboll or anyone else’s head these past few weeks. Allen has lost his MVP-candidate status and maybe on the verge of becoming a laughing stock again if he doesn’t come out swinging. However, a car can’t go anywhere without its motor, and that motor is fueled by the success of the offensive line.