2 – Mario Williams vs. Zach Strief – The Bills top pass rusher is peaking right now and could be far more than New Orleans’ right tackle can handle on his own. Whether it’s slide protection, a tight end or a back chipping, it’s going to be necessary if this matchup is to be an even one.
Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage – Kick coverage – The Bills had a mis-step at the end of the Miami game, but otherwise have been very good on kick coverage. With New Orleans struggling on returns Buffalo’s specialists should be able to provide long fields to the Bills defense.
Best advantage – Run game – Buffalo’s backs are still nicked up, but against a Saints defense that’s giving up 5.1 yards per rush, the Bills should be able to get enough yards on the ground to set up manageable third down situations.
Bills Number 1 Must
Limit big plays against – Buffalo’s defense has done a better job of late at limiting the big plays against them. Still, they rank 19th in the league in number of 25-plus yard pass plays allowed this season with 15. The Saints offense ranks fifth in the NFL in pass play of 25 yards or more with 19. Those have to be severely limited to give the Bills a chance at the Superdome.
Two man show
New Orleans ranks second in the league in passing yards per game and a majority of those yards have been rolled up by just two Saints players, neither of whom are receivers. TE Jimmy Graham and RB Darren Sproles are the team’s two leading receiving targets. They account for 44 percent of Drew Brees completions this season and 49 percent of Brees passing yardage through their first six games.
Graham is a major question mark for the game with a foot injury, initially suffered in Week 6 at New England.
The Bills had problems when they faced Rex Ryan’s defense in Week 3. They face a similar defensive front Sunday as they square off against Ryan’s brother, Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. New Orleans defense ranks seventh in the league in sacks with 20 in six games. They’re also 8th in the league in third down defense, and fourth in points allowed, but New Orleans defense has also had its share of deficiencies.
They’re 31st in the league in yards allowed per carry (5.1 yds). Opposing offenses have gained four yards or more on run plays almost half the time against the New Orleans defense (48.9%). The Saints run defense is also at its worst on second down where opponents are gaining a league-leading 6.43 yards per carry. They are also 26th in red zone defense allowing opponent to score touchdowns better than 60 percent of the time (61.1%).
The Saints offense is known as a big-play point producing attack and while New Orleans is more than capable of the big play at any time they are proficient in sustaining clock consuming drives. New Orleans stands third in the league in offensive scoring drives of five minutes or more with 12 in their first six games. Despite having just the 22nd ranked rushing offense the Saints lead the league in time of possession holding the ball for more than 33 and a half minutes per game (33:33). In the second half of games they possess the ball for better than 18 minutes.
Red zone struggles
Averaging just 3.4 yards per carry on the ground has hurt the Saints when they get inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. New Orleans has shockingly scored touchdowns just a bit more than 45 percent of the time (45.5%) converting only 10 of their 22 red zone opportunities into touchdowns so far this season. That ranks 27th in the league. Fortunately for the Saints they rank fourth in the league in scoring outside the red zone.
Not letting go
New Orleans has done a good job of holding onto the football through their first six games. The Saints are tied for the fewest giveaways in the NFC with just seven (5 INTs, 2 fumbles). That figure is the second-fewest in the NFL. As a result the Saints are a plus-5 on the season good for the sixth-best takeaway-giveaway margin in the league, which is tied with Buffalo.
Dome field advantage
The Superdome has been known as a difficult place to win a road game ever since Drew Brees arrived in town. That hasn’t changed much the last few years. Since 2011, New Orleans has a record of 15-4 at home. Brees also plays near perfect at home. Since 2011 Brees has completed almost 68 percent of his passes (67.6%) for 6,192 yards with 64 TDs and 16 INTs with a passer rating of 113.5.
Quote of the Week
“We like what we have going on here, and the guys we have in this locker room. We feel like we can compete with anybody in the league. We relish being the decided underdogs, but that’s something than comes with part of the business. We have to go down there and change people’s minds by winning the football game.
Stat of the Week
In the first half of their games this season the Bills rank first in the league in run percentage at 54.9 percent. The Saints rank last in the league at 30.2 percent.
Milestones in reach
Fred Jackson needs 33 receiving yards to join Thurman Thomas as the second player in team history to post 4,000 rushing and 2,000 receiving yards.
The Bills lead the league in interceptions (12) and stand tied for fourth in the league in sacks (23).