Another week, another pretty impressive quarterback with who the Bills have to deal with Sunday afternoon at New Era Field when they meet Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders.
The Bills did a super job against Carolina’s Cam Newton despite a Week 2 loss, they were excellent against Atlanta’s Matt Ryan in a Week 4 win, and then they were not good at all when they faced Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton and Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston. Next up is Carr, who looked like his pre-injury self in throwing for 417 yards in a victory over Kansas City two Thursdays ago.
“A good quarterback again, one of the better quarterbacks in the league, and a ton of production and weapons,” said coach Sean McDermott. “It is important that we can affect the quarterback. You’re going to hear me say a lot in the way of ‘could always be better’ because, in my mind, you can never affect the quarterback enough.”
How the Bills hold up against Carr may very well be the key to this game. Here’s my preview.
1. Will the Bills have an answer for Raiders DE Khalil Mack? The former University at Buffalo standout presumably isn’t mad at the Bills like he is at his alma mater, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be as destructive as a runaway truck like he often is. In the Raiders victory over Buffalo last year, Mack had five tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He went on to become the NFL’s defensive player of the year, and week after week, he’s a menace. Since 2015, his 30.5 sacks are third-most in the NFL, and 14.5 of his career sacks have come in crunch time in the fourth quarter. The Bills have questions up front at right guard, right tackle, and possibly left guard if Richie Incognito can’t play, or is hampered. The Bills better have a body or two on Mack because he can single-handedly dominate games.
Raiders DE Khalil Mack figures to be a handful for
Raiders DE Khalil Mack figures to be a handful for the Buffalo offense. (Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
2. Will Tyrod Taylor and the offense build on last week? There was a lot to like about the Bills’ performance against Tampa Bay as they rolled up 434 yards, an average of 6.5 yards per play, and scored 30 points. Taylor made some good throws down the field, he incorporated his elusive running ability on several plays, and the run game was more diverse which led to some gashing runs by LeSean McCoy. Here’s another opportunity to move the ball because while the Raiders aren’t as poor on defense as Tampa Bay, they haven’t been great. Oakland ranks 28th in yards allowed per play (29th against the pass), 25th in sacks per attempt, and they are the only team in the NFL without an interception. Taylor showed confidence in WR Deonte Thompson against the Bucs, and he’ll need to continue looking his way, especially now that Thompson has another week of familiarity with the offense.
3. Can the depleted Bills’ secondary stand up to Derek Carr’s assault? Carr is coming off a 417-yard flogging of the Chiefs, and he re-discovered WR Amari Cooper who caught 11 balls for 210 yards and a touchdown. The Raiders can be dynamic in their passing game, and the primary reason why they rank only 18th in passing is that Carr missed a game and a half with a back injury and EJ Manuel was forced into action. Carr has played the Bills twice in his career and he averaged 237 yards and threw four TDs in winning both. Now he’s facing a pass defense that has been torched for more than 700 yards the last two games, and will be without CB E.J. Gaines and very likely FS Jordan Poyer, who will be a game-time decision. Look for CB Tre’Davious White to follow Cooper around the field, but that leaves CB Shareece Wright to cover Michael Crabtree. SS Micah Hyde will have to have a great day covering up the potential breakdowns, and the Buffalo pass rush has to be heard from.
Things are starting to get serious in Buffalo now that the Bills are 4-2 and alone in second place in the AFC East, just a half-game behind the Patriots. In the next five days, Buffalo has two key AFC games that it must take care of business in. First up are the Raiders, a team that will certainly be in the mix for, at the very least, an AFC wild-card berth. As is always the case, the Patriots are starting to figure it out and they will almost certainly begin to take control of the division, so the Bills will be relegated to wild-card contention, meaning this game is mammoth. The Bills already have a victory over another team that should be in the mix (Denver) and a win over the Raiders would give Buffalo a 3-1 record in AFC games, with a possibly tricky test on tap Thursday in New York against the better-than-we-thought Jets. Dare to dream, but if the Bills can win these next two, they’d be 6-2 at the halfway point, a mark they haven’t reached since 1993, the last of their four straight Super Bowl teams. However, this is a worrisome matchup for the Bills given the Raiders reliance on passing, the Bills’ injury problems, and the recent struggles in pass defense. There should be some points scored, and I just wonder if this still-searching Buffalo offense can score enough. MY PICK: Raiders 31, Bills 28.
By the Numbers
210 – Receiving yards last week against the Chiefs for Amari Cooper, after he’d gained only 146 yards in the first six games.
12 – Consecutive games in which the Bills have scored at least 20 points in a home game, the longest active streak in the NFL.
0 – Interceptions by the Raiders this season. They are the only team in the NFL without, and the seven-game pick-less streak is the longest streak to begin a season in the league since 1950.
► QB Tyrod Taylor on the work that was done on the bye week: “I think, more importantly, we were honest with ourselves; players, coaches, what we were doing well, what we weren’t doing so well, and we attacked those areas over those couple practices that we had on the bye week and leading up to last week’s game. We focused on some areas that we thought we could be better at, and just try to build our strengths, and the communication between the coaches and the players has been open. They listen to us, we’re listening to them, and we’re just trying to do whatever it takes to win.”
► WR Deonte Thompson on his busy first week with the Bills: “The offensive coaches and my receiving counterparts, those guys really helped me out a lot. I was leaving (the building) at 9 o’clock some days last week, so just trying to pound it in. I’m still learning, even today I’m still learning. Each week is a different game plan. (There’s) a lot of stuff I don’t know, so I have to do the same thing this week.”
► CB Tre’Davious White on facing Amari Cooper: “It’s the NFL, man. Week in and week out, you’re going to go against the best in the world. This is what we signed up for, and we’re going to get ready for it. We’re going to watch the film, continue to get better and just come out trying to have a good outing on Sunday.”
Quote to Note
RB LeSean McCoy on coach Sean McDermott: “McDermott, man. He’s solid, you know. I think he’s honest. What you see is what you get. He preaches and coaches this team thing, so everything we do here is like team-based. Off the field too; he approaches it that way, more off the field, knowing your teammates, knowing about them.”
Total offense: 298.7 yards (25th) ; 310.7 (22nd)
Rush offense: 117.7 yards (13th); 92.9 (24th)
Pass offense: 181.0 yards (29th); 217.9 (18th)
Points scored: 19.8 (19th); 22.1 (15th)
Total defense: 343.2 yards (21st); 360.6 (26th)
Rush defense: 84.5 yards (7th); 113.9 (19th)
Pass defense: 258.7 yards (26th); 246.7 (23rd)
Points allowed: 16.8 (4th); 22.2 (15th)
Bills: LeSean McCoy 110 carries, 370 yards; Tyrod Taylor 38-174; Mike Tolbert 40-164.
Raiders: Marshawn Lynch 72-266; Jalen Richard 35-158; Cordarelle Patterson 10-124.
Bills: Tyrod Taylor 105 of 169, 1,178 yards, 7 TDs, 2 interceptions.
Raiders: Derek Carr 124 of 191, 1,341 yards, 11 TDs, 4 interceptions.
Bills: LeSean McCoy 32 catches, 220 yards; Charles Clay 20-258; Jordan Matthews 12-172.
Raiders: Amari Cooper 29-356; Michael Crabtree 28-328; Jared Cook 27-316.
9/10 vs. Jets W 21-12
9/17 at Panthers L 3-9
9/24 vs. Broncos W 26-16
10/1 at Falcons W 23-17
10/8 at Bengals L 16-20
10/22 vs. Buccaneers W 30-27
10/29 vs. Raiders
11/2 at Jets
11/12 vs. Saints
11/19 at Chargers
11/26 at Chiefs
12/3 vs. Patriots
12/10 vs. Colts
12/17 vs. Dolphins
12/24 at Patriots
12/31 at Dolphins