LOS ANGELES, CA- The Bills have to play three games on the west coast this season, and the first comes up Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles when they take on the Rams at the ancient and historic Memorial Coliseum.
The Bills haven't played a game in that stadium since 1992 when they met the Los Angeles Raiders and lost 20-3. The last time they played the Rams in Los Angeles was 1983, and that game was played at Anaheim Stadium.
Buffalo comes into the game with a 2-2 record and riding a two-game winning streak, but the Rams are in better shape, now 3-1 and on a three-game winning streak. The teams have played one common opponent, and both took down the Arizona Cardinals.
Here's my Three and Out game preview:
1. Can Case Keenum beat the Bills? The Rams may be 3-1, but it sure isn’t because of their offense. In short, Los Angeles is terrible as it ranks dead last in the NFL in yards, yards per play and first downs, and is 30th in points. The No. 1 overall draft pick, Jared Goff, apparently isn’t ready to play, so the Rams have gone with Keenum at quarterback, and he’s barely functional. His 55.4 completion percentage is worst in the NFL. The Bills will load the box in an effort to stop the Rams’ prime offensive threat, RB Todd Gurley, and dare Keenum to beat them through the air. Sound familiar? That’s what teams usually do to Tyrod Taylor. Gurley, a breakout rookie last season, has really struggled because teams are keying on him and the passing game — with Keenum and a week group of receivers — can’t lessen his burden. He’s averaging just 2.6 yards per rush.
2. How much will the Bills get from DT Marcell Dareus? The big man is back now that his four-game suspension is complete, and he’ll be on the Memorial Coliseum field, but for how long? Rex Ryan was non-committal on that topic, but it seems like Dareus might only get about half the defensive snaps, perhaps fewer, as he tries to work himself back into game shape. Dareus played 12 snaps in the preseason opener against the Colts, and hasn’t played since then. Also, it’s supposed to be around 80 degrees Sunday in Southern California, so that will be a factor as well. Still, whenever Dareus is on the field, he’ll have an impact because he makes everyone else just a little better.
3. Can the Bills offense survive Rams DT Aaron Donald? The Rams aren’t very good on offense, but they’re tough on defense, led by Donald. He is being talked about as one of the best defensive players in the league and in the first four games he already has 25 QB pressures and 1.5 sacks. Further, he’s also a mountain of a man in the middle against the run. Since 2014, his rookie year, Donald ranks second in the NFL with 44 tackles for lost yardage. According to analytics site Pro Football Focus, Donald is the highest-graded defender in the NFL through four games with a score twice as large as the No. 2 player, Denver’s Von Miller. Yes, he’s that good, and the interior of the Bills’ line will have a tremendous challenge keeping him from dominating the game.
Major props to the Bills for rescuing a season that seemed to be circling the drain after just two games. By beating the Cardinals and Patriots the last two weeks, the Bills are back from the dead, and they’re all alone in second place in the weak AFC East behind the Patriots who now, fortified by the return of Tom Brady, will likely run away with the division. What that means for the Bills — as it always does with New England winning the East every year — is that they have to start positioning themselves in the wild-card chase. And while they’re playing NFC opponents the next two weeks — the Rams and then home against the 49ers — they can’t afford to stub their toe because every game matters. The Rams won’t be an easy out, but this is certainly a team the Bills can handle. Going out to the west coast is rarely a good experience for the Bills, but if their defense doesn’t have any egregious breakdowns against a weak LA offense, and Tyrod Taylor builds off what he did in New England, I think the Bills can score just enough to pull out a non-artistic victory. MY PICK: Bills 13, Rams 10.
By the Numbers
6 Consecutive games the Bills have lost on the West Coast dating back to 2004 when they won twice, in Seattle and San Francisco. In their last visit to the Pacific Coast time zone, they saw their 2014 season blow up with a 26-24 loss in Oakland to a 2-12 Raiders team that knocked the Bills out of the playoff chase.
3 Wins for the Rams in the first four games, their best record at the quarter pole since 2006.
193 Sacks by the Rams since 2012, Jeff Fisher’s first season as coach. That’s the second-most in the NFL behind only Denver (203).
Tyrod Taylor on the Patriots game: “We were one or two plays off in the first couple of games that we lost. I would just say we continue to keep learning from the things that we put out that fail. We didn’t play a perfect game by any means last week, but we did a good enough job to get a ‘W.’ ”
Marcell Dareus on missing the first four games: “Oh man, it was a killer because I love being around my guys. We bleed, we sweat, we work hard together and to know that I killed four weeks of being here with these guys; it ate me up.”
Zach Brown on the return of Marcell Dareus: “That’s one piece of the puzzle coming back. Now you can’t really double Kyle (Williams) and trying to chip Jerry (Hughes); now you’ve got to pick your poison with Jerry, Zo (Alexander), Kyle, and Marcell. Who you gonna block?”
Quote to Note
“I think it just kind of flipped a switch for us. It lit a fire in our belly. That's when things got real and we started looking around at each other and said, ‘Now we have to make this work. Now we're changing coordinators, now it's on us. It's on players.’” — Richie Incognito on the firing of Greg Roman.
Statistics and NFL Rankings
Total offense: 307.0 (28th) 269.0 (32nd)
Run offense: 123.3 (7th) 76.8 (30th)
Pass offense: 183.8 (31st) 192.3 (30th)
Points per game: 21.8 (17th) 15.8 (30th)
Total defense: 356.5 (17th) 379.5 (24th)
Run defense: 96.0 (13th) 104.5 (17th)
Pass defense: 260.5 (17th) 275.0 (23rd)
Points allowed: 17.0 (6th) 19.0 (9th)
Bills: Tyrod Taylor 74 of 116, 773 yards, 4 TDs, 2 interceptions.
Rams: Case Keenum 67 of 121 for 825 yards, 4 TDs, 3 interceptions.
Bills: LeSean McCoy 67 carries, 297 yards; Tyrod Taylor 21-140.
Rams: Todd Gurley 82-216 yards, Benny Cunningham 4-32.
Bills: Robert Woods 18 catches, 170 yards, LeSean McCoy 17-87, Charles Clay 12-114.
Rams: Kenny Britt 18-281, Tavon Austin 16-159.