As the old saying goes, “Knowing your opponent is the quickest path to victory.” With the off-season whipping by and training camp firmly in sight, it seems like a good time to start examining the teams that inhabit the Los Angeles Chargers’ schedule for the 2017 season. We will begin by taking a trip to the east coast, as we look at the AFC East resident Buffalo Bills.
What they were in 2016
The Buffalo Bills entered the 2016 season as a favorite of many experts to return to the playoffs. They had gone 8-8 the previous year and were pegged as an up-and-coming team led by the league’s best rushing attack and a Rex Ryan run defense ready to turn the corner. On top of that, the New England Patriots were going to be without Tom Brady for the first four games of the season, giving the Bills an opportunity to get ahead in the AFC East. Well, that didn’t exactly play out as expected. Buffalo started out slow going 2-2 in the first four games. After winning their next two games the team then dropped three straight and went into the bye week with a 4-5 record. Rex Ryan’s squad would only win 3 games the remainder of the season, finishing 7-9, and Ryan was ousted as head coach before the final game of the year.
The Buffalo Bills retained the rights to the title of “NFL’s top running game”, thanks to another great year from LeSean McCoy as well as to the mobility of quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who put up over 500 yards rushing himself. However, the offense as a whole was never able to come together and form a dominant unit. Tyrod Taylor is an adequate quarterback who won’t lose many games for his team, but he needs help around him to win. He got that from his running game, but other areas of the team fell short. The talented, and often hyped up, receiver Sammy Watkins once again missed a significant portion of the season due to injury, only playing in eight games. Watkins was the only receiver the Bills had that could be considered a number 1 WR. Robert Woods is good, but he and the other wide outs just could not fill the void.
The defense improved slightly from the prior season, with a monster performance from Lorenzo Alexander keying the improvement. The Bills had a top-five run defense, but that was accompanied by a secondary that gave up too many big plays and ranked near the bottom of the league. So, the Buffalo Bills ended up with an offense and defense both middle of the pack in terms of league ranking, and with their 7-9 record, found themselves once again on the outside looking in when it came time for playoffs.
Key Offseason Moves
Hired Sean McDermott as head coach
Re-signed: Lorenzo Alexander
Free-agent additions: S Micah Hyde, FB Mike Tolbert, K Steven Hauschka
Lost: CB Stephon Gilmore, ILB Zach Brown, WR Robert Woods
Drafted: CB Tre’Davious White (Round 1, Pick 27), WR Zay Jones (Round2, Pick 5)
Early Outlook vs Chargers
When the Chargers meet the Bills in week 10, there will hopefully still be a lot for Philip Rivers and Co. to fight for. Right now, in early July, I believe this is a game the Chargers can win. With the loss of star corner Stephon Gilmore, as well as CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, the Bills seem rather thin at the cornerback position. Rookie Tre’Davious White will presumably be an immediate starter and fill the open position left by Gilmore. But, it is not reasonable to expect White to be as good as his predecessor right off the bat. The Chargers receiver’s are the strength of their team and should prove to be too much for the Buffalo secondary. Assuming Keenan Allen is healthy, there is not a player on the Bills roster capable of hanging with the Cal product.
What could end up giving the Chargers some trouble is the Bills pass rush. Lorenzo Alexander and Jerry Hughes were a formidable force last season, constantly flying around the quarterback. Although it generally takes longer, we can hope by week 10 the Chargers new offensive line will have gained a little bit of continuity, at least enough so Buffalo’s linebackers aren’t in Rivers’ face every snap. If not, it may be a long day for El Capitan.
On defense, the Chargers have a secondary that should be able to match up with whatever the Bills can throw at them. The challenge will be containing running back LeSean McCoy. When McCoy is on, he’s tough to stop. With the return of Brandon Mebane and Caraun Reed, along with second year stud Joey Bosa, maybe the Bolts can keep the shifty Bill RB in check.
As I said before, this is a game that the Chargers should be able to win. They appear to match up against the Bills extremely well almost across the board, and as an added bonus, they will be playing at home instead of in Buffalo in mid-November.
The Chargers and Bills have squared off 37 times in the team’s history, including playoffs. The Chargers hold the series lead with a record of 23-12-2, including a playoff record of 1-2. The Bolts are on a two-game winning streak against Buffalo having defeated them in in 2014 and 2011, and have won 4 out of the last 5 games dating back to the 2005 season.
Game Info (Date/Time/Location)
Sunday November 19th, 1:05 PST, Stubhub Center