Apart from the Kansas City Chiefs game to end the season, this the Buffalo Bills are the best team the Los Angeles Chargers will face the rest of the way in 2020. Josh Allen has the Bills offense rolling and their defense has found a new gear over the last few weeks.
There’s real potential for this matchup to be explosive from the jump, so no one is going to want to miss this game.
Like every week, I’ve discussed my three keys the Chargers should stick to if they hope to come away with a victory on Sunday.
Let’s get into it.
1.) You stop Josh Allen, you stop this offense
Allen has essentially been the entire Bills offense this season. Of the team’s 31 total offensive touchdowns scored this season, Allen is responsible for 27 of them. On top of 21 touchdown passes, Allen has rushed for five more and even has a 12-yard reception touchdown to his name. With all of that in mind, it’s easy to see that if Allen can be forced into uncomfortable positions, this offense will likely come undone.
Through 11 weeks, the Bills rank 27th in rushing with 97.6 yards per game on the ground. This only further paints the picture of how important Allen and the passing attack is to this club’s success. Running backs Devin Singletary and Zack Moss haven’t shown the ability to get things going against any defense and that has forced head coach Sean McDermott to keep the ball in the hands of his quarterback.
With starting right guard Cody Ford out for the rest of the year, it opens up an opportunity for the interior pass rush to capitalize. Joey Bosa needs some help and if Jerry Tillery — who has two of the Chargers’ last four sacks of the season — and fellow tackles Linval Joseph and Justin Jones can step up to the challenge, then that’ll make the Big Bear’s job of corralling Allen a lot easier.
2.) Exploit the second level of the Bills defense
The Bills have a great young linebacker in Tremaine Edmunds in the middle of the defense. At 6’5 and 250-plus pounds, Edmunds offers incredible size for the position while also being one of most athletic with rare sideline-to-sideline range, as well. However, Edmunds hasn’t been able to turn all of that upside into consistent positive impact for the Bills.
In nine starts in nine games played for Buffalo, Edmunds ranks third among all NFL linebackers with 220 yards allowed in coverage, per Sports Info Solutions. According to Pro Football Reference, he’s also missed 10 tackles on the year and has a missed-tackle percentage of 12%. Those numbers show vulnerability.
Teammate AJ Klein, the team’s other starting linebacker, has an even worse missed-tackle rate of 18.5% while also missing 10 total tackles this season.
Some of the Chargers’ best weapons do their damage over the middle of the field. Whether it’s Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, or Austin Ekeler, there’s plenty of threats to exploit the Bills’ lack of coverage at the second level. It’d be smart to scheme something up for this matchup early and often on Sunday.
3.) If Austin Ekeler plays, this might be a game to try and get the run game going
I know all the numbers point to the Chargers being bad at running the football and that they need to continue trusting Herbert to cook and guide this offense, but the Bills defense is one of the poorest at stopping the run in the NFL. Currently, they rank 29th — the fourth-worst — with 135.0 yards allowed per game on the ground. Combine that with the expected return of Austin Ekeler and you got yourself an energized ground game that the Bolts haven’t had since RB1 went down against the Bucs in Week 4.
Before his injury, Ekeler was averaging 5.1 yards per carry. That’s far-and-away the best mark in the backfield. The next closest is Justin Jackson at 4.1 YPC. His 248 total rushing yards are still second-best on the team, even after playing in just a little over three games this season. Ekeler seems like this team’s only hope at revitalizing the run game, and I just wouldn’t be surprised to see Lynn try to get him rolling.