I had the rare opportunity to watch the Saints' opponent fairly closely this week with the team being on a bye week. After watching the Bills it seems pretty clear to me what that football team's identity is: they run the ball and they rush the passer. They do both of these things extremely well. Otherwise, they're just not very good at all.If the Saints can slow down the Fred Jackson/C. J. Spiller tandem on the ground and pass protect, they will win this game very easily. It's that simple. Here's how the Bills look:
Offense: E. J. Manuel continues to be out with an injury and you'll remember Kevin Kolb is out for the season, so the Bills' starter is Thad Lewis. To me he's looked about the same as Manuel, actually, so not too too bad. The Bills do a decent job of protecting them with an excellent run game. The offensive line is good, and the Bills like to pound Jackson and Spiller. Their offense is that simple. Yes you have to watch out for Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods a bit in the passing game (Scott Chandler to an extent) but this unit shouldn't strike the fear into anyone. The Saints should be able to hold them to under 20 points if they aren't working with short fields. If the Saints can control the run game, this is an easy game. If the Bills run the ball effectively, it keeps Brees off the field and becomes more dicey. The Bills are 5th in the league in rushing but 30th in passing.
Defense: You might see a team that's 23rd overall defensively and think they are poor, but the Bills have some assets. What the Bills can't do is stop the run (28th overall). Hopefully the Saints can move the ball on the ground some. What the Bills do best is rush the passer. They are 4th in the NFL in sacks and as spotty as the Saints' o-line has been in protection that is a concern. Mario Williams already has 10 sacks! Clearly he is tearing it up. But Marcell Dareus has 4 sacks, Kyle Williams has 2.5 and Jerry Hughes has 2. The Bills are also getting very high level play out of rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso who some are touting as a rookie of the year candidate (4 interceptions already). Randomly, Jim Leonhard, who spent all of training camp and preseason with the Saints before getting cut, has 3 interceptions. The Saints have to find a way to slow down Mario Williams' pass rush while blocking Kyle Williams well up the middle too. This is a very tough task for the Saints' o-line.
Special Teams: Dan Carpenter is a stud and he's 15-16 on the season, including 3 for 3 from 50+. Otherwise, the Bills are nothing special. They don't present much of a threat on returns and they've used two punters this season.
This is a decent matchup for the Saints. They should be able to expose this defense **IF** they can keep them honest by running the ball often and well. They should be able to limit their point total, too.
That indeed is a big if. At some point when you are behind you have to throw. How is their pass protection? Can we see some early blitzing by the saints to make sure this rookie is very uncomfortable holding on the the ball?
Another game the Saints should win handily. Hopefully the Saints won't play down to the competition.