Last Sunday's shocking win in Minneapolis has most Bills fans trying to figure out who this team is. Are they the one that was outscored 75-6 in the first 6 quarters of the season or the one that pulled off the biggest upset in modern point spread history in beating the Vikings?
I think we will gain a little more clarity based on how things go down in Green Bay this weekend.
Let's Get Defensive
The Bills defense has been lights out since Vontae Davis walked out on them at halftime against the Chargers. They allowed just three points and 65 yards in the second half against Los Angeles. Through three quarters against the Vikings that unit gave up just 90 yards and no points. (Bills gave up over 200 yards in the 4th quarter, but clearly were playing more prevent with the game already decided). The biggest swing has been producing pressure and turnovers, something I'd say usually goes hand-in-hand. This is what a lot of us expected from the Bills defense entering the season. If the pass rush continues as it has the past six quarters, a hobbled Aaron Rodgers could be limited.
We may look back at the end of Josh Allen's career with the Bills and say last Sunday was his coming out party. The final numbers don't jump off the page, but he was in complete command of what he was asked to do. There were a few missed throws, but overall he was accurate, efficient, smart, and, of course, showcased his athleticism and will to win. What does he do for an encore against a Packers defense that ranks in the lower third of the league, allowing 386.7 yards a game? You would think there's an opportunity to take another step forward.
Running the football has been a challenge through three games for the Bills. Overall, they're averaging 98.3 yards a game (19th in NFL), but are near the bottom of the league in yards per carry at just 3.6. LeSean McCoy says he is going to return after missing the Vikings game. He acknowledges his tough start in the two games he did play (just 61 yards) and is chomping at the bit to lead the Bills back towards their bread and butter on the ground. It certainly could happen against a Packers defense really struggles stopping the run, sitting 27th in the league allowing 124.3 yards per game.
There finally was a change made on the Bills offensive line after allowing 11 sacks in the first two games, inserting Russell Bodine at starting center in place of Ryan Groy. Allen was still sacked three times, but you could see improvement up front. Sean McDermott saying this week he liked Bodine's leadership in game and on the sidelines. That group still has room for improvement and I would say that further changes aren't out of the realm of possibility if protection doesn't continue to get better. They'll face their easiest test to date Sunday in Green Bay as the Packers only have six sacks this season, tied for 25th in the NFL.
The Bills defensive resurgence has happened while the second cornerback spot has been beaten up. Phillip Gaines and Taron Johnson have both been in and out of the line-up the first few weeks, but both look good to go against the Packers. In their place we've seen Lafayette Pitts and Ryan Lewis (who was on the practice squad to start the year) get run on the outside and safeties Rafael Bush and Siran Neal man the slot. McDermott has dressed just four CBs for each of the first three games, but should have five healthy and ready to roll Sunday if he chooses. He wouldn't commit to that when I asked him Thursday, even with the pass-happy Packers on the slate.
Kick-off between the Bills and Packers is Sunday at 1pm eastern from Lambeau Field in Green Bay.