Game Preview: Bills VS Chargers

Photo of QB Phillip Rivers from sportingnews.com and Getty Images.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 48 hours, you’re probably aware at this point that Josh Allen will lead the team onto the field in Week 2 against the Los Angeles Chargers in his first professional start.

After Nate Peterman (and pretty much everyone else in a Bills uniform) collapsed in spectacular fashion against Baltimore last week, the organization left themselves no other option than to allow Allen to take the reins. Too bad they didn’t have a veteran safety valve waiting in the wings in case Peterman was a complete disaster (cough…McCarron…cough).

For better or worse, the Bills will ride with their rookie signal caller for the remainder of the 2018 campaign. Optimists and skeptics alike will watch with anxious anticipation as a new era of Buffalo football commences this Sunday. The entire Beane-McDermott regime hinges on Allen’s eventual viability as a franchise quarterback.

Let’s take a look at what fans should closely observe on what could end up being a historic day in Bills lore.

Can Allen Stand the Heat?

BALTIMORE, MD – SEPTEMBER 09: Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) looks to pass during a game between the Buffalo Bills and the Baltimore Ravens on September 9, 2018. (Photo by Icon Sportswire).

Even without All-Pro defensive end Joey Bosa in the lineup, the Chargers defense is a force to be reckoned with. It’s a good thing the Bills don’t have a history of trotting rookie quarterbacks out against such a formidable front otherwise, fans would have a good reason to worry (see what I did there?).

As a unit that ranked third in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game last season, Los Angeles is one of the stingier groups Allen will face over the course of the next 15 weeks. Pair that with the fact that the Bills offensive line performed like scotch tape versus a leaky Hoover Dam last week, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Fortunately for Allen, he displayed impressive escapability in the pocket last week at Baltimore. He’ll need to utilize that skill early and often as Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn’s staff will almost certainly dial up some exotic blitz packages in an attempt to throw the first-year passer off his game. It’s a good thing the Wyoming product had a chance to see what it feels like to have the snot kicked out of him at the NFL level during his preseason start against Cincinnati last month. There’s a very real chance that he’ll be on a first-name basis with the turf at New Era Field after this one.

Expect the Bills to lean heavily on Lesean McCoy in this one. The Los Angeles defense was less than pedestrian in 2017, ranking near the bottom of the league in rushing yards allowed per game posting an average of 131.1. The 30-year-old bell cow was held to just seven carries last week as the Bills played from behind for nearly the entire game.

Plugging Up the Defense

Photo of MLB Tremaine Edmunds from baltimoresun.com.

The Bills’ “new and improved” defensive front came out flat in their season debut. Joe Flacco carved them up at will, despite the fact that they did a pretty good job at stopping the run. A unit lauded as one of the top ball-hawking groups from a year ago left gargantuan gaps in coverage which allowed the Ravens receivers to catch balls uncontested.

For a team that invested almost all of their free agent budget into the defensive line, they did a pretty terrible job of getting to Flacco. The veteran signal-caller was only pressured a handful of times and sacked twice. This week they square off against another seasoned veteran in Phillip Rivers. Should they fail to disrupt the pocket for a second consecutive week, he’ll have no problem commissioning an air raid attack similar to what Flacco orchestrated last weekend.

At least the Chargers don’t have one of the best running backs in the league. Oh wait a minute, yes they do. Averaging just under five yards per carry in 2017, Melvin Gordon accumulated 1,124 yards on the ground. The Bills will need to repeat their performance against the Ravens in defending the rush, otherwise, the Chargers will rack up gaudy yardage numbers, forcing Allen to play from behind (a sub-optimal scenario, no?).

Most rational fans (sorry, just typing that out made me chuckle), realized that the quarterback position would be far from perfect this season. With a new offensive coordinator and a cast of unproven characters under center, growing pains were to be expected. That being said, there is absolutely no excuse for the embarrassingly bad performance put forth by the defense last week. If the Bills brass wants to avoid the ire of the fan base, their very talented, very expensive defense better show up in this one.

A Silver Lining

Buffalo will need a big game from RB LeSean McCoy if they hope to win their home opener. Photo from WIVB.com.

On paper, this matchup isn’t great for the boys in white. San Diego has an elite defense and a seasoned quarterback who has been known to make opposing defenses suffer when they present sloppy coverages, but it’s not all bad.

The biggest advantage that the Bills have is the fact that this contest is on their turf. Historically, west coast teams struggle on the road against foes in the eastern time zone. On top of that, the Buffalo faithful will surely be a raucous bunch for the team’s home opener which now has the added appeal of being Allen’s debut (as if they needed another reason to leave a wasteland of broken tables up and down Abbott Road).

Their best hope in this one will be to catch the Chargers napping. Over the next three weeks, Allen will be tested and to be quite honest, this is probably the most winnable contest in that stretch. If he and his squad can find a way to emerge victorious this week, it will make consecutive road matchups against the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers respectively, a little less daunting.

Prediction

It’s flat-out embarrassing when an NFL team is a seven-point underdog on their own turf. While the Chargers are the obviously superior team, something tells me this one will be closer than people think. Assuming that the team is capable of putting last week’s disaster in the rearview, they could make a game out of it at the very least.

Chargers 23, Bills 20

Editor’s babble: Anthony certainly nailed this one. Defense better make a better showing or this game will be over by the end of the first quarter. My expectations are low, keep Josh Allen upright and hope Shady can find some holes. In fact, I’m more interested in how Allen handles the pressure than the score of the game. Thanks to Anthony for his solid contributions to our blog. You can follow Anthony on Twitter @SciandraSports. GO BILLS!

About Anthony Sciandra

I'm a passionate Buffalo sports fan, former amateur pugilist, and UB alum. Born and raised in Western New York.

15 Replies to “Game Preview: Bills VS Chargers”

  1. Anthony, you are correct about the defense… The offense line got slapped around but the defense was embarrassingly disappointing… Star Lotulelei hasn’t shown a thing in pre-season or in the first game as he is being blocked by 1 person–hopefully his game picks up as the Bills gave him 50 million contract… I still can’t believe the Ravens converted a 2nd and 26 with a few yards to spare on a down & out…

    This game can get ugly quick even with Bosa out as the O-line couldn’t run block or pass protect ad on the fact that the Wr’s couldn’t get separation.

    Maybe it was the horrible weather conditions in Baltimore–this weeks weather is supposed to be beautiful…. A perfect fall day in Buffalo.

  2. Anthony,
    The Bills offense is a huge work in progress and they really need to follow the Anthony Lynn mantra of keeping it simple- with a twist.
    Nearly everything about the offense is new- playbook, QB, most of the OL, and especially the all important connection of understanding between QB and receiver. Nobody knows nothing. Keep it simple.
    The one thing they do know is that the Chargers will blitz and pressure Allen and be successful because our OL cannot stop anything as you rightly mentioned. If Daboll is smart, he will teach Allen plays to call when there are zone blitz formations- where to throw when the blitz comes from a certain zone. They want to stay on top and lean into the blitz with their own attack rather than fall back and become victims.
    Pound the run and pound some more. Mix in passes on non obvious passing downs and vice versa.
    The defense has its own set of issues but I am more confident that they will improve as the season marches on. McDermott knows defense and they will get it right eventually, even with less than ideal talent.
    The bad recipe from last weeks game is no pressure, no run stopping ability and no coverage in the backfield. Each of these areas needs quite a bit of work.
    Milano and Alexander came to play last week and they earned their pay. Not so much for Gaines, White, Hyde, Murphy, Hughes and Washington who was unceremoneously waived earlier in the week. Anthoher player from the bygone era jettisoned and rightly so.

  3. Chargers @ Bills (+7.5)

    Based on last weeks dreadful performance this game looks like a mismatch on paper… Chargers are licking their wounds as they lost their home opener to the Chiefs 38-28. The Bills we all know got slapped around by the Ravens in humiliating loss of 47-3… I must say I couldn’t find one thing the Bills did right in that game as they look like the replacement players from the strike of “87” playing the first team of the Ravens…

    The Bills will bounce back and be competitive in front of the home crowd but in the last 13 meetings the the Chargers are 10-3.. No pass rush, can’t run the ball and can’t protect the passer add in the fact that the Bills are starting a rookie QB it doesn’t look good for the Bills.

    The Bills defense will have to keep the Bills in the game and after last week’s embarrassment they will give it their all but the offense will keep them on the field way too long…

    The Bills give it their best but fall in the home opener.

    Chargers 30 Bills 16

  4. BTW—WR Kerley cut, DT Washington Cut and Shaq Lawson on the inactive list for today’s game…

    Only 4 WR’s for the game–TE’s may weigh big in the game plan.

  5. How did Rob Johnson sneak into Doosh Allen’s uniform?

    Has there ever been a defense this bad?

    Trust the process… Only question is whether the process is 3 years before they replace everyone or do they get 4?

  6. Well, Rob only got sacked twice in the second half…too bad he threw two ugly interceptions. But the worst defense of all time didn’t look so awful in the second half.

  7. Vontae Davis pulled a Boldin and quit/retired at halftime. KW and Alexander are PO’d at Davis.

    The defense looked night and day from the first half to the second half. I hope McD calls the defensive plays for the rest of the season. I’m wondering if Leslie Frazier gets the axe during or after the season?

    Allen does flash potential, but he has a long ways to go. He needs an O-line for starters, plus better receiving options.

    Nice to see the Cheatriots lose!

  8. Good morning…

    I’m glad I didn’t waste any money going to watch them at a sports bar… Gary and his wife invited us but I just didn’t have it in me to go watch…

    Davis quitting at half time was a first, the only thing that I can remember being even remotely close to that was in the 60’s Lou Saban wanted to cut a player at half time…

    I bet McD calls the defensive plays the rest of the year…

    It doesn’t get any easier as the next 2 games are on the road Vikings and Packers–Oh Boy!!!

  9. So did the Bills figure something out on D in that second half or did LA let off the gas? Maybe a little of both?

    Not sure how I feel about Rob Johnson’s performance. He sucked pretty hard in the first half, but was more effective in the second half…however, he had two really ugly interceptions. He wasn’t good, but it’s probably asking a bit much for him to be good on a bad team with bad receivers and a horrible OL in his first start. Was his bad about as good as you could hope for? I wouldn’t go that far…but I suppose it could have been worse.

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