Let the Derek Anderson era begin! Well, maybe it’s not an “era” per se. More like a series of unfortunate events that led to the Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback getting injured, requiring a 35-year-old journeyman to come in and start with just 11 days of prep time. Yeah, that has a nice ring to it.
Anyway, for some inexplicable reason, Bills fans seem to be more optimistic about the team’s highly-anemic offense now that Anderson is at the helm. While Josh Allen certainly hasn’t been great under-center (and we won’t even mention the infamous Mr. Peterman), it’s unclear just how much of an upgrade (if any) the recently unemployed Anderson will provide.
Fortunately, the Colts aren’t exactly world-beaters and the Bills defense has been absolutely lights-out over the past few weeks. Their effort last Sunday against the Houston Texans was perhaps their strongest of the season, despite the offense imploding late in the game for… reasons.
Can a hired-gun and an elite defense secure victory over a struggling Indianapolis Colts squad on the road?
A Tale of Two Defenses
Like we said, the Bills defensive front is even better than last year where they essentially carried the team to a playoff spot (with the help of one Lesean McCoy). Without their strong play, we could very well be talking about a one-win (or less) football team right now.
Over the past two weeks, they’ve allowed just 25 points and to date, they’ve allowed the third-fewest yards per game in the NFL behind Baltimore and Jacksonville. Not bad for a team that got absolutely obliterated to the tune of 78 points-against in their first two games of the season.
On the other side of the field, the Colts defense has been less impressive. They currently rank 25th in the league in yards allowed, and they’ve conceded the third most points-against. Over the past three weeks against the Texans, Jets, and Patriots they’ve been steamrolled, relenting an average of 39 points per game. Holy moly.
If there was an ideal opponent for Anderson to square-off against as he takes the reins as the Bills signal-caller, this is are as close as you’re going to get.
The Colts aren’t nearly as bad at defending the run as they are trying to limit damage through the air. Opposing running backs have only managed 106 yards per game against the Indianapolis front on average. Regardless, expect a heavy dose of McCoy given Anderson’s limited practice time with the team.
Derek Anderson has played a whole lot of football for several different teams in his NFL career. His best season came during his second year in the league with the Cleveland Browns, where he threw for 3,787 yards in 2007 en route to a Pro Bowl selection. In the decade that’s passed since then, he spent one season in Arizona before becoming Cam Newton’s veteran mentor and backup for seven years in Carolina (where he had some chemistry with Kelvin Benjamin, the Bills’ defacto number one receiver).
Last year, he only saw the field in one game for the Panthers where he completed just 25-percent of his pass attempts for a whopping 17 yards. In fact, over the past seven years, he’s only thrown for 1,256 yards, so it’s a little unclear why the Buffalo faithful believe so strongly that the offense will suddenly not stink as bad now that he’s the starter.
One person who needs to hold out hope that Anderson has some magic left in the tank is Sean McDermott. In hindsight (sort of) his decision to part with A.J. McCarron in favor of Nathan Peterman was an egregious mistake. Not only did he put his faith in a clearly flawed Nathan Peterman to be a “mentor” for his severely flawed project quarterback, but after less than a game, he threw said project to the wolves where he has fared about how you’d expect.
The signing of Anderson is a last-ditch attempt to right that wrong. It may be too little, too late, but if he can string some wins together to close out the season (or for as long as Allen is sidelined), he may very well save McDermott’s job. That’s not a dramatic assertion either. The second-year head coach has shown some serious flaws in his team personnel choices, and his own ego (and a bizarre allegiance to Peterman) may very well come back to bite him. He better hope and pray that Anderson stays healthy, because he may not survive with Peterman pick-sixing his way through another game.
A Stroke of Luck
Make no mistake; Andrew Luck is the X-Factor in this game. He has the capability of making a mediocre offense look deadly on any given week, against any given opponent. That’s what a generational quarterback does for you.
Since returning from being sidelined for over a year, he has immediately regained his form this season. He is currently second in the league with 16 touchdown passes with just four interceptions. Despite the fact that his team currently sits at 1-5 on the year, he has done everything humanly possible to keep them in games despite a sieve on a defense.
This week, he gets his top target back in T.Y. Hilton who has missed the last two weeks. TreDavious White will have to put together another strong performance to limit the damage that those two are capable of inflicting.
Without a real threat on the ground, expect the Colts offensive game plain to be predicated on gaining yardage through the air, something the Bills have been pretty good at limiting as of late. The pass rush needs to limit the amount of time Luck has to read the field, otherwise the Bills may find themselves in a shootout with one of the top-five quarterbacks in the NFL.
I think I’ve made my skepticism about Anderson and the Bills offense pretty clear at this point, but as has been the case all year, the defense could save them here. The Colts don’t do anything special on offense, but with Andrew Luck, you just never know. Expect another hard-fought battle, but Indy takes this one on their home field.
Bills 21, Colts 24
Editor’s babble: I wouldn’t exactly refer to Josh Allen as “severely flawed” as much as “severely inexperienced” at this point, but that’s how things seem to roll for Allen. It will be interesting to see how rusty ol’ Anderson is after being out of commission for so long. Thanks to Anthony Sciandra for his stellar contributions to our blog. You can find Anthony on Twitter @SciandraSports. He’s also a terrific contributing author for @diebytheblade.