With a short in-state road trip and a banged up squad, the Buffalo Bills visit the New York Giants in Week 6 to face a struggling run defense, a familiar face and Eli Manning.
For the second straight week, the Bills will be facing an NFC East opponent, and here’s hoping their second go around turns out just like the first. Last week, the Bills raced out to a 21-7 halftime lead, stretched the lead to 28-7 in the second half and had to fend off a furious Philadelphia rally that fell just short as the Bills grounded the Eagles 31-24 behind 196 total yards from Fred Jackson and five forced turnovers by the defense.
Buffalo sits at 4-1 tied with New England for tops in the AFC East and also San Diego for the best record in the AFC behind 32.8 points per game and 379 yards of offense per contest. The Bills, despite giving up staggering yardage totals on defense, have been very opportunistic with 12 interceptions including three returned for touchdowns in as many weeks.
Fred Jackson has been one of the best running backs in the NFl through five games this season and leads Buffalo’s offensive attack. The Bills are averaging 138.2 rushing yards per game, good for fourth-best in the NFL. With the Bills banged up at wide receiver (already without Roscoe Parrish and Marcus Easley, Donald Jones will be out four-to-six weeks with an ankle injury), the game plan is likely to feature plenty of Jackson, both as a runner and a receiver. The Giants have had problems against the run particularly the past three weeks where they’ve allowed nearly 160 rushing yards per game (159.3).
One area the Giants have not had an issue is getting after opposing quarterbacks. New York leads the NFL with 18 sacks while being tied for fourth in the NFL in forced fumbles with six. Once thought of as a liability, Buffalo’s offensive line has been the backbone of their success allowing a league-low four sacks of Ryan Fitzpatrick. In turn, Fitzpatrick has thrown for 10 touchdowns to only four interceptions and over 1,200 yards passing and ranks sixth in the league in passing touchdowns.
Fitzpatrick’s counterpart, Eli Manning, looks to help the Giants (3-2) rebound after a disappoint home loss last Sunday to Seattle. Manning has one more touchdown and interception than Fitzpatrick (11 TD’s, 5 INT’s) and ranks fourth in the league with a quarterback rating of 102.3. Manning’s 11 TD’s ranks fifth in the NFL. Touchdowns have not been the main focus around Manning; interceptions, however, are another story. Last year, Manning led the NFL with 25 interceptions. This season he’s thrown five picks, but three of them came last week against the Seahawks. Manning will look to be extra careful with the football against a Bills defense that has intercepted New England’s Tom Brady and Philadelphia’s Michael Vick four times each.
Despite averaging 28.2 points per game over the past four games since getting doubled up against Washington on opening day (28-14), New York’s offense hasn’t hit full stride thanks in large part to a sputtering running game. The Giants are averaging just 83.8 rushing yards per game, good for fifth worst in the league. They’re only averaging 3.2 yards per carry on the ground which ranks second to last in the NFL. Without Brandon Jacobs, who will miss Sunday’s game with an MCL sprain, the bulk of the rushing duties will fall on Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw leads New York in rushing with 286 yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns. He could be in line for a nice afternoon against the Bills’ run defense with has allowed 171 and 174 total rushing yards in the past two weeks.
Should the Giants opt to spread the Bills out, they have a couple of receiving threats to get the job done. Both Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz have three receiving touchdowns. Nicks leads all New York receivers with 412 yards. Cruz is averaging 20.3 yards per reception.
Both teams are banged up and either have key pieces questionable or out for Sunday’s game. Buffalo will be without linebackers Shawne Merriman (Achilles flare up) and Chris Kelsay (calf). They could also be minus DT Kyle Williams who’s nursing a foot injury that is limiting his push off and explosiveness off the snap. LT Demetrius Bell will miss a second straight week with a shoulder injury. CB Aaron Williams remains sidelined with a chest injury. WR Donald Jones has become the latest Bill to be sidelined. He’ll miss anywhere from four to six weeks with an ankle injury.
New York center Chris Snee will miss his first game since 2004 as a result of a concussion. DE Justin Tuck continues to battle neck and groin problems and will miss the game. Jacobs is also out with an MCL sprain and fullback Henry Hynoski also is out for Sunday. CB Prince Amukamara won’t make his season debut Sunday afternoon since suffering foot surgery in training camp. DE Osi Umenyiora and LB Michael Boley are both dealing with knee problems, but both are expected to be ready to go. Center David Baas is listed as questionable, but is expected to play
PREDICTION: Giants 29, Bills 19. For those of you keeping track at home, I am a very not so successful 1-4 picking the Bills this year. The only game I’ve gotten correct was the Oakland game. That doesn’t entirely disappoint me because as I continue to go against the Bills, they’ve done quite well in their natural underdog state. So for argument’s sake and with a possible 5-1 start going into the bye week on the line, I’ll stay true to form. I think, however, the Bills are in a tight pickle. The Giants usually play up or down to their level of competition. See last week’s 36-25 loss to Seattle as evidence. New York needs this bounce back game badly. A win and they keep pace in the NFC East with a possible tie with Washington at the end of the day while consecutive losses at home will make it very hard for anyone to take the Giants seriously as a potential playoff contender.
For the Bills, they probably could of used their bye week a week earlier with all the injuries, bumps and bruises they’re accumulating. It’ll be a test of stregth as the Bills match their offensive line against New York’s stout front seven. I worry about Buffalo’s losses particularly at linebacker with Merriman and Kelsay out and Nick Barnett questionable after aggravating the injury this past week in practice. I doubt Kyle Williams will play in this one and that further complicates things defensively. I just think on the road against a team itching to get re-focused and a wash the taste of a bad loss out of their mouths, the shorthanded Bills might come up short a few points in this one.