It was the 2008 season. The Buffalo Bills were the talk of the National Football League after an improbably 4-1 start. In to town came Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers. This was the Bills’ statement game. A win against a respectable opponent with a good quarterback to go to 5-1 would officially put the Bills on the map and make their 2008 season legitimate. What ensued was one of the best days at the Ralph during the playoff drought. The Bills overcame a power outage to win the game 23-14. Trent Edwards was nearly flawless completing 25-30 passes for 261 yards and a touchdown. This was it, the Bills had their quarterback, had a statement win, were 5-1 and were officially a playoff contender.
They lost their next 4 games and finished 7-9 and Trent Edwards, well, the rest is history.
Fast forward 6 years to 2014. The Bills are a hot topic around the league after a surprising 2-0 start. They have 2 solid wins over average or better teams. Coming to town for week 3 are the San Diego Chargers and Philip Rivers, fresh off a beat down of the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. A win in this game for the Bills would be a statement win to get them to 3-0 and officially become a contender for the post season.
This match-up is very interesting for many reasons. First of all, it is a let down game for both teams. The Bills obviously coming off an emotional opening day victory vs. Miami with all of the hoopla surrounding the game. The Chargers home opener pitted a huge win over Seattle and now they must travel across the country to play an early Sunday game. Can the Bills back up their inspired performance from last Sunday with another one this Sunday? Time will tell.
The Chargers win over Seattle was convincing to say the least. Philip Rivers shredded the defending champions vaunted secondary. A week after the Seahawks made Aaron Rodgers look pedestrian (and obviously thinking back to how they embarrassed Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl), Philip Rivers had little to no issue. Rivers was 28/37 for 284 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. An 82.8 QBR is the highest allowed by Seattle since, well, at least 2012...I didn’t want to keep going back. Antonio Gates caught all 3 of Rivers’ touchdown passes as he adds to his resume as one of the greatest tight ends of all time.
The Chargers have been playing quality football going back to the 2013 season, in which they made a late run to a surprise postseason berth. The Chargers won their final 4 regular season games and then validated their playoff berth with a win in the wild card round in Cincinnati. The Chargers are 6-2 over their last 8 games, with their only 2 losses a 1 point loss at Arizona and a 7 point loss at Denver in the divisional round of the playoffs.
The strength of the Chargers team has historically been their offense lead by Philip Rivers. In 2013 they ranked 5th in yards per game and 4th in yards per game through the air. Philip Rivers quietly had an MVP caliber season in 2013 ranking 5th among Qbs in yards and 4th in touchdowns. His TD/INT ratio was 32/11. Philip Rivers is a premier quarterback in this league, in my opinion.
The weakness for San Diego in 2013 was their defense , ranking 23rd in 2013 in yards per game allowed. They allowed a 12 point 4th quarter comeback to the Carson Palmer led Cardinals in week 1 but other than that, their defense has been pretty solid in 2014. The Chargers defense has been stout thus far against the run in 2014, limiting Andre Ellington to 53 yards and Marshawn Lynch to 36 yards.
Offensively, the Chargers come into this game with some injury issues. Through 2 weeks this year, the Chargers are averaging a mere 76.5 yards per game rushing and to make matters worse, the Chargers will be without their starting running back Ryan Mathews for this game. Donald Brown and Danny Woodhead will be the main men toting the rock for San Diego. On top of that, Chargers star young receiver Keenan Allen is questionable with a groin injury. If he plays, he will likely be limited. Besides Keenan Allen, the Chargers wide receivers are Malcolm Floyd, Eddie Royal and some dudes I have never heard of. These guys don’t strike much fear in my heart. Antonio Gates is going to be the focal point for San Diego Sunday, so the Bills need to key on him. Gates has gotten off to a great start in 2014 with 177 yards and 3 touchdowns through 2 games.
The Bills are coming off a huge win vs. Miami, but with all of the emotion surrounding that game, they need to back it up with a solid performance against a playoff caliber team. If the Bills have legitimate playoff aspirations, my opinion is that this game is a must win. The Bills have back to back road games and then come home for the Patriots, so a home win against a quality team with potential playoff tiebreaker implications just needs to be had.
The Bills got Sammy Watkins involved early and often in week 2 vs. Miami and need to do more of the same this week. The Bills need to make getting Sammy Watkins and CJ Spiller the football in space a focal point of their offensive game plan and this includes in the red zone. The Bills red zone offense has been atrocious and if my memory serves me correctly, CJ Spiller had one touch in the 5 red zone possessions the Bills had in week 2. That is just not good enough. Fred Jackson in the red zone has been a failure so far this year. The Bills have a variety of weapons to use in the red zone and need to get more creative in getting these guys the ball. Watkins and Spiller obviously have great speed and ability. Mike Williams was brought in to help with the red zone with his great size. I would like to see Hackett open up the play book in the red zone and get these play makers more opportunities.
My pick this week is Bills 27 Chargers 13. The major reason for this prediction is that I think the Bills defense is legitimate. They are big, physical and fast and have dominated through much of the first two weeks. A legitimate defense can be counted on week in and week out, so if this defense truly is good, I expect another solid performance Sunday, especially with the Chargers injury issues on offense.