With one more to game day, we talked with Brian over at SB Nation's Buffalo Bills blog, Buffalo Rumblings. Longtime readers know that Buffalo Rumblings is one of my favorite blogs. They do a great job over there, and they've been cursed with some of the same sports luck as we have over the last 20 years. So I can appreciate Bills fans.
Anyway, here's my Q&A with Brian about the Chiefs and Bills in Week 10.
1. How much of an upgrade has Kyle Orton been over EJ Manuel?
As a passer, it's night and day. The Bills miss Manuel's escapability, as Orton has been sacked a ton in his four starts, but that's a sacrifice worth making. Orton is significantly ahead of Manuel in terms of his ability to read defenses pre- and post-snap, throw with anticipation, and even with his accuracy (though he's not even remotely perfect there).
I'm speaking personally here, but I'd developed a sense of dread every time Manuel dropped back to pass; the opposite is true with Orton. He's hardly spectacular, but solid should be enough to help the Bills contend in the playoff race.
2. The Chiefs have been good at not giving up big plays on defense. How much of a deep threat is Sammy Watkins? What is his best skill right now?
They take their fair share of shots deep with Watkins, and he's very capable of getting over the top of a defense and making the big play. In fact, he's good enough at it that they'd probably take more if they could more consistently display quality pass protection.
As for his best skill, it's probably his hands. He has a full skill set; he's able to run the full route tree, separates from man coverage often with startling ease, and can make plays at all levels of the field. He's still prone to rookie lulls, and can take some time to adjust to what opponents are trying to do against him in games. But the thing that always stands out to me about him: he's got strong, reliable hands. If the ball is near him at all, he's going to be able to make a play on it. That catch radius is making up for a lot of flaws in quarterback play.
[Editor's note: Watkins has been ruled questionable for Sunday's game ... so it's no guarantee he even plays.]
3. The Bills were supposed to have a strong front seven with Marcell Dareus, Mario Williams and others. How is that front seven doing?
Very well. Dareus is the best player on the team right now, and quite frankly should be in All-Pro consideration. The starting defensive line is excellent across the board, and the depth is surprisingly solid despite very few recognizable names. Buffalo is significantly better against the run than they were a year ago, and they haven't sacrificed any pass rushing productivity to get there. Buffalo's defense has its share of vulnerabilities, but there's a lot of talent on hand, and it starts with that line.
4. The Bills o-line has had its issues. What will the Bills do to combat pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston?
Nothing too special; that situation is one that needs to be game-planned around, not for. Buffalo should be expecting those guys, Houston in particular, to make some plays. They don't often spread teams out with three- and four-receiver formations because of the line issues, so you should expect to see more two- and three-tight end sets to help the edge blockers. (Mercifully, the Bills can still throw vertically out of these packages.) Fred Jackson (if he can play) and Anthony Dixon will play huge roles as support blockers. And, of course, they'll stay as faithful to the running game as they can to maintain balance.
5. What's your prediction for the game?
I like Buffalo. Mostly because I want to like Buffalo, and I think enough of the way they're built, and the venue they're playing in, to roll with them. Give me a final of 24-20. Where I think things may go south for the Bills is the coaching matchup; Buffalo's crew is not especially innovative and is frankly terrible in situational football. Andy Reid has his own flaws in that latter category, but if anyone is going to draw up a game plan to gash the opponent, it's probably Reid, and not Doug Marrone and Nate Hackett. Still, 'tis the season for optimism, right? Go Bills.
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