The Buffalo Bills enter Week 16 sitting atop the AFC with an 11-3 record. They now turn their attention to the last NFC team on their schedule (before a possible Super Bowl match-up) as they visit the Chicago Bears on Saturday afternoon. Buffalo enters this one riding a five-game winning streak while the Bears have dropped seven in a row. Here are the top five things I believe Buffalo needs to do to extend its winning streak to six and move closer to earning the AFC’s No. 1 seed and sole playoff bye.
Home Sweet Home
Yes, the Bills are on the road for Chicago this week, but is there a team in the league more equipped to deal with less-than-ideal weather than Buffalo? As you are all well aware, the Bills already had their schedule blown up due to snow the week before Thanksgiving when they played their “home” game against Cleveland in Detroit. Buffalo is also coming off of a game in Orchard Park where the temps were below freezing, there were wind gusts, and snow covered the field late in the fourth quarter of the 32-29 win over Miami. Those three things are all expected to hit Chicago hard Friday and Saturday. No team wants to play in those conditions, but it will be much easier for Buffalo to acclimate and shouldn’t hinder it on Saturday and, weirdly, may be helpful.
The Bills enter Saturday with the eighth most rushing yards per game in the NFL at 134.9 yards. They are even better in yards per attempt coming in third in the league at 5.0 yards per rush. Those numbers alone give the Bills an advantage, but when you see how bad the Bears are at stopping the run, you’ll like this idea even more. Through Week 15, Chicago is allowing a league-worst 1.7 rushing touchdowns per contest. They also rank 27th in yards allowed per game at 143.9 and 24th in yards per rush with 4.6 given up per attempt. That’s a lot of numbers to tell you Bills’ running > Bears stopping the run.
Stack the Box
While the Bears can’t stop the run on defense, all they can do on offense is rush the ball. The Bears average a league-best 5.4 yards per attempt, and their 186.9 yards per game is also the most in the league. However, they can’t throw their way out of a wet paper bag. Chicago is last in passing yards per game at just 137.1, and to make things worse, Justin Fields is being sacked on 13.75% of his dropbacks, which is also the bottom of the NFL. Fields also throws an interception on a league-worst 3.65% of his attempts. Buffalo should play plenty of seven and eight-man boxes to limit Fields, David Montgomery, and company from running the ball on Saturday.
Shorten the Fields
Think back to early Josh Allen, where we thought “if he plays hero ball without turnovers, Buffalo has a chance.” Well, that is basically where the Bears are right now with Justin Fields. His ability to run the ball is the only true threat on Chicago’s offense. Entering Saturday, Fields has fun for 1,000 yards in 2022, which is the most of any quarterback in the league, 295 yards ahead of Josh Allen. Fields’ eight rushing touchdowns this season is only behind Jalen Hurts for the most from a quarterback and two ahead of Josh Allen. As I said, he is the offense, circa the early days’ of Josh Allen.
All Gas, No Brakes
For the second straight week, I am flipping the script on the ALL GAS, NO BRAKES category. The Bills’ defense needs to start Week 16 with their ears pinned back, attacking Justin Fields, and keep that up for 60 minutes. The Bills’ defense is currently 11th in the league in sacks at 2.7 per game and more importantly against Chicago, meanwhile, Justin Fields leads the league in times sacked at 46. The Bills need to get after Fields early and often, let him make mistakes, and give the offense short fields… no pun intended.