The Game Matchups Preview series is dedicated to breaking down how the Buffalo Bills match up with their opponent in each game of the 2022 NFL Season. This series will look at five key matchups; Bills Pass Offense vs. Opponent Pass Defense, Bills Rush Offense vs. Opponent Rush Defense, Bills Pass Defense vs. Opponent Pass Offense, Bills Rush Defense vs. Opponent Rush Offense, and Bills Special Teams vs. Opponent Special Teams. This entire analysis will conclude with three sections; “Why Buffalo Will Lose”, “Why Buffalo Will Win”, and a score prediction for the game.
Below I present 2022’s seventh iteration of this analysis for the Bills’ Week 8 clash versus the Green Bay Packers. Included is a scale ranking the advantage in each matchup from 👏 (Minimal Advantage) to 👏👏👏👏👏 (Massive Advantage).
Bills Pass Offense vs. Packers Pass Defense
Leaving their bye week, the Bills have played one fewer game than 24 other teams, yet their quarterback still ranks fifth in passing yards (1980) and first in net yards (2187). Josh Allen is the leading candidate for MVP this season for good reason, and through six games is averaging an NFL record-shattering 364.5 net yards per game (record held by 2011 Drew Brees – 337.8). Allen seems to have taken yet another step in his development, adding a precise intermediate attack to his already deadly deep ball and dominating running ability. Making this all the more impressive is that, through the Bills’ first six games, each opponent has featured at least one All-Pro defender. That streak continues against the Packers.
De’Vondre Campbell (LB) and Jaire Alexander (CB) represent the Packers All-Pros, with Alexander being of particular concern when throwing. He is joined on the outside by second-year CB Eric Stokes and 2021 borderline All-Pro Rasul Douglas, who can play both the slot and outside. The three of them will be primarily responsible for slowing down All-World Stefon Diggs, dominant deep threat Gabe Davis, and one or both of the Bills slot WRs in Isaiah McKenzie and Khalil Shakir. They will have some help over the top in Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos who are both talented safeties, but each has a 2022 Passer Rating Against of over 96.0, suggesting there have been more struggles deep than normal. The matchup here may be fairly even on paper, but this season, being even on paper has done little to help opposing defenders playing the Bills.
Where Green Bay will look to gain an edge in this matchup is via their pass rush, which ranks fourth in the league in pressure rate at 27.1%. Rashan Gary (15), Preston Smith (14), and Kenny Clark (11) are primarily responsible for this, accounting for 70.2% of the Packers’ pressure. A lot of those pressures occur when blitzing, which the Packers do the most in the league (34.3%). For the Packers to achieve a successful pass rush, they will need to do something most teams have been unable to do this season: get past the Bills’ OL. The combination of Dion Dawkins (LT), Rodger Saffold (LG), Mitch Morse (C), Ryan Bates (RG), and Spencer Brown/David Quessenberry (RT) have done an incredible job of protecting Josh Allen this season. Among 35 qualifying quarterbacks, Allen is receiving the least amount of pressure at just 12.5%. If the Packers can’t pressure Allen Sunday, this could be another dominant performance by the Bills’ offense.
EDGE: Bills 👏👏👏
Bills Rush Offense vs. Packers Rush Defense
The Bills vs. Chiefs game provided some insight into the Bills’ plan at running back for the remainder of the season. Zack Moss was a healthy scratch, James Cook remained in a reserve role, and Devin Singletary became the bell cow. Singletary produced a season-high 17 rushes, 11 more than he has had at any point this season. He has proven the most capable runner, receiver, and blocker of the trio while his Y/A of 5.2 over the past three games has been integral in Buffalo finishing 3-0 over that span. Yes, the Bills were reportedly in on talks for Christian McCaffery and may ultimately target another RB, but at least for now, Buffalo may have found something in the traditional ground game.
The Packers present an opportunity for Singletary to improve on his season-long Y/A of 4.5. Heading into Sunday Night’s game, Green Bay ranks 25th with a Y/A against of 4.8. In fact, outside of their Week 3 game, the Packers have given up 125+ rushing yards in each contest. A defensive line focused on producing pressure and an underwhelming LB group outside of De’Vondre Campbell have been the primary reason for these struggles. Look for Buffalo to attack this weakness by pulling one or more linemen and attacking the Packers outside the tackle box. This can produce conditions that put rookie LB Quay Walker on an island and force Packers DBs to attack upfield and make plays. Green Bay can’t afford to be exposed here, so expect their game wreckers in Campbell and Alexander to play at their peaks this week.
The Bills do have a backup plan for if the traditional running game falls through. Just like every game during the Allen era, that backup plan is for their quarterback to pick up the slack on the ground. Thus far in 2022, Allen ranks 14th in Y/A at 5.47 which is just 0.07 behind the Packers’ Aaron Jones. Allen’s ability to extend drives on the ground could be the death knell for the Packers on Sunday if they fail to contain him. The good news for the Packers is they have done well at slowing down mobile quarterbacks this season. Justin Fields, Daniel Jones, and Zach Wilson combined for 23 Rush Attempts and 58 Yards, a Y/A of just 2.5, against the Packers (these quarterbacks, of course, are not the force on the ground that Allen is, but the point stands). If there is a matchup the Packers have an advantage in on Sunday, it’s this one.
EDGE: Packers 👏
Bills Pass Defense vs. Packers Pass Offense
Tre’Davious White will NOT return to the field this week and the schedule for him doing so remains unknown. That means that against the Packers, Buffalo will yet again roll out Jordan Poyer and the young guns. The good news for Buffalo, though, is that coming out of the bye, they are the healthiest they’ve been since Week 1. This means Dane Jackson, Christian Benford, and Kaiir Elam on the outside, Taron Johnson in the slot, and Jordan Poyer and Damar Hamlin deep. The talent of this unit is undoubtedly less than the one which last year included Tre White and Micah Hyde, but as is tradition in Buffalo, the whole is greater than the sum of their parts. This week those parts may be going up against the least talented receiving group they’ve seen all season, possibly the least talented in the NFL.
When Romeo Doubs (WR), Robert Tonyan (TE), and Allen Lazard (WR) are your three most targeted receivers, you may have a problem. Doubs is a high-upside fourth-round WR from this year’s draft, Tonyan is a sneaky-good TE, and Lazard is a solid big-bodied WR (who is unlikely to play Sunday due to injury). They are all pieces that could work with some more talent around them, but for context, would Doubs or Lazard be the Bills’ WR2? Would Tonyan be the Bills’ TE1? The answer is no and it has been shown this season. The hope for Green Bay is that getting a healthier Sammy Watkins and/or Christian Watson can provide some added firepower, but even when those two are healthy, the Packers have struggled. This entire group has failed to consistently beat single coverage which has allowed opposition to spy extra DBs or send extra blitzers on one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Aaron Rodgers.
A back-to-back MVP, Aaron Rodgers has struggled this season. Rodgers led the NFL in QuBeR in 2020 (81.41) and 2021 (76.02) but in 2022 ranks 16th with a QuBeR of just 46.36. Rodgers does deserve a large amount of the blame for this regression but much of it is due to struggles around him. The receiving issues have already been documented but the offensive line has not faired much better. Rodgers is being pressured the 13th most in the NFL (22.6%) due to inconsistencies up front. The Packers’ two best linemen are the main reason for these inconsistencies as injuries to All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari and Pro-Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins have left a massive hole on Rodgers’ blindside. If one, or both, of these players are missing on Sunday night, the Bills top flight pass rush may be in line for their best game of the season.
EDGE: Bills 👏👏👏
Bills Rush Defense vs. Packers Rush Offense
The Buffalo Bills have arguably the best rush defense in the NFL. They currently rank first in opponent Y/A (3.5) and rush defense DVOA (-23.0%). The entire defense has evolved to slow down opposing rushers but the players up front have shined. The additions of DaQuan Jones, Tim Settle, and Jordan Phillips have all had a major impact, allowing not only Buffalo’s linebackers to play free but for their edge defenders to excel. Von Miller speaks for himself but Greg Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa, Boogie Basham, and Shaq Lawson have all played arguably the best football of their careers. This week against the Packers, the Bills will look to maintain this pace against a team that desperately needs to establish the ground game.
Establishing the ground game is something the Packers should have an easier go of doing than they have had this season. Aaron Jones is one of the more prolific running backs of the past six seasons, as he ranks seventh amongst qualifying (200+ carries) RBs in Y/A over that span (5.1). Jones has unique shiftiness and speed that makes him one of the more dominant threats in the open field. If Jones can get going it should force the Bills’ DEs to maintain contain in order to avoid big runs to the sideline. Spelling Jones is a bruiser in AJ Dillon who is the Packers’ short-yardage weapon. At 6’0″, 250lb, Dillon is a difficult player for any defender to take down and could give the Bills lighter than normal defense some fits. Both of these players have talent but neither is living up to the lofty expectations set out for them this season.
Much of these issues, like the Packers’ struggles through the air, are due to problems in the trenches. Only center Josh Myers and right guard Jon Runyan have played more than 90% of snaps making it difficult for runners to consistently find open lanes. Most recently this, along with pass-pro deficiencies, led to the Packers making a change at RT and inserting undrafted third-year player Yosuah Nijman. The result is struggles moving defensive linemen off their spots, leaving linebackers free to make plays. Leaving both Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano free is a dangerous proposition for any team, as both have proven capable of making plays in the backfield this season. This is the matchup that the Packers must win in order to compete against Buffalo, but whether or not they have the enforcers to make that happen remains in question.
EDGE: Bills 👏👏
Bills Special Teams vs. Packers Special Teams
Tyler Bass’ regular season XP-made streak has reached a whopping 91. For context, outside of Bass, the longest streak among active NFL kickers is fellow Georgia Southern product Younghoe Koo’s 65. Bass is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season with the only two misses on his 32 kicks coming on blocks. At punter for the Bills is the rarely-used Sam Martin who is currently averaging 48.2 yards per punt, 43.1 net yards per punt, with an acceptable inside-the-20 percentage of 36.36%. This leaves the only area of concern on the Bills’ special teams in the return game. Against the Chiefs, Khalil Shakir handled punts while Isaiah McKenzie handled kicks, and while ball security hasn’t been an issue as of yet it will remain a concern all season.
The Packers have a solid group of special teamers as well but continue to have problems in this phase. Kicker Mason Crosby is the standard though, and now in his 16th season has made 15/15 XPs and 7/8 FGs with his only miss being a blocked 47-yarder against the Jets. Punting is ninth-year vet Pat O’Donnell, who has a 46.0 yards per punt average, 40.1 net yards per punt, with an astounding inside-the-20 percentage of 51.61%. Returning has been an area of weakness as returner Amari Rodgers is averaging just 7.1 Y/PR and 20.3 Y/KR and also has fumbled two punts this season. Where things fall apart for the Packers though is their coverage units. To date, the Packers are giving up 10.3 Y/PR and 24.1 Y/KR, both of which are bottom-10 in the NFL.
EDGE: Bills 👏👏
Why Buffalo Will Lose
The Packers’ offense may be struggling, but at the end of the day, they are still led by Aaron Rodgers. The back-to-back MVP has to right the ship at some point and what better time to do it than now? Rodgers’ ability to play mind games with DBs should be on full display Sunday as he attempts to manipulate the young and inexperienced DBs of the Bills. Add to that a running game led by Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon that, when rolling, is amongst the best in the league, and the Packers have the firepower to put up points.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jaire Alexander, De’Vondre Campbell, and Rashan Gary (assuming he progresses through the concussion protocol) all have the ability to make game-changing plays. Alexander deep is a proven difference-maker that can keep the Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs connection in check. Campbell in the middle of the field will reduce the Bills’ ability to find success on the ground while simultaneously containing Allen when he escapes the pocket. Last, Rashan Gary has the ability to play the role of game wrecker as a player who is constantly keeping Allen under pressure.
Why Buffalo Will Win
The Packers have never beaten the Bills in Buffalo. The Sean McDermott Bills have never lost after the bye week. Both of those are nice streaks to have but neither are the reason the Bills will win Sunday, it’s just that Buffalo is the better team. On offense, Josh Allen is off to a historic start to his season while the Bills are putting up points among the best in the league, even though they continue to make boneheaded mistakes. Any success on the ground will be a boon to this offense but on Sunday and in the future there is little reason to believe the Bills can’t put up north of 28 points per week behind their franchise quarterback.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bills have arguably the best pass defense and rush defense in the league. Pick your poison Green Bay. Throw the ball and you will contend with a secondary that rarely gives up big plays and often comes down with the football. Run the ball and you will be doing so against one of the deeper interior defensive lines in the NFL as well as one of the best linebacker duos. All of this occurs while future Hall of Famer Von Miller prowls the edge looking for an opportunity to make a game-changing play. That likely happens even if David Bakhtiari and/or Elgton Jenkins play, but without one or both this could get ugly quickly.
Prediction: Bills 35 – Packers 17
How do you bet against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers as double-digit underdogs? Easy, you do so knowing the Bills have the best roster in football, are healthy coming off a bye, and are playing a reeling and underperforming Packers team. This isn’t to say it’s impossible that Green Bay wins this game, you always have to have some faith in them, but the buzzsaw brewing in Buffalo looks destined to down any foe that crosses their path. Will the Bills cover the 11-point spread? Maybe, maybe not, but when the stadium empties on Sunday night it should do so cheering for a 6-1 Bills team.