The Game Matchups Preview series is dedicated to breaking down how the Buffalo Bills match up with their opponent in every game of the 2023 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 2023’s sixth edition of this analysis for the Bills Week 6 clash with the New York Giants. Included is my “patented” 👏 scale which ranks the advantage in each matchup from 👏👏👏👏👏 (Massive Advantage) to 👏 (Minimal Advantage).
Bills Pass Offense vs. Giants Pass Defense
The Bills sleepwalked through their game in London and as a result, fell to 3-2 on the year. Josh Allen (QB) was amongst those sleepyheads, looking sluggish for the majority of the game until he turned it on in the second half. He would ultimately finish the game with 373 yards and three touchdowns while seeing a 50/50 ball that Stefon Diggs (WR) catches nine out of ten times get intercepted by Darious Williams. Despite fans clamoring for more touches for Dalton Kincaid (TE) and Dawson Knox (TE), among others, there remains little concern for what has been one of the best passing attacks in the NFL. Now entering Week 6, Allen is set to lead this offense into battle against a team that has struggled to stop any quarterback they have faced.
That defense belongs to the Giants and is led by defensive coordinator Wink Martindale. Martindale’s defense is simple: blitz the quarterback and generate enough pressure to force them to throw the ball into tight man coverage. It’s no wonder that the Giants rank No. 3 in Blitz Rate (41.4%) but it’s a problem that they rank #25 in Pressure Rate (20.4%). Those issues begin up front where outside of Kayvon Thibodeaux (DE), who has four of his team’s five total sacks, the Giants are generating virtually no pass rush. Dexter Lawrence (DT) has seen his pass rush numbers plummet after being named a Second Team All-Pro in 2022, Leonard Williams (DL) has just three sacks in his last 19 games played, and the Giants’ most frequent blitzing off-ball linebacker, Micah McFadden, has generated just one pressure on 13 blitzes. This week they are not just contending with a Bills offensive line that is playing extremely well but also a scheme that gets the ball out of Allen’s hands quickly leading fans to wonder, how can the Giants fathomably affect the Bills signal caller in any meaningful way?
This ramps up the pressure on the Giants’ defensive backs to be sticky with the Bills’ receivers. This is a clear issue for the Giants right now as their nickel package is in disarray. Tre Hawkins (CB) was that additional DB to begin the season but has since been benched in favor of Cordale Flott (CB) and/or Dane Belton (S). Those players join the Giants starting foursome of Xavier McKinney and Jason Pinnock at safety and Adoree’ Jackson and Deonte Banks at corner. McKinney and Jackson are fine players in their own right, but still, as a unit that will heavily rely on winning man-to-man matchups against the Bills, there are some serious questions. There is no one player capable of covering Diggs, Gabe Davis should have some opportunities deep, and Kincaid looks to be a matchup nightmare for an underwhelming nickel subpackage that could make this week’s air attack the biggest mismatch the Bills have had all season.
ADVANTAGE: Bills 👏👏👏👏👏
Bills Rush Offense vs. Giants Rush Defense
While there should be little to no concern around the Bills Pass Offense, concern around their Rush Offense is rightly growing. Against the Jaguars they finished with just 29 rushing yards, their lowest total since December 21, 2014, when they had just 13 against the Raiders. Even more concerning is a niche split for James Cook. When leading Cook’s yards per attempt (Y/A) is 6.4 but when trailing it drops to a horrendous 2.3. The Bills’ inability to run the ball successfully in their two losses this season has been damning while they have proven able to run down the clock in their three blowout wins. Buffalo will need to adjust either schematically or personnel-wise moving forward because at this point its rushing attack is far too inconsistent to be a complimentary piece to their passing game.
This week the Bills may have a chance to get right against a Giants rush defense which is about as deficient as their pass defense. To date, the Giants rank No. 29 in Y/A (5.3) while giving up nine rushing touchdowns, the most in the NFL. The issues start up front for a New York defensive line that is consistently getting worked against the run. As a whole, the Giants’ 22 tackles for loss ranks #No. 3 while just eight of those have been generated by their defensive line. Dexter Lawrence continues to excel here and will cause issues for the Bills’ Connor McGovern (LG), Mitch Morse (C), and O’Cyrus Torrence (RG) but New York needs further help in the trenches. Rakeem Nunez-Roches (DT) is struggling when rotated into the interior while on the outside both Thibodeaux and Jihad Ward are pass rush specialists that far too often blow contain. There are some other intriguing pieces up front for Big Blue like A’Shawn Robinson (DT) and Azeez Ojulari (DE) but all and all it’s a unit that just isn’t doing anything above average thus far in 2023.
The Giants do have the pieces to fit the run at linebacker and they just so happen to be the perfect pieces for a Martindale defense. Bobby Okereke is their only every-down linebacker coming to the Giants after beginning his career successfully with the Colts. He’s a slightly undersized inside backer but has a nose for the ball and a high football IQ which allows him to quickly dissect plays. He’s joined by the duo of Micah McFadden, an inside run-stopping specialist, and Isaiah Simmons, a safety hybrid. In a perfect world, the Giants would be able to run base and always keep this trio on the field, and against a Bills offense that is often in 12-personnel that would seem possible, until Kincaid’s versatility is revealed. A tight end on paper, Kincaid is seeing north of 75% of his snaps lined up in the slot or out wide all but forcing opponents into nickel looks. This will likely force the Giants to prioritize Simmons’s athleticism over McFadden’s abilities as the Giants trade-off stopping the run in favor of slowing down the pass. Look for the Bills to leverage this matchup to get Cook to the edge opposite Simmons, and if that doesn’t work there are always the legs of Allen to fall back on.
ADVANTAGE: Bills 👏👏
Bills Pass Defense vs. Giants Pass Offense
Dane Jackson and Christian Benford are clearly the Bills’ top two corners in the absence of Tre’Davious White, but what if one can’t go? This is the question on every Bills fan’s mind as they try to grapple with understanding who outside CB3 is in Buffalo. Option No. 1; Kaiir Elam, a first-round pick from 2022 who has struggled in limited duty but possesses extreme athletic abilities. Option No. 2; Ja’Marcus Ingram, a second-year player who had an impressive camp and seems on the verge of being permanently promoted from the practice squad. Option No. 3; Josh Norman the 35-year-old veteran who knows Sean McDermott’s defense like the back of his hand but whose better days are clearly behind him. There are some other players in the mix here but whichever way it’s looked at the Bills depth in the secondary is being tested right now.
This week it helps that they are going up against what has been by far the worst passing attack in the NFL through five weeks. They rank dead last in Pass Offense DVOA with a -33.4%, well below the No. 31 Browns who sit at -10.0%. Daniel Jones (QB) is playing the worst football of his career right now with a career-low 24.76 QuBeR. He has been bad but the team around him has been even worse and doesn’t look like it will be much better this week. It’s possible the Giants could be without their starting tight end, Darren Waller, and dynamic wide receiver, Wan’Dale Robinson. This would leave the Giants with a top-three receiver trio of Darius Slayton, Isaiah Hodgins, and Parris Campbell, none of whom strike fear into many opponents. This also may not matter much for Daniel Jones who himself may miss Sunday night’s game with a neck injury paving the way for the drought breaker, Tyrod Taylor to start against his old team. Anyway it’s cut, whoever the Bills trot out in the secondary this week should provide them an advantage over the Giants quarterback and his pass catchers.
The secondary isn’t the Bills’ biggest mismatch in this matchup though instead it’s up front where the Giants have been historically bad, and the Bills have been historically good. Daniel Jones is currently on pace to be sacked 95 times which would blow the current record of 76, held by David Carr (’02 Texans), out of the water. Meanwhile, the Bills, who are slowly working All-World pass rusher Von Miller back, lead the NFL in Sacks (21) and do so while blitzing just the 24th most in the league (21.9%). It gets even worse for the Giants with starters Andrew Thomas (LT), John Michael Schmitz (C), and Marcus McKethan (RG) all dealing with injuries as well as backup interior OL Shane Lemieux. This means that an already porous offensive line will need to contend with Ed Oliver (DT), Greg Rousseau (DE), Leonard Floyd (DE), and A.J. Epenesa (DE), amongst plenty of other skilled pass rushers. There is no sugarcoating it this week, the Giants are in massive trouble.
ADVANTAGE: Bills 👏👏👏👏👏
Bills Rush Defense vs. Giants Rush Offense
Losing Matt Milano and DaQuan Jones in the same game is one thing, but losing both for what may be the entire year is even worse. What the Bills are dealing with right now will weaken their entire defense but most obviously their rush defense. They struggled mightily bringing down Travis Etienne after those two defenders went down and now enter Week 6 ranking No. 31 in Yards per Attempt against, giving up a whopping 5.8 Y/A. They will now lean on second-year player Terrel Bernard to carry the linebacking corps while relying on their depth at linebacker and interior defensive line to get them through the season. That could mean Dorian Williams, Tyrel Dodson, AJ Klein, or Baylon Spector manning Milano’s role and Jordan Phillips, Tim Settle, or Poona Ford manning Jones’s position. These are answers that will become apparent in the next few weeks, weeks that will significantly test the Bills’ defensive depth.
Those tests will start against the Giants who will accel or stall on the ground based on the health of their superstar running back, Saquon Barkley. Barkley has missed the last three games with an apparent ankle sprain after getting off to a decent start. He has the talent and skillset to overcome a weak offensive line and single-handedly carry this Giants team to victory. If Barkley cannot go or is not at full strength, then reliance shifts to another ex-Bills player in Matt Breida. Still just 28 years old, Breida possesses game-breaking speed if he can break away from opposing defenders. The problem for Breida is he has been unable to do so and is generating a paltry Y/A of just 2.7 this season. This is all a long way of saying that Breida is a fine complement to Barkley but without Barkley, the Giants’ traditional rushing attack drops from an upper-echelon unit to one of the worst in the NFL.
The Giants do have some auxiliary ways of picking up yards on the ground and regardless of injuries, we will see some of them on Sunday night. If Wan’Dale Robinson plays he is one of those non-traditional runners and is a threat when executing any pre-snap motion to take the ball to the edge and get upfield, something the Jaguars gashed the Bills on multiple times last week. More importantly, both the Giants quarterbacks are known commodities as runners. In his career, Jones has amassed 1,905 rushing yards with a Y/A of 5.8 while Taylor has produced 2,087 rushing yards with a Y/A of 5.6. Whoever plays quarterback for the Giants on Sunday night will have the Bills’ attention and place an extra emphasis on Bernard and his running mate(s) to contain them.
ADVANTAGE (w/ Barkley): Giants 👏👏👏
ADVANTAGE (w/o Barkley): Bills 👏👏
Bills Special Teams vs. Giants Special Teams
Tyler Bass continues to be one of the best, if not the best, kicker this early in the season. He has made 100% of his 27 attempted kicks trailing only the 49ers’ Jake Moody who is currently 29/29. Right now, he’s an automatic weapon for the Bills who all but guarantees them points once they cross midfield. As for punter, Sam Martin came into last Sunday’s game with six punts on the season and left with double that. He’s been solid when called upon but with multi-punt games less likely than single punt games this season. As for return, there have been few opportunities for the Bills. Deonte Harty has just five punt returns on the season for 40 yards while Khalil Shakir and Damien Harris combine for just three kick returns for 84 yards.
On the other side of the field, Graham Gano is off to an okay start to his season. His 7/10 field goal stat line isn’t great while he’s only attempted five extra points, making all of them. Punting for the Giants is another ex-Bills player in Jamie Gillian. He has been called upon 21 times this season and has an impressive 44.2 net punt average, good for No. 5 in the NFL. The Giants’ offense means more reliance on their punter, Gillian is delivering this year. Lastly for New York is Eric Gray, their rookie return man. He’s a small agile running back with low top-end speed which has held him back slightly in the return game. To date, he has just five punt returns for 24 yards and three kick returns for 55 Yards.
ADVANTAGE: Bills 👏👏👏
Why Buffalo Will Lose
Any given Sunday. There’s no other way to put it, the Giants are completely outclassed in this game, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a path to victory. On the offensive side of the ball, they must win on the ground and do so consistently and methodically. The goal for them is to drain the clock, pick up any points when they can get them, and never turn the ball over. With Barkley this is doable, with Breida it is difficult.
On the other side of the ball, Martindale is going to have his defense playing aggressively with an eye on forcing game-changing mistakes. Expect the Giants to try and take Diggs out of the game and force Allen to throw the ball to some of his other weapons. They are going to need multiple turnovers here and with their lack of a pass rush up front that means safeties and corners trying to hop routes. The Giants can survive a big play or two in this game as long as they come away with a few Interceptions at the end of the day.
Why Buffalo Will Win
Where to begin? On defense, this may be one of the bigger mismatches you will see all season. The Bills’ pass rush has been playing out of their minds this season and against a terrible offensive line it’s not unreasonable to expect double-digit sacks from Buffalo. The Giants must take an early lead to stay competitive here, otherwise, they are going to be forced to put the ball in the air, which is a disaster waiting to happen. On the ground, the Giants may have a slight advantage IF Barkley plays, but with the way the Bills offense plays, it’s almost impossible to beat the Bills by just running the ball.
On offense, Allen is playing like the best quarterback in football right now, and this may be the worst defense he’s faced. The Giants have proven incapable of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and if you can’t pressure Allen then you simply can’t win the game. Expect Allen to pick apart the Giants’ defense and the one-on-one advantages they will have all over the field. There will be fireworks from Buffalo early with the Bills more than capable of putting up enough points quickly that Kyle Allen starts the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Bills 42 – Giants 13
I’ve been writing these matchup previews since 2019, and I’ve never written one quite like this. The advantage the Bills have through the air, in both directions, in this game is astounding. I truly believe that there is always a chance any team can win a game but in this one, it’s going to take a borderline miracle for the Giants to come out on top. Brian Daboll does know Allen better than anyone and there’s a chance that’s a massive advantage but with what Buffalo is capable of, in front of that home crowd, even a 14.5-point spread can’t keep me away from picking the Bills to rout the Giants.