Bills vs. Washington: 4 biggest storylines to watch in NFL Week 3

09/23/2021
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The Buffalo Bills (1-1) host the Washington Football Team (1-1) Sunday at 1 p.m. at Highmark Stadium. Buffalo is looking to build upon a strong 35-0 victory against the Miami Dolphins, while Washington hopes to add a second consecutive victory after a last-second win on Thursday Night Football against the New York Giants.

Here are the four biggest storylines to watch in NFL Week 3.

Will Josh Allen get back on track?

Through two games, Josh Allen has looked far from the MVP-caliber quarterback he was in 2020. He’s completed just 55.9-percent of his passes for 449 yards, throwing three touchdowns and an interception. He’s hit some deep passes, but overall, he’s been inconsistent and hasn’t been able to get into a groove in the same fashion he was able to last season.

This week, he’ll face a Washington defense that ranked No. 2 in the NFL last season but has been inconsistent to start the 2021 season. Washington has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 67.1-percent of their pass attempts for 562 yards (26th). They’ve allowed just two passing touchdowns, though, but surrendered 30 first downs through the air – the fourth-most in the league.

Washington boasts one of the most talented defensive lines in the NFL from left to right. Defensive ends Chase Young and Montez Sweat bring explosiveness, physicality and length off the edge, while Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne are dominant forces in the middle. The Bills struggled in Week 1 against Pittsburgh’s defensive line, so it will be interesting to see how Brian Daboll decides to attack a defense that’s sure to win their share of matchups in the trenches.

Allen needs to take advantage of Washington’s average linebacker duo in Cole Holcomb and rookie Jamin Davis. Their secondary features a top-notch cornerback in William Jackson III, but Landon Collins is a liability when playing deep, while rookie cornerback Benjamin St. Juste and the versatile Kendall Fuller are players that can be taken advantage of if presented with difficult matchups

The Bills have relied on their dominant defense during their first two games, and it’s time for Josh Allen to play like the $258 million quarterback he is. A favorable matchup against the Football Team could be just what he needs to get into a rhythm and get the offense rolling.

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Can Bills run defense continue dominance?

Buffalo’s defense has been stout against the run to start the 2021 season. They’ve allowed just 146 rushing yards (7th) at 3.6 yards-per-carry, while allowing the fewest first downs on the ground in the NFL (6). Both the Steelers and Dolphins lacked the talent along their respective offensive lines to really present a challenge to the Bills’ defensive front, but Washington has some quality offensive players that need to be accounted for.

Center Chase Roullier is one of the more underrated linemen in the league, while right guard Brandon Scherff is among the best at his position. Rookie right tackle Samuel Cosmi struggled in Week 1, but had a strong showing in Week 2.

Buffalo’s defensive line is both deep and talented, and should be able to present challenges for Washington. However, running back Antonio Gibson is emerging as one of the league’s premier running backs and is a difficult player to defend, given all of the ways he’s used within the Football Team’s offense.

Washington utilizes both gap and zone concepts and will showcase Gibson’s unique blend of size (6-foot-2, 220-pounds) and speed (4.39 40-yard dash) on various run concepts. Through two games, he’s rushed for 159 yards, averaging 4.8 yards-per-carry. This will be a true test for the Bills, who hope to prove that their first two games weren’t a fluke.

Can Bills OL handle Washington pass rush?

Buffalo’s offensive line has been underwhelming, to say the least, to start the season. Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams have each surrendered eight pressures, while Dion Dawkins and Mitch Morse have allowed six apiece. While Chase Young (four pressures) and Montez Sweat (two sacks, two hits, three hurries, seven pressures) are the headliners, defensive tackle Jonathan Allen has been an absolute wrecking ball through two games.

The Alabama product has notched three sacks, six hits, and five hurries to go along with nine total tackles (four tackles for loss). He’ll be a nightmare for Feliciano, who had one of the worst games you could imagine against another premier interior defender, Cam Heyward. Washington flips Sweat and Young regularly, so Dawkins and Williams will have their hands full as they look to contain two of the league’s up-and-coming edge rushers.

If the Bills can contain Football Team’s pass rush, Josh Allen should have numerous opportunities to scorch a vulnerable back seven.

Can Tre White limit Terry McLaurin?

Terry McLaurin has quickly solidified himself as one of the league’s best wide receivers. The former third-round pick out of Ohio State is explosive and an elite route runner. In two games, McLaurin has caught 15 passes on 18 targets for 169 yards and one touchdown. Washington moves him into the slot on roughly one-third of his snaps, but he’ll primarily run most of his routes against Buffalo’s star cornerback Tre White.

White is off to a hot start already in 2021, allowing just 53.8-percent of the passes in his direction to be completed. McLaurin is the only true receiving threat Washington has to offer, as Curtis Samuel is sidelined with an injury. Rookie Dyami Brown is talented, but McLaurin is the featured weapon in the passing game. Last week, we got to see a premier WR vs. CB battle in Stefon Diggs vs. Xavien Howard, and this week, we’ll get to see how Buffalo’s defensive back fares against one of the league’s top pass catchers.

Should White hold his own against McLaurin – which he is more than capable of doing – it will really limit what quarterback Taylor Heinecke can do in the passing game and will contribute to another week of the Bills’ defensive dominance.

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