After the most frustrating loss of the season versus the Texans, the Buffalo Bills will be back on the field to take on the Indianapolis Colts at the Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday. The 1-6 Colts are struggling on the defensive side of the ball and will have a great opportunity to improve their record with the Bills trotting out street free agent Derek Anderson as their starting QB. Who has the advantage in this matchup? Here are my answers:
One of the areas in which the Colts actually are playing very good defense is stopping the run. Indianapolis is ranked 5th in the league in rushing yards per play allowed and could cause some problems for LeSean McCoy and company. Rookie linebacker Darius Leonard earned Defensive Rookie of the Month honors last month and is always around the ball. He’s an aggressive LB who attacks the line of scrimmage constantly, piling up tackles as a result. He leads the league in this department with 63 tackles on the season.
Rookie LB Darius Leonard (#53) lives up to the hype. Such high football IQ for such a young player. He maneuvers through multiple blockers here to put himself in position to make this tackle. pic.twitter.com/iqbD3Kx6K3
— Mad Men Scouting (@MadMenScouting) October 17, 2018
Another important piece in this impressive rushing defense is the nose tackle, Al Woods. The 6’4”, 330-pound Monmouth product’s impact doesn’t show consistently in the stat sheet, but just like Star Lotulelei for Buffalo, he’s a major part of the Colts’ success stopping the run. He earned an 82.6 Pro Football Focus overall grade in Week 6, good for third best on the team. Defensive ends Margus Hunt and Jabal Sheard are also stout versus the run and, with the Bills clearly limited by Anderson’s lack of time with the playbook, it’ll be tough for Buffalo to run the ball consistently.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) October 11, 2018
Since the insertion of Russell Bodine as the starting center, the team has rushed more effectively. Shady’s coming from two successful games and will be looking to keep the streak going. It will be up to him to make the ground game successful ultimately, but I’m not very confident due to Anderson’s situation.
That’s where things become even more unpredictable. The Colts are ranked 26th in the league in passing yards per game allowed and 24th in passing yards per play allowed. Their secondary is struggling, playing mainly soft zone coverages in a bend-but-don’t-break defense. This may be the week they should play more man, taking advantage of the poor Buffalo wide receiver group and a QB who should be rusty. Indy has the 9th-ranked defense in the league in the interception rate department, and also the 10th in sack percentage per play. Hunt and Sheard are dangerous pass rushers, with four and three sacks, respectively. Leonard has four sacks, too, and is really fast on blitzes. If Anderson struggles to process coverages, then he will likely be in major trouble behind the improving — but still bad — Bills offensive line.
As everyone expected, 31-year-old Margus Hunt has developed into a world-wrecker this year pic.twitter.com/3OCpFJgzkt
— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) October 16, 2018
The veteran journeyman QB will be the key. If Anderson can take advantage of his solid chemistry with Kelvin Benjamin and play an intelligent game, then he surely will be able to succeed versus this poor Colts pass defense. Despite not having major confidence in his game, I think he’s experienced enough to come in and execute at a decent level against poor competition. I don’t see him being able to play at a level that warrants him keeping the job upon Josh Allen’s return, but I could see the offense improving in some aspects with him under center.
This matchup is far from an easy one to decipher, thanks to so many uncommon situations. It’s never easy for a QB, no matter how experienced he is, to come in and pick up the offense in one week. If the offensive line can open gaps for McCoy in the running game, it’ll help open things up for Anderson and the passing offense. I don’t think it will be pretty, but I’m confident the Bills’ offense can do a decent enough job to allow their defense to win the game for them.