The Buffalo Bills are going to face off against the Los Angeles Chargers at the New Era Field this Sunday, their second contest of the 2018 season. After laying a giant egg versus Baltimore last week, it’s going to be crucial to see the way the team rebounds in front of the home crowd. With that in mind, how will the Bills’ offense fare against the Chargers’ defense? Here are my three matchups to pay close attention to:
Bills OL vs. Chargers DL
Everything will start in the trenches. The Bills’ OL was run over last week, but in a way that surprised me. They looked a bit improved in the pass protection, at least compared to the preseason week three matchup against the Bengals, but they couldn’t give any running lanes to LeSean McCoy, and it’ll be very important to change that this weekend in order to help Josh Allen in his first NFL start.
Los Angeles held Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt to 49 yards on 16 carries, thanks especially to the great performance by DT Darius Philon. He earned an 85.9 Pro Football Focus grade, good for second-best overall on the team. Alongside veteran nose tackle Brandon Mebane, they’ll be another big challenge for the Bills’ interior line.
In the pass rush department, Chargers star defensive end Joey Bosa will be out for the second consecutive week with a foot injury, which is great news for Buffalo. His partner in crime, Melvin Ingram, is coming off of a quiet game in which he recorded just one tackle assist. If Buffalo LT Dion Dawkins can slow him down, then it’ll do wonders for the Bills’ passing game if they’re going to have any shot at producing.
WR Zay Jones vs. CB Casey Hayward
The second-year wideout led the Bills in receptions against Baltimore with three. With Kelvin Benjamin coming off of an awful game, it’s fair to expect Jones to continue to garner a larger share of targets by the new Bills QB. Can he step up and succeed against one of the top corners in the league?
According to the PFF WR/CB Matchup Chart:
— PFF LA Chargers (@PFF_Chargers) September 13, 2018
PFF isn’t high on this possibility, giving Hayward a 56% advantage over Jones in the matchup. With Desmond King II (78.0 PFF grade in week 1) a great slot CB in his own right, the Bills’ hopes will rest on Jones and Benjamin finding success outside. Chiefs speedster Tyreek Hill put up a monster performance versus LA (seven catches for 169 yards, two TDs), and the Bills need at least a combined production like that from their top two targets to be able to upset the visiting team.
OC Brian Daboll vs. DC Gus Bradley
Despite having a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball, LA struggled to contain the exciting and creative Chiefs offense last week. Patrick Mahomes threw for 256 yards and four TDs; Tyreek Hill killed the Chargers’ D with the numbers posted above. The Bills don’t have someone with Hill’s speed to consistently create mismatches in the passing game, but here enters offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.
Described as a “genius” and “mad scientist” by his players, Daboll brought excitement with his creative schemes. The first drive of the preseason week one game versus the Panthers was a dream come true for Bills fans. But since that day, nothing has really impressed. Now, with his hand-picked guy under center, there’s no reason not to expect a better performance from the team’s offense. Daboll will be able to open up his playbook and unleash what he had in mind when he tabbed Allen as his choice to be the Bills’ franchise QB. He’ll also need to find ways to put the ball in McCoy’s hands in space. He’s the team’s best playmaker and the best hope of this offense to do some damage against LA. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the offensive coordinator is going to do next Sunday.