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2016 Regular Season
Preview: Cards @ Bills

Setting the Stage:
Cards bounced back from a gut-wrenching one-point loss to post a 40 - 7 thrashing of Tampa Bay to go one & one. Bills lost to the Jets 37 - 31 to go 0 & 2. An example of their disfunction was when OC Greg Roman posed for the team picture after the Sept. 15 loss, and then was fired (amid rumors that the Bills owner and his wife bipassed HC Rex Ryan to privately interviewed players before firing Roman - not a good omen for the Rexter). Cards, at 1 & 1, are tied with the other three teams in the NFC West. They'll want to move into positive W & L territory. Bills desperately seek to get off the schneid.

Opponent's Last Game
Jets 37 - Bills 31. Jets received. TB on the KO. They used up 8:19 worth of clock time and 15 plays to post 3 points on the board via a 28-yard Folk FG to makeit 3 - 0 Jets. Tate returned the KO to the Buffalo 18. Three plays later, Tyrod Taylor hit Goodwin for an 84 yard TD to make it Bills 7 - Jets mounted a 9-play (5:16) drive to reach the Buffalo 11 and end the quarter with another Folk FG. 7 -6 Bills.

Bills went 3 & out. Jets moved from their 34 to the Buffalo 1-yard line where Forte ran it in to give the Jets the lead 13 - 7. A sack and a holding penalty forced the Bills to punt from their own 37-yard line. 7 plays later, Fitzpatrick hit Decker for a 5-yard TD tmake it 20 - 7 Jets. Bills then ran off 13 plays capped by a 39-yard Carpenter FG. 20 - 10 Jets as the half ended.

Buffalo received the 2H kickoff and, 3 plays later, Taylor hit Salas deep right for a 71-yard TD to close the gap to three points and make it 20 -17 Jets. On the next possession, Marshall fumbled after a short catch. Robey-Coleman returned it 36 yards for a Buffalo TD. Bills ahead for first time, 24 - 20. On the next possession, a 53 yard completion to Decker was nullfied by a holding penalty. The two teams then exchanged 3 & outs. Jets then engineered a 12 play (6z:27) TD drive capped by a 3-yard TD run up the middle by Forte.. Jets now up 27 - 24. Tate returned the KO 45 yards to the Bills 47. Bills reached the Jets 42 to end the quarter.

On the first play of the 4Q, Taylor's deep pass for Watkins was intercepted. Jets took over on their own 13. Consecutive completions (to Marshall for +27) and Decker for +35) were instrumental in sustaining an 8-play drive that used up 4:12 off the clock and resulted in a 36-yard Folk FG. Jets 30 - Bills 24. Bills managed to move from their own 22 to the Jets 44 before turning the ball over on downs. Jets took over with 7:03 left to play. A 27-yard deep pass over the middle to Decker helped set up a 12-yard TD run by Forteon the 5th play of the drive. Jets 37 - Bills 24. With 4:02 left, Buffalo moved from their own 25 to the Jets 18 in 9 plays before Taylor dumped off to Gillislee at the Jets 14 and he ran it in for a TD. (Reversal of disputed call - ruled a Buffalo TD). Jets' lead narrows - Jets 37 - Bills 31. With 1:15 still on the clock, Carpenter's on-side kick was fielded by the Jets (Marshall). Jets ran all but 10 seconds off the clock. Bills ran off one last play - one of those "lateral" deals. Didn't work. Final Score: Jets 37 - Bills 31

Team Stats

First Downs - Bills 27 / Opponents 46

Third Down Conversions - Bills 6/23 / Opponents 14/28

Fourth Down Conversions - Bills 3/4 / Opponents 0/1

Offensive Yards - Bills 553 / Opponents 801

Rushing Plays/Yards/Avg - Bills 43/151/3.5 / Opponents 64/632/3.2

Passing Compl/Att/Int/Avg/Yds - Bills 34/53/1/7.9/418 / Opponnts - 46/67/0/9.4/632

Sacks - Bills 5.0 / Opponents 2.0

Field Goals - Bills 1/2 / Opponents 5/5

Time of Possession - Bills 23:58 / Opponents 36:02

Turnover Ratio - +1

Key Player Stats

Passing: Taylor - 33 for 52/63.5%/ Int %: 1.9%/YPA: 7.8/Sacked Twice/Rating 98.9

Rushing: McCoy - 31 for 117 yds (3.8 YPA)

Receiving: McCoy (8 for 43). Clay (7 for 67). Watkins (6 for 63). Woods (5 for 30).

Field Goals - Carpenter: 5 for 5 (one outside the fifty)

Punting - Schmidt: 43.1 gross avg

Punt Returns - Tate 2 for 14.5 avg

Kickoff Returns - Tate averages 25/0 YPR

Tackles - P Brown (24) and Zach Brown (22) lead the team

Sacks - Hughes leads with 2 followed by Alexander and Douzable (1.5 each) Tyler's been sacked twice.

Interceptions - None (Opponents have 1 pick)

Rosters/Match-ups

Buffalo Offense

WR1.....14 Watkins (#29) ........88 .Goodwin (#45) ..19 Powell
WR2.....10 Woods (#93)..........11 Salas (#111).........15 Tate
LT.........71 Kouandijo (#49)......77 Glenn (#67)...........            
LG       .64 Incognito (#33)) .....61 Ikard             
C         .70 E Wood (#18).........67 Lewis     
RG       76 Miller (#44))............72 Groy    
RT        79 Mills (#35)           
TE       .85 Clay (#23))..............82 Dray (#58) ..........84 O'Leary                                              
QB      .05 T Taylor (#26)..........03 Manuel...............07 C Jones
FB        xx G Gronkowski
*
RB.......25 McCoy (#36)...........35 Gillislee (#27)......22 R Bush (#36) ........31 J Williams

* Not listed on roster. PFF grades in parentheses

Cardinal Defense

DE        93 Campbell (#7)) .....72 Stinson (#76)
NT        98 Peters (#47)..........69 X Williams (46) ....72 Pierre                
DT        95 Gunter (#91)..........92 Rucker (avg) .......97 Mauro (#48)....90 Nkemdiche
SLB     55 C Jones (#15)........57 Okafor               
ILB       20 Bucannon (#70) ...50 G Martin           
ILB       51 Minter (#21...........59 Fua.                 
WLB    44 Golden (#43).........96 K Martin     
LCB     21 Peterson (#8)                
RCB    41 Cooper (#14).........26 B Williams (#89)...28 Bethel              
SS       36 Swearinger (#77) ..27 Branch (#17)........25 Christian                 
FS       32 Mathieu (#44)........22 T Jefferson (#2)

PFF Pos Rankings in parentheses   

Matchup: Bills Passing Attack vs. Cardinal Pass Defense
Taylor ranks #22 as a passer, but #9 as a running QB. His receivers aren't so highly rated, but Watkins and Woods are his favorite WR targets. Actually, his RB (McCoy) and TE (Clay) lead the Bills in receptions.

All of Buffalo's wideouts have home-run speed and Gillislee and Reggie Bush are game breakers. Card defenders need to be super-cautious containing Taylor and guarding against misdirection, improvisation and busted plays. None of Buffalo's TE's are rated very high, so Cardinals safeties and LB's can focus more on containing Taylor and keeping McCoy, Gillislee and Bush in check.

According to PFF, Buffalo's O-linemen may not be elite pass blockers, but are no worse than average across the board. Their RT (Mills) ranks #19 among pass blocking tackles. Incognito has apparently settled in Buffalo (he ranks #25 among pass blocking guards). Their center (Wood) is a better run blocker than pass blocker. Their starting LT (Kouandijo) is only ranked #45th best pass blocker, so this may be a good time for the Cards to turn loose Chandler Jones. (Here's a surprise - Minter is rated #3rd best pass rusher among non-edge LB's).

We're not sure if it's just a one-time-only deal, but the addition of Marcus Cooper to pair with Patrick Peterson gives the Cards a strong pas coverage presence. Cardinal safeties are also rated highly overall, but are better stopping the run than they are in coverage. Look for Buffalo to attack the Cardinal safeties and LB's with the combination of Taylor waggles & scrambles and short, quick stuff to Bills RB's and TE's.

Key Matchups: Peterson vs. Watkins. Cooper vs. rotation of other Buffalo receivers. T Jefferson vs.McCoy. T Mathieu vs. Gillislee or Bush. C Jones vs. Kouandijo.

Matchup: Bills Rushing Attack vs. Cardinal Run Defense
Judging by PFF numbers, Buffalo run-blocking appears to be subpar (The highest ranked run blocker is Incognito who's ranked #36). Rex Ryan does, however, have aproductive, hard running RB in McCoy.

Cardinal run defense features top run defending safety in T Jefferson and #22-ranked T Branch (listed as corner). Our linemen aren't setting any records but range from #19 to #52 as run stoppers.

BIggest Bills running threat may actually be their QB (Taylor) and Cards might consider rotating 2 or 3 "spies" to contain him.

Key Matchup: Mathieu, Swearinger or Golden vs. Taylor. Minter vs. McCoy. Our DL vs. their OL. X William or Gunter vs. Incognito


Cardinal Offense

WR1    11 Fitzgerald (#2)......13 Jaron Brown (#50)
LT        68 Veldheer (#30)......73 Wetzel                       
LG       76 Iupati (#29)                   
C         53 Shipley (#12)........78 Watford.....................70 Boehm                    
RG       69 Mathis (#29) .......61 Toner                   
RT........74 Humphries (#57)
TE       .85 Fells (#47) ...........87 Niklas (#37)            
WR2    15 M. Floyd (#52)......12 John Brown (#72).....14 JJ Nelson (#111)           
QB       03 Palmer (#11).........05 Stanton     
RB       31 D Johnson (#1).....23 C Johnson (#41).......38 Ellington (#43).......30 Taylor
TE        84 Gresham (#18)

PFF Pos Rankings in Parentheses

Buffalo Defense

DT......95 .K Williams (#13)........94 Worthy (#81)
NT......97 C Bryant (#30)............99 Dareus (n/a)  
DE    ..92 A Washington (#48) ..91 Douzable (#82) 
OLB...92 Hughes (#2)...............56 McCray.......................91 Lawson (n/a)
WLB...53 Z Brown (#3)..............50 Humber
MLB...52 P Brown (#1) ............51 Spikes (#81)                 
OLB...57 L Alexander (#12)......xx Albright*     
RCB...28 Darby (#21)...............21 Robey-Coleman (#23     
S........23 A Williams (#32) .......27 D Williams (#73)..........36 Meeks (#61)      
S........20 Graham (#11)............26 Blanton (#77).............. 33 Anderson (#77)             
LCB....24 Gilmore (#94)............29 Seymour (#69)

PFF Pos Rankings in Parentheses

Matchup: Cardinal Passing Attack vs. Bills Pass Defense
Cardinal offense - once it heated up vs. TB - began to look like the well-oiled machine fans have come to expect. Palmer was relatively well-protected in the pocket and seemed comfortable locating and hitting the open man when under pressure. Jaron Brown has emerged as the #3 WR option that compliment Fitzgerald and Floyd to put pressure on opposing DB's. If and when Smokey Brown returns to full-health, the Cards will have a 4-headed receiving monster to occupy their opponents.

Pass defense does not appear to be Buffalo's strong point (though Darby and Roby-Coleman rank in the mid-twenties in coverage) - Rex Ryan might decide to cover up any weaknesses in coverage by aggressively attacking the Cardinal QB.

Cardinal pass pro has been good. Potential weak point continues to be Humphries, but the Cardinal RT appears to be steadily improving. If Rex Ryan decides to throw the kitchen sink to attack Palmer, look to him to attack $74.

Meanwhile, Palmer also has his RB's (J&J and Ellington to throw to, and BA might want to expand the receiving productivity of his TE's (Niklas, Fells and Gresham).

Expect BA to open up the Cardinal offense even more than he already has.

Key Matchups: Fitz vs. Darby. Floyd vs. Robey-Coleman. Jaron Brown vs. Gilmore. Cardinal RB's vs. Bill LB's.

Matchup: Cardinal Running Attack vs. Bills Run Defense
David Johnson is ranked by PFF #1 RB overall and #2 running the ball. Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington give the Cards arguably the best group of RB's of any team in the NFL

At guard, Mathis blocks for the run (#12) better than he does protect the passer (#49). Iupati is the exact reverse (#12 in pass pro /#39 as a run blocker). At tackle. Veldheer is just a so-so run blocker/Humphries ranks just #52. As a run biocker, Shipley (#9) is suprisingly effective at center.

The Cards will be going up against a Buffalo run defense that gives up an average of 3.5 YPC. On the DL, KD Williams and Bryant are solid run defenders. Coming off the edge, Alexander enjoys a #20 ranking as a run defender. The two Browns at LB are lethal vs. the run. Z Brown is ranked #1/P Brown ranks #4. But, statistically, the Bill secondary is so-so, with Gilmore and Graham rated better than a #20 ranking.

Whether the Cards run a lot between the tackles may depend on the health of Mathis. BA might attempt to tie up Bill LB's with the run (or threat of the run) in order to open up the Cardinals short passing game.

Key Matchup: D Johnson vs. the Browns. Mathis, Shipley and Iupati vs. Williams and Bryant

Special Teams

Bills

K          02 Carpenter                          
KO.......04 Gay
P          06 Schmidt                        
H         .06 Schmidt   
LS       .65 Sandborn                                 
KR        22 R Bush                             
PR        22 R Bush

Cardinals

K          07 Catanzaro                             
P          02 Butler                                   
H          02 Butler                             
LS        86 Canaday                                  
KR       .38 Ellington              
PR        12 Jn Brown

Matchup: Pats Special Teams vs. Cardinal Special Teams
Bush is a dangerous kick and punt returner. Carpenter is 5 for 5 in FG attempts and Schmidt is averaging 43.1 yards per punt. On the Cardinal side of the ball - Catanzaro isn't as reliable (both FG's and XP's) as we need him to be. Butler (especially after playing hurt). has shown improvement. Cards are still looking for more production in the return game and have tried combinations of Ellington, John Brown, Nelson and Peterson. In coverage, Bethel is beginning to regain some ofhis ooomph.

Key matchups: Campbell and Bethel vs. Buffalo blockers. Reggie Bush vs. Cardinal coverage team.

Coaching
NE: The Rex Ryan clownfest continues. Bills fired its OC (Greg Roman) after the first game of the season amid rumors that the Buffalo owners were going around Rex to talk to players and assistant coaches. Meanwhile, there continues to be more bluster than production coming out of Buffalo. Folks are beginning to wonder how long the Bills can go without a win before ownership decides to "make a tough decision."
One thing about the Ryans - If you give Rex a chance to beat you thru aggressive play, he'll run you right off the field. (Cards should be forewarned)..

AZ: After the gurt-wrenching opening day loss to NE, Coach Arians said "Give us another week." We did. Cards went on to destroy TB 40 - 7. Team is eager to move from .500 to the winning column and get on a roll. Game is one of four eastern road games (a challenge for any western team moving 2 or 3 time zones from west to east).

Last Word
OnWe now know the Cards are (1) capable of losing the way we did vs. NE and (2) winning the way we did vs. TB. It up to both coaches and players to make sure the team avoids slipping back to their Game #1 ways and practices and plays Cardinal Football the way we did vs. Tampa Bat. Sic 'em!


 
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