Sunday, October 14, 2012

Gameday Deciding Factors: Bills at Cardinals


The Buffalo Bills camped out in Arizona this week to avoid another dose of West Coast jet lag, but what they’re really looking to avoid is another embarrassing loss and a three-game losing streak. The Bills will face the Cardinals, who were knocked down a peg from their unbeaten record last week at the hands of a stout defensive attack from the St. Louis Rams. While Buffalo has struggled on both sides of the ball in recent weeks, Sunday could be a turnaround game against a team banged up on the offensive side of the ball and struggling to accumulate yardage.


Under “D” microscope. Let’s face it: the Bills’ defense has been atrocious the past two weeks, and it didn’t get any better this week with the loss of defensive tackle Mark Anderson. The team’s change in formation and roster in the offseason is starting to raise questions about its effectiveness, but Sunday’s game in Phoenix could change that. Cards quarterback Kevin Kolb has been sacked 17 times in two games, and with their top two running backs out of the picture, Buffalo’s defense has a chance to show that they can stand up to the preseason hype and accumulate more than two sacks a game.

Still kicking around. Flying under the radar this year for Buffalo has been its special teams squad, which has been performing above and beyond any other aspect of the Bills' game. The punt return squad, led by Leodis McKelvin, is tops in the league, and the kick return group isn’t too shabby either. McKelvin is averaging around 30 yards per return in both situations, including two for more than 40 yards and one touchdown. That could play in the Bills’ favor Sunday, as the Cardinals have struggled to defend on special teams.

Young vs. old. If the Cardinals are going to make an offensive splash on Sunday, it’s going to be in the passing game, and only one name comes to mind when talking about Cardinals playmakers: Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is primed for another big season, tallying strong stats thus far, and it will be a true coverage test for Bills’ rookie cornerback Stephon Gilmore this week against the future Hall of Famer. The Bills will likely try to play a bunch of press coverage on Fitzgerald to lean toward Gilmore’s strengths, but they better be sure to play a safety over the top or Fitzgerald could be the one showing his strengths. (Photo: Broderick Delaney, Flickr)

Home again. Arizona has been a force at home, touting an eight-game winning streak at University of Phoenix Stadium. In those eight games, however, the Cardinals’ margin of victory has only been an average of 6 points, with two tight victories already this season against the Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins. If the Cards win, it would be a 10-2 record at home with Ken Whisenhunt at the helm; with that many close games, however, it only takes one big play to turn the tables. Keep an eye on Buffalo’s speedsters in that regard, specifically running back C.J. Spiller and wide receiver T.J. Graham.
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