Sunday, October 7, 2012

Gameday Deciding Factors: Bills at 49ers


The Buffalo Bills head to the West Coast this week to start an arduous two-game road trip, the first against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Coming off an embarrassing second-half showing against the New England Patriots last week, Buffalo will try to erase the memory of its meltdown and step up its defensive efforts against a 49ers team that made a big statement in New York last week against the Jets to the sum of 34 points.

Though the Bills' defense may be the squad that needs to up its game, the offense will have its hands full as well, dealing with a San Fran defense ranked third in the league.


Troublesome turnovers. Buffalo has turned the ball over 11 times already this season, third most in the league. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the culprit of most of those with seven interceptions, second most in the NFL. The Bills will not be able to squander offensive opportunities against the hard-nosed 49ers defense, and they won't be able to rely on many turnovers from San Francisco either, which has only turned the ball over four times.

Running back? By all accounts, both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller will suit up for Sunday's game, but how effective they will be is the biggest question for the Bills' offense. Both said they felt better this week than they did a week ago, which is good news for Buffalo considering the two only tallied a combined 62 yards against New England last week. San Francisco is holding teams to only 80 yards a game on the ground, so Buffalo's backs and the offensive line will have their hands full moving the ball and attempting to convert third downs. (Photo: Rajiv Patel, Flickr)

Home, sweet home. San Francisco has enjoyed a respectable seven-game home winning streak, beating teams by an average of 18 points while at Candlestick in that time span. Difficulties arise again for the Bills' rushing attack, as the 49ers defense has not allowed a rushing touchdown at home in their last 11 home games. Buffalo has split their appearances there in the team's history, with their last game a big win in 2004 (41-7).

Testing the line. With two starters out on Buffalo's offensive line, it may be open season for San Fran's blitzers, particularly their linebacking corps. Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks have combined for 6.5 sacks thus far, with Smith likely to pair up against fill-in left tackle Chris Hairston. Hairston was impressive in the offseason while vying for the starting role, and the line has been probably the most stable part of the Bills' squad. Buffalo has only allowed four sacks on Fitzpatrick so far, but if there was any time to reverse its fortunes, it'd be now.
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