Oakland Raiders Opponent Preview: Get to Know the Buffalo Bills


Here is everything you need to know about the Week 13 opponent of the Oakland Raiders, the Buffalo Bills.

After a nail-biting performance last week against Cam Newton’s Carolina Panthers, Week 13 sees the Oakland Raiders host the Buffalo Bills in a matchup that is by no means a guaranteed win for the Silver and Black.

While some pundits viewed last week’s game as a possible trap for the Raiders, Sunday’s tilt against Buffalo could well offer the same.

Before we examine the strengths and weaknesses of this Buffalo unit, let’s start with the coaching staff.

Head Coach: Rex Ryan

Offensive Coordinator: Anthony Lynn

Defensive Coordinator: Dennis Thurman

Finishing at .500 last year, the Buffalo Bills are sitting at 6-5 as they travel to the bay, nipping at Miami’s heels for a potential wildcard spot at the end of the season. Rex Ryan’s unit is chasing the franchise’s first playoff appearance in 16 years, the longest postseason drought in NFL history.

Ryan has had a long history in the AFC East. He previously served as the Jets head coach from 2009 to 2014, and his arrival in Buffalo as of last year has intensified the Jets/Bills rivalry even further. Interestingly, at the start of the season Rex hired his brother Rob to serve as his assistant head coach and defensive assistant. Rob has held the position of defensive coordinator in the likes of New Orleans, Dallas, and even an earlier stint in Oakland from 2004 to 2008.

The twins are two of the prominent defensive minds in the NFL. Rex, in particular, mostly uses the 3-4 defense, but is fond of using multiple defensive fronts and calling audibles to disguise the play call, confuse the offense and put pressure on the quarterback.

How Derek Carr is able to diagnose the play at the line of scrimmage will be crucial to Oakland’s success come Sunday. Furthermore, look for the interactions between Rex and Rob on the sidelines, as the pair will no doubt attempt to pressure Carr all day, especially coming off his injury last week.

Let’s take a look at the Bills’ defense in question:

DT: Kyle Williams
NT: Marcell Dareus
DE: Adolphus Washington
OLB: Jerry Hughes
WLB: Zach Brown
MLB: Preston Brown
OLB: Lorenzo Alexander
CB: Ronald Darby
SS: James Ihedigbo
FS: Corey Graham
CB: Stephon Gilmore

Predicting the Bills actual starting lineup this Sunday is somewhat of a guessing game. At the beginning of this week, the Bills had 15 players on the injury report.

Defensively speaking, Ronald Darby is still in the concussion protocol, and as a result, has been ruled out of the upcoming game. Strong safety James Ihedigbo was also held out with an ankle injury, so it looks like backup Jonathan Meeks will take his place. At the very least, it appears Buffalo’s secondary might be wafer-thin come kickoff.

A weak secondary isn’t Buffalo’s only defensive woe however. The team has seen an incredibly dramatic collapse in red zone defense. Through the first seven weeks, the Bills were first in the league in stopping opponents inside the 20. They gave up just eight touchdowns on 22 trips into the red zone.

Their last four games tell a different story. The Bills gave up scores on 11 of 20 of their opponents red zone drives and have since dropped to 32nd in the league in red zone defense. From first to last in a little over a month. If Derek Carr can manufacture good drives down the field, chances are Buffalo’s porous goal line defense will do the rest for the Raiders.

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There have been some tremendous positives for Buffalo defensively this season however. Two notable free agent pickups stand out as the difference makers on this Bills unit heading into the latter portion of the season. Firstly, Lorenzo Alexander.

Alexander has been an absolute machine at the linebacker position, enjoying a late career resurgence. He recorded his first three sack career game against Miami earlier this season and sits second on total sacks for the season (10) behind Von Miller. Alexander will have to be accounted for on Sunday, as both Derek Carr and Rodney Hudson will need to know where he is on every play and ensure the pocket is protected against him.

Secondly, Zach Brown. Brown was pegged to play backup to second round pick Reggie Ragland from Alabama. However when Ragland tore his ACL in the preseason Brown stepped up. As a result, Brown has held on numerous occasions, the lead league for tackles this season. Like Alexander, expect Brown to be all over the field against the Raiders, especially against the run.

Lastly, Shaq Lawson, their first round pick in this year’s draft has made a positive return to the lineup after recovering from shoulder surgery, even recording his first sack against none other than Tom Brady in week 9.

Now let’s examine Buffalo’s offense:

QB: Tyrod Taylor
RB: LeSean McCoy
WR: Sammy Watkins
WR: Robert Woods
TE: Charles Clay
LT: Cordy Glenn
LG: Richie Incognito
C: Ryan Groy
RG: John Miller
RT: Jordan Mills

Similar to the Bills defense, multiple offensive cogs did not participate in practice on Wednesday. The likes of Sammy Watkins, Cordy Glenn, Charles Clay and Robert Woods to be exact. That being said, the Bills have had to deal with consistent injuries all season long, so don’t expect them to be erred by any late omissions to the starting lineup.

The strength of this offense is no doubt its running game. Whilst overall Buffalo’s offense ranks 19th in the League, they boast the second best rushing offense in the NFL. Spearheaded by LeSean McCoy, the Raiders defense will face a steep test against the rush.

McCoy gutted the Jaguars defense on a long 70-yard touchdown run last week, dicing through the running lanes before out sprinting the Jaguars secondary to pay-dirt. Stopping the run will be absolutely crucial for the Raiders.

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LeSean McCoy has the ability to break off a big gain at any time, and can be equally as lethal in the passing game. The consistent critique of Oakland this year has been that the defense isn’t a playoff caliber unit. The Raiders can either silence their critics or add fuel to the fire in their tout against McCoy.

Tyrod Taylor is another intriguing obstacle for the Raiders defensively. Taylor has had somewhat of a down year compared to 2015 (he sits at 11 touchdowns and 4 interceptions), but he is by no stretch of the imagination your typical drop-back quarterback.

Taylor is one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the league. Quick and agile, Tyrod is a difficult man to chase down behind the line of scrimmage, and can certainly make defenses pay with his legs if unaccounted for.

While Mack and Irvin have applied great pressure all year, Taylor will give them an intriguing matchup and certainly challenge their stamina and pursuit. Expect Mack and Irvin to have more time to get to the quarterback if Taylor’s primary option, Sammy Watkins, is unavailable. Keep in mind, that the Bills are tied for the 5th most sacks allowed this season with 31 as well. If the Raiders can keep him under wraps, Taylor should be going down.

Speaking of Watkins, in his first game back from a broken foot last week, he managed 3 receptions for 80 yards. Whilst certainly not plentiful, if healthy Watkins still poses a significant deep threat. Whether it’s Amerson or Smith charged with covering him, the Raiders will need to be aware of Watkins’ ability to take it the distance injury or not.

Lastly, Buffalo’s kicker Dan Carpenter has hit 78% of his attempts on the year so far, his longest a 54 yard strike. If Buffalo’s offense struggles, especially without Watkins, look for Carpenter to have an increased role.

Lastly, shoutout to the Bills long snapper Garrison Sanborn. Heck of a football player and owner of one mighty fine beard.