Are you familiar with the phrase “the unstoppable force meets the immovable object”? I’m going to tweak it a bit to describe Sunday’s matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals. The game will feature a force that hasn’t stopped anyone lately, the Bills defense, against an object that hasn’t been moving much, the Cardinals offense.
The Bills defense is at or near the bottom in most of the NFL rankings after five weeks but the same can be said for the Cards offense. Arizona has yet to reach the 300 yard mark in a game but the way the Bills defense has played the last two games, they could give that up in the first half.
Dave Wannstedt’s group has been “historically bad” during blowout losses to the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. They’ve given up 97 points(7 rushing touchdowns, 6 passing TD’s and 2 field goals) and 1,201 yards.
Buffalo has yielded 558 yards on the ground and an unsightly 7.15 yards per carry. The run defense has been absolutely gashed at times as the Pats and Niners combined for 19 runs of 10 or more yards. They totaled 332 yards on those 19 “big plays” which comes to an average of 17 yards a carry.
The pass defense has been just as horrible, giving up 643 yards and a 67% completion rate. They have yielded 6 touchdowns through the air without recording an interception and the supposed much improved pass rush has produced just one sack.
There have been nine big pass plays, which are plays that produce 20 or more yards.
The second half has been incredibly painful to watch as the Bills have been outscored 73-14.
As far as NFL rankings, the Bills are 31st in the 32 team league in points allowed, 30th against the run, 24th versus the pass, 30th in first downs allowed per game and 30th in 3rd down efficiency.
Good news Bills fans. The defense has a chance to build back some confidence because the Cards offense has had more than its share of issues.
They’ve been a one dimensional unit due to an inability to run the ball and injuries to their two best backs, Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams should only make matters worse. Arizona averages just 63 yards rushing a game which is the 2nd worst total in the league.
Their running back options on Sunday include: LaRod Stephens-Howling who has missed the last two games with a hip flexor and has 12 carries for a net of 1 yard. Next up are William Powell and Alfonso Smith who have yet to register a carry this season. With Wells and Williams sidelined, the Cards leading rusher right now is actually their quarterback, Kevin Kolb with 34 yards.
Since they are one dimensional, it puts added pressure on Kolb and the passing game. They have an elite wide receiver in Larry Fitzgerald and a promising young wideout in Andre Roberts as well as tight end Rob Housler who is 6-5 and runs a 4.5 forty.
But the offensive line has been a wreck as far as pass protection. Kolb has been sacked 22 times this season(the most of any quarterback) and 17 of those sacks have come in the last two games.
Left tackle D’anthony Batiste is a guard playing tackle and hadn’t started since 2007. Right tackle Bobby Massie is a rookie and gave up 4.5 sacks to Miami’s Cameron Wake two weeks ago.
According to Pro Football Focus.com, Batiste and right guard Adam Snyder are the two lowest rated players at their respective positions in the NFL. Kolb has taken a pounding and many times doesn’t have enough time to stand in the pocket to let deep routes develop. One on play in last week’s loss at St. Louis, the Rams rushed only three guys and they still got through for a sack.
The Bills pass rush, which has been non existent in their three losses but was a big factor in the two wins, should have a field day against the Cards line.
Overall, Arizona’s offense is ranked 24th in points, 31st in rushing, 25th in passing, 31st in passing average and 26th in 3rd down efficiency.
The Bills decision to cut punter Brian Moorman and replace him with Shawn Powell will be tested in this game. One of the reasons Moorman was released reportedly was his difficulty with directional punting. It showed in the Cleveland when the Bills didn’t want Browns return man Josh Cribbs to touch the ball at all.
Expect Powell to do everything in his power to keep punts away from Patrick Peterson. As a rookie last season, Peterson tied an NFL record with 4 punt returns for a touchdown and they weren’t cheapies. The scores came from 89, 82,99 and 80 yards. This season Peterson is averaging 9.8 yards on 19 returns with a long of 26 and only two fair catches.
Now to the big picture for the Bills. We might want to put this one in the must win column when it comes to their hopes of making the playoffs. I’m not expecting the Bills to win at Houston(November 4) or New England(November 11) so they need to win Sunday and next week at home over Tennessee to be 4-5 going into the supposed soft portion of the schedule.
However a 3-6 record wouldn’t necessarily mean the Bills are toast because 9-7 might get you a wildcard spot in the AFC, which is being dominated by their NFC brethren. Only 5 of the 16 AFC teams have a winning record going into week six.
You should also take into account those final seven games of the season don’t appear as soft as they were when the schedule came out. Miami, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, St. Louis, Seattle and the Jets are a combined 15-19.
It looked like the AFC East caught a big break with the NFC West as their crossover division this season but the West is best at this point with a 4-0 record. San Francisco beat the Bills and the Jets(by a combined 79-3) while Arizona has knocked off New England(by 2 points) and Miami(by 3 in overtime).
WGR will have you covered on Sunday beginning at 11:00 with Jeremy White and Bills Game Day. Make sure you turn down the TV sound and listen to John Murphy, Mark Kelso and Joe Buscaglia for all of the action.