The Bills, on the second road game of a four-out-of-five road swing, are going up against perhaps the most beatable opponent on that slate of away contests. Even though the Arizona Cardinals are 4-1 on the season, they've suffered many injuries and their deficiencies seem to have been exposed last week against the St. Louis Rams.
For Buffalo, they're coming off two excruciatingly embarrassing losses, and have road games against undefeated Houston and AFC East leader New England on the horizon. A win this week can put the Bills right back in to thick of things.
A loss? That could ultimately sink the season.
Let's take a look at some keys to the game:
- In the three games the Bills have lost, they haven't been able to get stops when they've needed them to stick around. In the two games they've won, a promising run stuffing attack was mixed with some medium pressure on the quarterback to take pressure off the young cornerbacks that have been beaten so soundly during the losses. Which Bills defense will be on display Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium? With Arizona's defense as daunting as all the rest in the NFC West, Buffalo's defense will need to keep giving their offense enough opportunities to put points on the board.
2) Attacking the edges
- This might be the biggest determinant for the outcome of Sunday's game. Arizona's offensive tackles D'Anthony Batiste (left) and Bobby Massie (right) have been getting their doors blown off throughout the first five weeks. Last week, the Rams got in to the pocket at will and made Kevin Kolb in to a human piñata. Going up against the rookie Massie, Mario Williams has to have an impact game from his left defensive end position. With Mark Anderson out, there is that much more pressure on Williams to perform to help get the Bills out of the fire this week. If he's inefficient in making a noticeable difference for Buffalo, it could be a long afternoon.
3) Homecoming for Fitzpatrick
- Growing up rooting for both Arizona State University and the Arizona Cardinals, Bills starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is getting more of a homecoming than most NFL players will ever get. Not only is he playing against the Cardinals on Sunday, but he's been practicing on the campus of ASU all week long and seeing family and friends in the days leading up to the contest. Fitzpatrick joked that he was going to try and channel his inner Jake Plummer. The Bills are just hoping he limits his turnovers against a solid defense. Players like Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Calais Campbell and O'Brien Schofield have made the Cardinals' front-seven a formidable unit. Establishing the offense will be hard enough against that group. It might be near impossible if Fitzpatrick turns the ball over.
4) Timeshare Tour
- It was a topic of conversation throughout the week, regarding just how the Bills might utilize both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller throughout the game. Who will see the majority of time on the field? Who will get the most carries? Will they play the hot-hand approach? All of these questions currently are without an answer. To be honest, I'm not sure the Bills know exactly how they want to handle it just yet. The past two games, the Bills have gotten down by a large margin and had to sacrifice their run game for the most part. But when they have run, it looks as though Spiller might be a little bit closer to getting back to his normal self than Jackson at this point. By this point, we know Jackson hates wearing the knee brace. Could it be restricting him from getting back to his normal running style? Time will only tell on both that, and just how much Chan Gailey uses each player on Sunday.
5) Stevie vs. PP
- In his second season, cornerback Patrick Peterson has learned from the mistakes of his rookie season and has become an absolute playmaker for the Cardinals through five games. He'll likely be attached to the hip of Stevie Johnson all game long, making it a daunting matchup for the Bills' top wideout. Johnson said in the week leading up to the game that he believes he can beat anyone. He'll have as tough a task as he'll see all season with the fast-rising Peterson shadowing his every move.
- Cardinals' William Powell making first start
- Patrick Peterson: Jack of all trades (Corner, Return Man, Wildcat QB)
- Defending Larry Fitzgerald
OUT: Kraig Urbik, Cordy Glenn, Spencer Johnson, Mark Anderson
QUESTIONABLE: Kyle Williams, Eric Wood, Chad Rinehart, Jairus Byrd
PROBABLE: Aaron Williams, Mario Williams
DOUBTFUL: CB Michael Adams, FB Anthony Sherman, CB Gregory Toler, LB Reggie Walker
QUESTIONABLE: DT Darnell Dockett, TE Jim Dray, OLB Quentin Groves, TE Todd Heap, ILB Paris Lenon, OLB O'Brien Schofield
PROBABLE: HB William Powell, QB John Skelton, G Adam Snyder, HB LaRod Stephens-Howling
Prediction: Bills over Cardinals
- In terms of a matchup, this one is fairly conducive to a Bills victory. With a struggling defense, the weakened Cardinals offensive line could be just what the doctor ordered for the pass rush. The same goes for defending the run, because the Bills will be up against the Cardinals' third and fourth-string running backs, respectively. If the Cardinals had an overwhelming threat lining up behind center, that could give them the edge. But instead, they have Kevin Kolb who is right in the same class as Ryan Fitzpatrick. It will be tough for the offense to score points, but against such a short-handed Cardinals' offense, I think the defense can key them to a victory late in the fourth quarter. It could go either way with turnovers being key, but I think the Bills can come away with a victory. This is a pivotal game for the franchise and I believe every person in that locker room knows it. If the Bills don't win this one, the season could very easily be in doubt just six games in.