Buffalo Bills: 5 Keys To Victory In Week 10
Buffalo Bills: 5 Keys To Victory In Week 10
Over the last 15 years or so, when the Buffalo Bills played the Pittsburgh Steelers, the outcome was pretty much predetermined. The Steelers have been the perennial playoff team, winning game after game along with a few titles, and had always been in the thick of it.
The Bills, meanwhile, have spent the last 15 years bringing their fans to a level of sadness that few know -- well, a sadness few sports fans know. And it's not even like the Bills got a championship when they were good -- there's those four Super Bowl losses that are burnt into fans' psyches.
But come Sunday, it looks like the Bills are the better team heading into this matchup. It certainly looks like these teams are headed in opposite directions. The Steelers look like they are struggling mightily. Injuries are dwindling their already-depleted talent level. Ben Roethlisberger has been getting beaten to a pulp for what seems like ages now. The once mighty defense is struggling worse than ever.
On the other hand, the Bills have one of the best running duos in the NFL in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. They may have finally found their quarterback in E.J. Manuel, stole a stud of a linebacker in the second round in Kiko Alonso and possess a fierce pass rush -- one that should keep Big Ben with his head on a swivel all game. Not to mention, the Bills have a pretty good secondary -- something we haven't seen in Buffalo in a long, long time.
On Sunday, the Bills will look to send the Steelers further into the depths. There may not be a playoff performance on the horizon, but relevance is an understated and important thing to have. Here are the five keys for a Bills victory on Sunday.
5. E.J. Manuel
Perhaps the biggest thing for the Bills heading into Sunday's matchup is the return of their starting quarterback. Manuel has been dealing with a knee injury since the Week 5 game against Cleveland.
In his stead, Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel have filled in. In the case of Lewis, he's done so somewhat admirably. There's only so much you can expect of your backup quarterback in instances like these, but Lewis gave the Bills the chance to win much of the time he was in.
With Manuel in the lineup, things are different. As the season went on, he looked more and more comfortable running the offense. They operated at a quick pace -- one of the quickest in the league -- and the run game had a third dimension with his running capability.
The hope is that with Manuel back, he can get the passing game going at a higher level and take pressure off the rushing attack. Either way, it's good to have the rookie back.
4. The Dynamic Duo
Helping get Manuel back into the swing of things will be the aforementioned Spiller and Jackson.
Spiller looks to be back at around 100 percent again after his first 100-yard performance in a while against the Chiefs this past Sunday. He broke off an electric long run, breaking tackles and looking like his old self again.
Jackson, meanwhile, is his opposite. Efficient and a tad underrated, he's going to grind his yards out and provide another option for Manuel out of the backfield. He's also excellent at picking up the blitz and will help give Manuel a few extra moments to breathe.
It will be imperative that the Bills find success on the ground, otherwise it will leave Manuel in an unfair position. If the two-headed monster gets going, the Bills will find their way to victory.
3. A Secondary Target, Please
It's no secret that just about anyone who's played quarterback for the Bills over the last few years has made Stevie Johnson their favorite target -- and for good reason. But, the fact of the matter is that Johnson can't catch every pass and he's going to get the most attention from the opposition. So finding a complimentary receiver is important.
Throughout the season, there have been glimpses from Robert Woods. He's been inconsistent this year, but he is a rookie. If he can continue to provide a reliable secondary target for Manuel, it will make things easier for the rookie quarterback. Not only that, but he opens things up for Johnson and for the run game.
If the Bills want a victory on Sunday, they'll need everyone to be on their toes and at their best. Perhaps more than anyone, that means Woods and the other Bills receivers.
2. Stop The Run
Le'Veon Bell might not be the biggest or best running back around, but he certainly provides a threat for the Steelers. He's been gaining momentum as the season has gone on and he'll be someone the Bills have to watch.
This might be the biggest key to victory for the Bills. Roethlisberger has faced duress all year because of his battered offensive line and his penchant for holding onto the ball too long. If he can consistently hand the ball to Bell and find success, it takes the heat off of him and gives him a greater chance to do some damage.
Kiko Alonso will need to be on his toes for this one and help shut down the Steeler rushing attack. If he can, it opens the door for ...
1. Mario Williams
Mario Williams leads the way for one of the top pass-rushing attacks in the NFL. With his 11 sacks, he has been a force of nature this year and looks like the guy the Bills thought they were getting when they forked over all that money. He's not only a monster himself, but opens things up for guys like Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams. His presence alone makes this group better.
If the Bills shut down the run and make the Steelers rely on the passing game, it could mean a big day for this defensive line. Being able to pin their ears back and attack Roethlisberger would be huge as they would no doubt find success.
If the Bills can consistently find their way to Roethlisberger, this could be an ugly day for the Steelers' offense and just what the doctor ordered for the Bills.