The 5 Most Important Players For the Buffalo Bills In Week 16
Most Important Players For the Bills In Week 16
On Sunday, the Buffalo Bills will host the Miami Dolphins in the second meeting of the season between the two. The last time these two met, the Dolphins were in the midst of a public scandal that looked to be rapidly derailing their season and the Bills emerged from South Florida with a 23-21 win.
Since then, things have been a little different for the Fins. They’ve won five of their last seven games and, at 8-6, are in a good position to capture the second AFC Wild Card spot if they can hold off the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.
It’s no secret that the team is thriving in part because their young quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, has really stepped his game up of late. He’s been great, finding receivers Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace, as well as tight end Charles Clay, with ruthless efficiency in the face of a still-struggling running game.
Their defense has been stingy as can be over that stretch and their pass rush has emerged as a fierce group worth looking out for – they have 41 sacks on the year and are led by Olivier Vernon and his 11.5 sacks. Cameron Wake is still there and terrifying as ever with 8.5 sacks of his own. They have the capability of shutting down a passing attack and Buffalo’s struggling aerial game is ripe for the picking.
We know who the keys are for the Dolphins when it comes to securing the victory on Sunday, but what about the Bills? Who will they be leaning on this week to play the role of spoiler and steal a huge win from the Bills? Here are the top five most important players for the Bills heading into week 16.
It’s been revealed that E.J. Manuel will miss Sunday’s game with a sprained knee, an injury he suffered against the Jaguars this past week. That means we’ll get to see our old friend, everyone’s favorite backup quarterback, Thad Lewis back in action.
He performed admirably when Manuel missed time with a knee issue earlier in the season and he’ll get another chance to show just what he can do on Sunday against a hot Dolphins defense. Lewis will need to be smart, use his mobility to afford him some time and try to get the short passing game going with Stevie Johnson out.
He’ll have a tall task ahead of him, but Lewis has shown that he can be a more than capable backup. Bills fans everywhere will be hoping that he can do the job on Sunday and provide a huge blow to Miami’s playoff hopes.
C.J. Spiller & Fred Jackson
A big key to Lewis having a successful day will be to establish the run. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson have been good this year – the Bills are fourth in the NFL running the ball with 138.2 yards per game – but they’ve had their share of ups and downs.
The book on Spiller is that he’s dynamic and capable of ripping off a home run play every time he runs the ball, but as this season has really shown, he’s also capable of disappearing for long stretches at a time. Jackson is going to grind out his yards because that’s just his style, but Spiller needs to be that dynamic back, giving the Dolphins something to respect so they can’t just tee off on Lewis.
If they can establish the run, they’ll give Lewis the ability to set up the play action and open up more than a few opportunities in the passing game.
Everyone knows that for the last few seasons, Stevie Johnson has been the undisputed top receiver for the Bills both statistically and in terms of sheer presence and the attention he demands from opposing defenses.
But Stevie will be out on Sunday due to a death in the family. That leaves all of the pressure on rookie Robert Woods. The youngster has been hot and cold this year (mostly cold), but has had successful games where he’s given the Bills an added dimension, as he did this past Sunday with six catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.
Brent Grimes will likely have the responsibility of covering Woods, so Woods will need to be at his best for the Bills passing attack to have a shot and if the blue and red hope to sweep the season series with the bad guys from South Beach.
Cordy Glenn & Erik Pears
Of course, none of that will matter if Wake and Vernon are free to roam the Bills backfield, terrorizing anyone in their path. Perhaps no one will be more important on Sunday than the tackle tandem of Cordy Glenn and Erik Pears. Those two will be charged with keeping the dynamic pass-rush duo at bay and out of the face of their rookie quarterback.
Normally, you can cite stats when talking about a player, but the world of offensive linemen is a relatively unknown one aside from pancakes and sacks allowed. Glenn has quietly been having a pretty good year as the team’s left tackle, keeping Manuel’s blind side relatively clean and holding up against the run. Pears, the veteran, could use a little more consistency and will certainly be tested by Vernon.
If these two behemoths can keep the rookie upright and clean, they’ll have won an important battle for the Bills.
What’s this? A defensive player? That has to be some sort of error. In all seriousness, Stephon Gilmore will be tasked with cooling down the biggest threat in the Dolphin wide receiving corps: Mike Wallace.
Wallace has been hot over his last four games, catching 20 passes for 333 yards and three touchdowns. He’s the epitome of a vertical threat, a speedster who can stretch the field. Gilmore, the second year man who has dealt with injuries for most of the season, will be tasked with keeping him in check and might be the only Bill with the skill set to do it.
Take away one of Tannehill’s favorite targets and the Bills will have given Tannehill one less option to burn them with, especially if their running game continues to struggle the way it has this season.
Lock down Wallace, lock down a huge individual win for the Bills defense. It’s just that simple.