The 2020 season has proven to be quite fruitful for the upstart Buffalo Bills thus far, beginning the season 3-0 before heading out to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders, in the Bills’ longest road-trip of the season so far.
After a huge second-half scare back home in Buffalo against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3, the Bills look to prove they are a true AFC elite and extend their streak to 4-0. To do so, they will need to defeat the surprising Raiders on the road.
Here is what we know, don’t know, and predict heading into this Week 4 match-up.
WHAT WE KNOW
Josh Allen is asserting himself in the early MVP race
The Bills’ start to the season might not be a huge surprise, given their playoff appearance last season and additions to the roster that only made them a better ball club. But, the real surprise is the play of third-year quarterback Josh Allen. I wrote last week about his ascension from an inconsistent, streaky thrower, to what we now see is a more-than-solid quarterback for the Bills offense.
I don’t think it comes as much of a surprise that Allen is a hard worker; he was genuinely a good guy coming out of Wyoming, seemed to have his head on straight, and had the dedication to become a true starting quarterback in the NFL. However, there is no way anybody saw this type of transformation happening so quickly. Last season, Allen was borderline tough to watch at times. This season? Not at all! He is fun to watch. Allen’s play makes him a key advantage in this contest.
The Bills’ wide receivers are among the best in the league
I know what people are thinking: isn’t this a bit early to say? Look across the league; how many receiving corps are performing quite to this level? This is all without stellar play at the tight end position, which would only help the receiving corps. Gabriel Davis has caught every pass he has put his hands on, and is flashing his speed that was coveted in the draft. Stefon Diggs is every bit as good as he was in Minnesota. Cole Beasley does Cole Beasley things out of the slot. John Brown continues to prove he was worth every bit of the contract he signed.
Josh Allen is throwing at a very high level, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have these kinds of weapons to throw to. The Bills front office, led by Brandon Beane, clearly determined that they wanted to get playmakers for their young quarterback to grow with, and it is paying off. Diggs was more than worth that first-round pick; Beasley and Brown were worth their contracts; and Davis was a great selection in the fourth round. This is another advantage for the Bills on Sunday.
The Bills’ run defense is strong
Through three games, the Bills’ defensive front has given up a total of 311 yards on the ground. Now, this could be a case of the Bills getting up a lot on their opponents, forcing them to abandon the run; but so far, they have held their own against the run.
As games become more competitive, we will really see how strong this run defense is. That should come down the stretch when the strength of schedule gets a little tougher.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
Can the Bills improve their second-half play?
The Bills have done a great job of getting out to huge leads through their first three games; but when it comes to the second half, they have struggled to keep those leads. The offense has stalled multiple times in the second half, giving their opponents a chance to get back into the game. This can be a recipe for disaster as their opponents get tougher.
Most notably, the Bills held a 28-3 lead against the Rams last week, only to go down 32-28 towards the end. Josh Allen rallied the offense, and got bailed out a bit by a questionable illegal contact penalty. Now, this ended up being a “law-of-averages”-type of deal, as the Rams were gifted an interception earlier in the second half that was clearly not an interception. With that said, the Bills have to do a better job of holding onto leads and imposing their will in the second half. This play will not result in wins against opponents like the Kansas City Chiefs.
Will the offense continue this onslaught?
This is probably the biggest question surrounding the team. The easy answer is “no,” but there is more to it. Josh Allen has proven that he has grown as a quarterback. However, he is due for some tougher games where he’ll struggle; that is just the nature of being a quarterback in the NFL. So, when Allen has struggles, where do the Bills turn? So far, the running game has struggled to get off and running, with the exception of Allen himself.
Now, the run game could be a product of offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt recognizing that Allen is on fire, and allowing him to go out there and throw missiles. At some point, however, the run game will need to get going in case Allen has one of those clunker games — which he will certainly have. Every NFL quarterback has some… except Patrick Mahomes because, well, he is a different kind of beast.
The Raiders are missing their two young receivers in Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards, having to rely on the likes of Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow to lead the passing game. The defense is a bit better, but I foresee another big game out of Josh Allen and the Bills offense, and Buffalo’s defense will get enough stops to win this thing.
Score: Bills 31, Raiders 21
(Featured Image Credit: Bill Wippert / BuffaloBills.com)