The Buffalo Bills are coming off one of their most heartbreaking losses of the season but their matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers is a perfect time to get back on track.
The Bills (7-3) enter their matchup with the Chargers (3-7) as the top team in the AFC East and the fight best passing offense (278.9 points per game) in the NFL.
The Chargers are at the bottom of the AFC West, but behind rookie quarterback Justin Herbert they have the fourth-best passing offense (279.6) in the league and they have one of the best offenses overall as they are averaging 400.9 yards per game.
The being said here are a few keys to Buffalo’s matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers.
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Make Justin Herbert Play Like a Rookie
Through the first nine starts of his NFL career, Justin Herbert has looked nothing like a rookie.
He’s thrown for 2,699 yards and 22 touchdowns, is averaging just under 300 yards per game and has only thrown six interceptions on 350 pass attempts. Those aren’t rookie numbers and throughout this season Herbert has looked comfortable in the pocket.
The Bills need to change that. Their defense is predicated on forcing turnovers and wreaking havoc in the backfield and Herbert is the first rookie quarterback they’ve played all season long. They’ve been able to force top quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray
to make poor decisions, so getting Herbert to do so should be a priority.
At times this season, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has been known to dial up the pressure when it made sense and they had the right personnel in the game. Sunday is the perfect opportunity to do so.
The Bills will have their full starting secondary for the first time this season, so Frazier should feel comfortable bringing an extra guy or two into the box and allowing his secondary to man-up on the outside.
This matchup against the Chargers could be the perfect opportunity for the Bills defense to find the identity they’ve been looking for all season long.
Build a Lead and Put It Away
Throughout this season, the Bills have struggled to put games away.
They had a sizeable 23-9 lead on the Arizona Cardinals and let it slip away. They almost allowed a 28-3 lead over the Los Angeles Rams slip away and gave up 29 unanswered points in the second half. They also had a 17-6 lead on the Las Vegas Raiders that they almost threw away.
The Chargers record also isn’t indicative of how well they’ve played this season. Five of Los Angeles’ losses have come by five points or less. They took the Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints to overtime, and they also lost to the Denver Broncos by just one point.
The Chargers have been in tight games all season long, so the Bills shouldn’t allow them to stick around. With the offense the Chargers have, they can put up a lot of points at any time So Brian Daboll, Josh Allen, and the rest of the Bills offense needs to put their foot on the gas and not let up.
The Bills Need To Establish A Running Game
The Chargers are in the middle of the pack when it comes to rushing defense (16th) and passing defense (13th), but as pass-heavy, as the Bills have been this year with 37 pass attempts a game, the Bills will likely attack the Chargers through the air. But, they shouldn’t shy away from the running game either.
With two high-powered offenses going at each other, their matchup is set to be a high-scoring game – ESPN’s Pick Center has the over/under at 52.5 points.
If the Bills can build a lead late in the game, they should look to establish their run-game to mix in with the play-action pass. Doing so will still allow them to attack the Chargers down the field late in the game and pile up the points.
The Bills haven’t been able to much running this year. Their top rushing game came against the New England Patriots in Week 8 when Devin Singletary and Zack Moss each ran for over 80 yards and Moss found the endzone twice. Although the Bills want to keep the pressure on if they can build a lead, killing the clock with a mix of run and pass would be a good combination late in the game.
Man Mark Keenan Allen With Tre’Davious White
Tre’Davious White is one of the top cornerbacks in the league and he was paid like it this offseason as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported, he signed a four-year $70 million contract, including $55 million guaranteed.
Due to injuries in their secondary, the Bills haven’t allowed him to ‘follow’ an opposing team’s No. 1 receiver much this season but their matchup with the Chargers may be the perfect time to do so.
The whole secondary is healthy and the Bills have the personnel to cover guys on the outside if White needs to follow Allen into the slot, where he normally plays.
Allen is having one of the best seasons of his career. He leads the NFL with 81 receptions and has 835 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He also leads the league with 112 targets and that number has continued to climb since Herbert took over in Week 1. So, having White take away the rookie’s No. 1 target would make him feel less comfortable in the pocket.