This week the Colts head to Buffalo to face a Bills team that has exceeded the expectations of many to this point in their season. To get an idea what they might be facing, I talked with Tristan Garnett of Buffalo Rumblings and asked him few questions.
Given the start of the season for the Bills and all the offloading of perceived talent, they have been a surprise team that is very much still in the mix for the playoffs in a weak AFC. Even the games they have lost have been kept relatively close with only a few exceptions. What is the strength of this team that has helped them find that relative success?
Defense has been the Bills strong suit in 2017, no question about it. Specifically the play of the Bills’ secondary. Rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White is a strong candidate to win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors and has been one of the league’s best corners this season period. Micah Hyde has been a ball hawk at the safety position – he’s currently tied for the second most interceptions in the league. And Jordan Poyer has been a pleasant surprise for the bills as Hyde’s safety running mate. It’s hard to look across the league and find a player that has provided his team better value than what Poyer has provided to the Bills on the minimal contract they inked him to in the offseason.
Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier deserves a lot of credit for guiding this secondary, which has just one returning player from last year’s squad and all new starters.
If you were the Colts’ offensive coordinator, how would you attack the Bills’ defense?
I’d attack the Bills' rushing defense. In their last five contests, the Bills have managed to hold their opponent to under 140 yards on the ground just once, with the lone exception coming against a Chiefs team that is seemingly in the midst of imploding. The Bills have had a lot of young players contribute to their front seven this season, and subsequently, the team ranks in the bottom third in rush defense across the league.
What player has been a surprise for this roster in 2017?
There seemingly wasn’t high expectation for cornerback E.J. Gaines at the start of the season, but he’s turned out to be a solid performer since coming over to the Bills in the offseason as part of the deal with the Rams for Sammy Watkins. Gaines began his Bills tenure having to battle for the right to become a regular-season starter. He’s struggled a bit with injuries, but when he’s been healthy he’s been a solid compliment playing on the opposite side of White.
How do you think Sean McDermott has done in his first year as head coach? Where does he need to improve?
McDermott has done pretty well in his first season as head coach. He took on a club that was regarded by many as being both dysfunctional in the locker room and front office the last few years and has it the thick of the playoff hunt late in the season. I think he has succeeded in erasing some of the stigmas associated with the Bills from the last regime, and his players seem to believe in him as leader of men.
As a coach with defensive expertise, it’s blatantly obvious that McDermott will need to improve the Bills offense going forward. They currently have the third worst passing attack and have regressed significantly rushing wise after leading the league in this department the last two seasons. McDermott will have to decide between drastic changes to his offensive coaching staff, player personnel, or both.
What is your prediction for the outcome of this game?
If Peterman does in fact play, I think the Bills will find themselves in a dogfight, but one that I still expect them to come out on top of. With the injuries the Bills have at wide receiver, I expect LeSean McCoy will get a heavy workload to help reduce pressure on Peterman. This is just what the doctor ordered – five of the Bills’ six wins have come after McCoy has received at least 20 rushing attempts.
Defensively, I think Frank Gore could have a productive day on the ground, but he won’t really to get going because I think the Bills defense will keep Brissett in check.
Ultimately, I think the Bills realize this is a game that they must win in order to keep in the thick of the playoff race, and it being at home should only add fuel to their fire.