1. Get after those tackles. You’ve heard the numbers by now. The Arizona offensive line has given up 17 sacks in the last two games alone. Much of that pressure has been allowed by left tackle D’Anthony Batiste and rookie right tackle Bobby Massie. Even without Mark Anderson, this is a matchup the Bills have to dominate. Mario Williams (below) will once be expected to produce commensurate to his salary against a lesser opponent. The Bills should give Kyle Moore a chance to spell Chris Kelsay on the right side on passing downs.
2. Don’t turn a journeyman into a superstar. The Bills have a history of letting unknown running backs go off for career games. That has to end today against an Arizona team without its top two running backs. Whether it’s LaRod Stephens-Howling, William Powell or Alfonso Smith carrying the load for the Cardinals, the Bills need to shut down a rushing attack that ranks 31st in the league in both yards per game (63.4) and dead last in average rush (2.7). That should put the pressure on quarterback Kevin Kolb, who remains inconsistent. He flat-out missed some throws last week in the loss to St. Louis.
3. Be mindful of Daryl Washington and Patrick Peterson. Washington, the Cardinals’ inside linebacker, is the best player in the NFL you’ve never heard of. There isn’t a player at his position playing better football. The Cardinals love to blitz Washington up the middle, through the “A Gap” of the defense (the space between the center and the guard). Expect Washington to test the right guard spot especially if the Bills have to turn to tackle-turned-emergency guard Sam Young. As for Peterson, the second-year cornerback is one of the elite players in the league at his position. He’ll shadow Stevie Johnson for much of the day and is also dangerous on punt returns, he ran four back for touchdowns last season, an NFL record. Bills rookie punter Shawn Powell will need to pin Peterson to the sideline, or kick out of bounds.
4. Stay on the field. The Bills were dominated in time of possession last week, 36:17-23:43, because they converted only 2 of 10 third downs. That’s no way to try and establish a rhythm with running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. The other part of the equation, of course, is not turning the ball over. The Bills have proven they do not have the ability to overcome giving the ball away, which they’ve done 13 times. The Cardinals’ defense has forced 11 turnovers, tied for fifth-most in the league.
5. Change the halftime routine. In the second half of the last two games, the Bills have been outscored, 73-14, and have given up 659 yards. Whatever halftime adjustments the Bills coaches are making aren’t working. “What do we give them to eat or drink at halftime; you evaluate all of it,” coach Chan Gailey said. “If I had that answer Iwould have already solved the problem. I don’t have that answer.” He needs to find it today.
Outlook: The Bills are approaching this game as one that could make or break their season. Count me as one who feels the week spent out west will be good for them to bond and really focus on a needed victory. If they don’t turn the ball over, they’ll get it, barely.
Prediction: Bills 21, Cardinals 20