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Packers-Bills Preview: The numbers hate the Buffalo Bills

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Buffalo had no business blowing out Minnesota, and they remain one of the worst teams in football.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills caught the Minnesota Vikings by surprise last week, harassing Kirk Cousins into a terrible game and getting almost semi-competent play from rookie quarterback Josh Allen. The Bills have been one of the worst-run organizations in football and one of the major reasons for the New England Patriots’ dominance over the last decade. Still, there are a few things they do well, and they might be able to capitalize on a few Packer weaknesses. That said, they are still a trainwreck and, with a competent game plan, losing to them is inexcusable.

Defensive end Jerry Hughes was the biggest reason for Buffalo’s upset last week, but the Buffalo pass rush was fierce across the board. They got to Cousins four times, causing him to fumble three times, recovering two, and picking him off once. Really, the only reason the Bills won was the aforementioned fumbles, which set them up in great field position, and allowed them to pound in a few low-risk touchdowns with the run game. With Aaron Rodgers still hobbled, this could theoretically be a problem for Green Bay, but Rodgers is also one of the least turnover-prone players in NFL history, and it’s hard to imagine him having a Cousins-like game.

The Bills’ starting corners score very well in Football Outsiders’ charting, with Taron Johnson and Tre’Davious White boasting success rates above 75%. For context, Tramon Williams paces the Packers with 59%. It is worth noting that this stat can be a bit deceptive, as good corners are often targeted so infrequently that one or two bad plays can skew their numbers, which is why Jaire Alexander does not lead the Packers, but for those with high success rates, it’s usually dead on.

In any case, outside receivers have struggled against Buffalo this season, as the Bills are the 13th-best team at covering number 1 wideouts and 8th best at covering number 2 wideouts. If anyone has ever been set up well for a bounce-back game, it would be Randall Cobb, as the Bills are dead last at 32nd in stopping slot receivers. However, Cobb is no sure bet to play this week, showing up on the injury report this week with a hamstring. The Bills also rank just 23rd against tight ends, so it was nice to see Jimmy Graham leave the injury report.

On offense, the Bills’ originally started the year with Nathan Peterman. Calling Peterman sub-replacement would be an insult to all of the CFL quarterbacks, Arena League quarterbacks, and quarterbacks in that German league Moritz Bohringer played in. He is, quite simply, one of the worst quarterbacks to draw multiple starts in the history of the NFL. The Bills spent a high draft pick on the raw but strong-armed Josh Allen out of Wyoming. Allen is one of my least favorite kinds of quarterback prospects. He is an athletic, toolsy rookie who didn’t produce in college, only started for two seasons, and didn’t complete a high percentage of passes while also throwing a lot of picks against substandard competition.

Some may look at the score of the of the Vikings’ game and assume that Allen played well, but in truth he was a complete disaster. Kirk Cousins fumbled 3 times in the Vikings’ loss, but so did Allen. The difference was that the Vikings were unable to recover any of Allen’s fumbles, but with better luck those recovery numbers could easily be reversed. Allen threw one nice deep ball to Jason Croom for a touchdown, but other than that it was all checkdowns and scrambles. Allen is mobile, and that can give the Packers trouble, but he’s extremely inaccurate with the ball, and should give them multiple opportunities for turnovers.

Buffalo’s running game isn’t a complete travesty, and with Muhammad Wilkerson out for the year, it’s an area of vulnerability for Green Bay. Chris Ivory has carried the load thus far, but the Bills also expect LeSean McCoy back this week, so the run game may get a little boost. They rank 21st per DVOA, and there is no reason to sell out on the pass against Allen, and starting wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin, and Zay Jones. If the Packers need to stop the run, they should be able to.

By DVOA, this is the worst team in football. Worse than Arizona, worse than Oakland, worse than the Giants. Part of that is due to Peterman playing, but this is still a team that lacks talent across the board, and which has no business beating or blowing out just about anyone. While they got a fluky win last week based almost entirely on fumble luck, that is unlikely to happen again. The Packers should win by multiple scores, and if they lose, Mike McCarthy’s seat should instantly become white-hot.