NFL Playbook: Bills-Saints matchup warrants the marquee - The Buffalo News

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NFL Playbook: Bills-Saints matchup warrants the marquee

Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints quarterback, seems destined for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on a first ballot because of the NFL records he holds, where he ranks on most of the league statistical lists, his longevity and the consistency of his performance.

Brees' legacy, though, doesn't include many encounters with the Buffalo Bills. Sunday's game at New Era Field, the No. 1 game on an otherwise drab Week 10 schedule in the NFL, will be only the fifth time in his 17-year career that he will have faced Buffalo.

In four previous starts against Buffalo, two each with San Diego (Yes, Virginia, there was a San Diego) and New Orleans, Brees completed 83 of 120 passes for 991 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions. Brees' teams are 3-1 against Buffalo.

His first start against Buffalo came in 2002. Buffalo pulled out a 20-13 victory in Orchard Park on a 26-yard run by Travis Henry with 52 seconds to play. About four minutes previous, Steve Christie kicked a 53-yard field goal to tie the game at 13. (No, Christie, a Bills Wall of Famer, did not kick it for Buffalo. He was a Charger at the time.) Another starter for San Diego that day was defensive end Marcellus Wiley, an ex-Bill. Doug Flutie, another ex-Bill, played for San Diego that day and completed 3 of 11 passes for 64 yards and carried once for 6 yards. Still, another ex-Bill, Marty Schottenheimer, was the San Diego coach. Drew Bledsoe quarterbacked the Bills, completing 11 of 33 for only 107 yards. His longest completion was 17 yards to Eric Moulds.

Vaughn Parker, who last week went into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, started at right tackle for San Diego. Two future Hall of Famers played in the game. The late Junior Seau started at linebacker for the Chargers and LaDainian Tomlinson was at running back for the Bolts.

The Buffalo starters included these obscure names: Marcus Price (LT), Trey Teague (C), Marques Sullivan (RG), Ron Edwards (LDT), Keith Newman (LLB), Eddie Robinson (RLB), Pierson Prioleau (FS) and Mike Hollis (K).

Enough history, a capsule look at the remainder of the Week 10 schedule:

Game of the day

Saints (6-2) at Bills (5-3)
TV: Fox, 1 p.m.
The line: Saints (-3).
The scoop: It's the only game on this week's schedule that matches teams with winning records. New Orleans is the surprise team of the league. How many predicted that the Saints would leading NFC South with 6-2 record at this point? Most had the last two NFC champions (Falcons or Panthers) winning the division and some looked for Tampa Bay to move up. ... Some obscure stats: New Orleans has yielded the fewest first downs by penalty (8) of any NFL team. Bills opponents have not missed a field goal this season, going 15 for 15 against Buffalo including a 50- and 52-yarder.
Outlook: New Orleans has six-game win streak going, longest in league. It's tough to be at your best week after week in the NFL as the Bills learned at the Jets. Bills, 28-27.

Top attractions

Cowboys (5-3) at Falcons (4-4)
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Falcons (-3).
The scoop: Ezekiel Elliott? In or out? It may not make much difference against the Falcons, who are only 1-2 at home with losses to Bills and Dolphins. ... Cowboys have won last three since loss to Green Bay at home.
Outlook: Nobody can figure out what's wrong with Falcons. Dallas, 30-28.

Patriots (6-2) at Broncos (3-5)
TV: NBC, 8:30 p.m.
The line: Patriots (-7 1/2).
The scoop: NBC thought they had hot game when it was scheduled, but the Broncos have flopped badly with four straight losses as struggles at quarterback have continued. It's a matchup of Pats' league-leading offense (411.1 ypg) against No. 2 defense (280.8).
Outlook: Patriots won, 16-3, at Mile High last season and should repeat but by only 27-24.

Vikings (6-2) at Redskins (4-4)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Vikings (-1).
The scoop: Minnesota coming off bye week after romp over Browns in London. This begins rough stretch for Vikings, with Rams, Lions, Falcons and Panthers ahead. ... Minny continues to get serviceable quarterbacking from Case Keenum (7 TDs, 3 INTs, 88.8 rating) and defense allows only 282.1 yards per game. ... Redskins scored surprising win at Seattle last week, 17-14, despite long injury list. ... Despite mediocre team record, Kirk Cousins is having strong season for Washington with 13 TD passes, just four INTS and 102.0 rating. ... Ex-Bill Zach Brown of Redskins lead NFL in tackles with 86. He had 11 at Seattle.
Outlook: Redskins repeat 2016 home win over Vikings, 26-20.

Chargers (3-5) at Jaguars (5-3)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Jaguars (-3 1/2).
The scoop: Perfect spot for a flop by Doug Marrone's Jaguars, who have won last four. Jags' defense is third in league (281.3). Jacksonville is 3-1 on road including shocking rout of Steelers at Heinz Field, but are only 1-2 at Everbank Field where they defeated Bengals, 23-7, last week, holding them to eight first downs and 148 yards.
Outlook: Chargers have won last six times franchises have met, but don't like them in third of four games on schedule in Eastern Time Zone. Jaguars, 24-16.

Dolphins (4-4) at Panthers (6-3)
TV: ESPN, Monday, 8:30 p.m.
The line: Panthers (-9).
The scoop: Miami brings second-worst offense (270.3 ypg) in league to Charlotte to face No. 1 defense (274.1). Miami leads all-time series, 4-1, but teams haven't met since 2013 when Panthers won 20-16 at Miami Gardens. With 344 catches, Jarvis Landry has more than any player in NFL history in his first four seasons in league. However, here we remember him for cheap shot last season on Bills safety Aaron Williams.
Outlook: Miami defense not that bad. Panthers win defensive struggle, 17-12.

Jets (4-5) at Tampa Bay (3-6)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Jets (-2 1/2).
The scoop: No matter where he goes, Ryan Fitzpatrick somehow ends up as starting QB. This time against his former team and QB Josh McCown, who was once a Buccaneer. ... It is possible Jets have passed Bills. They are deeper at RB, younger at safety, have two monsters on the DL, faster at WR. The way they handled Bills should open some eyes. Bucs were supposed to be a playoff challenger. Instead they will be last in NFC South.
Outlook: Tampa Bay won't have Jameis Winston or receiver Mike Evans for this one. Bucs due to play better. Tampa Bay, 17-14.

Texans (3-5) at Rams (6-2)
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.
The line: Rams (-12).
The scoop: Poor Houston, the same week they celebrate first World Series victory they have to deal with Texans' loss to injury of Deshaun Watson. While nobody seemed to be looking, Rams loaded up on offensive weapons to go with that front four.
Outlook: Rams going for their fourth in a row but L.A. fans are busy waiting for UCLA hoopsters to get out of jail. Los Angeles, 30-17.

Best of the rest
Steelers (6-2) at Colts (3-6)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Steelers (-10 1/2).
The scoop: Pittsburgh has won four straight and has NFL leader in receptions (Antonio Brown 57, 835 yards) and third-leading rusher Le'Veon Bell (760 yards, five TDs). ... Colts can't match that and have a defense that is giving up almost 400 yards a game (393.6).
Outlook: Indy coming off win at crippled Houston and has a few weapons, but Steelers are tough and talented. Pitt, 27-20.

Bengals (3-5) at Titans (5-3)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Titans (-5).
The scoop: How did A.J. Green avoid suspension for mugging trash-talking Jags' cornerback Jalen Ramsey? ... Titans have won last four, and QB Marcus Mariota seems to be rounding into form.
Outlook: Bengals averaging only 268 yards of offense per game, 3.1 yards per rushing attempt and have allowed 24 sacks. Tennessee, 24-17.

Packers (4-5) at Bears (3-5)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Bears (-6).
The scoop: Even when the teams don't match up well, this is one of the NFL's most fierce rivals and has been since The Great Depression. Green Bay has won seven of last eight and had not lost in Chicago since 2010. However, Brett Hundley is the Pack QB now, not Brett Favre or the injured Aaron Rodgers. Hundley has one TD pass and four INT and 58.3 rating since he became the starter. Bears rookie Mitch Trubisky isn't much better, 2-2 with 66.3 rating. ... Chicago is 2-2 at home and John Fox has the Bears competitive most weeks.
Outlook: Neither QB sets the world on fire, but Hundley may be ready to lead an ugly win. Green Bay, 17-13.

Browns (0-8) at Lions (4-4)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Lions (-12).
The scoop: If you're old enough, very old, you remember when these franchises met four times in the 1950s for the NFL championship. ... Lions are a playoff contender this time, Browns are a long way away. ... Detroit able to take advantage of Packers' problems for 30-17 win at Green Bay last week. Browns coming off London trip and last week's bye. Cleveland is minus-12 in turnovers mostly because rookie QB DeShone Kizer has thrown 11 picks. Matt Stafford of Lions has been intercepted 14 times.
Outlook: As bad as Browns are, don't believe Lions are two TDs better. Detroit 21-13.

Dog of the day

Giants (1-7) at 49ers (0-9)
Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.
The line: Giants (-2 1/2).
The scoop: May be lousiest game of season not just this week. Despite records, Niners actually rank higher than Big Blue in offense and defense.
Outlook: 49ers can't lose forever, can they? San Francisco, 20-13.

Last week's results: 8-4 outright, 7-3-2 versus spread.

Season's record: 74-49 outright, 60-56-7 versus spread.

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