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Xs and Os

Oakland sackmaster Khalil Mack is a game-wrecker and the reigning NFL defensive player of the year. Expect the Bills to use a running back or a tight end to the side of right tackle Jordan Mills to help double-team No. 52 on most pass plays. Sometimes, opponents even try to triple-team him. In a game against Carolina last November, the Panthers used slot receiver Ke…

Bills

The defense has carried the Buffalo Bills through the early part of games this season. The Bills have managed just two field goals in the first quarter, the lowest scoring output in the NFL. It hasn't mattered much, however, because the Buffalo defense has allowed only 19 first-quarter points. The first quarter may matter a little more Sunday when the Oakland Raiders…

Bills

A super-quick release and a protective offensive scheme make it hard to force Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr into big mistakes. Carr was the least-sacked quarterback in the NFL last season, even though the Raiders attempted the ninth most passes in the league. Carr's career sack rate is sixth lowest in NFL history. He gets taken down just 3.99 percent of his pas…

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Oakland's offense has dangerous big-play capability out of running formations, and the Raiders will scheme to get star receiver Amari Cooper in favorable one-on-one matches. Cooper (89) caught a 64-yard touchdown pass out of this grouping against the Chargers last season. San Diego had to stay in its base defense because of the extra tackle and a fullback on the fie…

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Tyrod Taylor enjoyed his fifth best yards-producing game in 35 starts as the Buffalo Bills' quarterback in Sunday's win over Tampa Bay. Taylor combined for 321 yards – 268 passing and 53 rushing. Taylor again showed his ability to make throws on the move. And he burned the Tampa defense with scrambles against man-to-man coverage. Opposing defenses may want to be judi…

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The Buffalo Bills showed off diversity in their running game in Sunday's 30-27 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bills had some success running out of five different personnel groupings. They executed both their zone running plays and the gap-scheme runs that have pulling linemen leading the way. It all added up to 173 rushing yards on 33 carries, the bigges…

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Play to Watch: Back-shoulder pass to Cam Brate Who leads all NFL tight ends in touchdown catches since the start of 2016? Rob Gronkowski? Travis Kelce? Antonio Gates? No. It's Tampa Bay's Cam Brate, who has 12, including four this season. The third-year Harvard product is 6-foot-5 with a big wingspan. This was an 18-yard TD catch for Brate (84) against New Englan…

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Richie Incognito vs. Gerald McCoy The Bills' star guard has two tough assignments in a row after going up on occasion two weeks ago against Cincinnati defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Now Incognito faces a player who's arguably a tad better than Atkins. The top four 3-technique defensive tackles in the league, in one order or another, are the Rams' Aaron Donald, the Bucs' Mc…

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is in some ways the opposite of Buffalo's Tyrod Taylor. Winston is a gunslinger. Taylor is especially careful with his passes. Winston is an elite arm-talent, and he will use his cannon-launcher to challenge tight windows in the defensive secondary. Taylor usually does not. One good ingredient to a Bills victory over th…

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Big-Play Breakdown: Bucs' seam route to Mike Evans Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston is good at throwing down the seams to the intermediate and deep parts of the field. He likes to throw to the inside receiver. He has complete faith in star receiver Mike Evans. Sometimes Winston forces it to Evans when he shouldn't. This was a red-zone interception against Min…

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The value of rest and recuperation for football players during a long NFL season is hardly a new idea. Marv Levy was a leading proponent of the concept during his great run as Buffalo Bills coach, and it wasn't a new idea for Levy back then. He started to embrace the philosophy in the 1950s, when he used to travel the country attending football clinics run by legendary …

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It's unrealistic to expect the Buffalo Bills to get above-average play from their no-name, banged-up receiving corps. Given that handicap, it's near impossible for the Bills to win if they can't get above-average play from either the offensive line or the quarterback in any given game. In losing to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, the Bills' got below-average play from…

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BENGALS-BILLS MATCHUP WINNERS Bills vs. Bengals first-down defense The Bills first-down passing game went south after tight end Charles Clay got hurt. There was no need for the Bengals to respect the Bills' passing game, especially with Jordan Matthews injured and out of the lineup. Rick Dennison had a difficult task of manufacturing something on first down against a…

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Forcing turnovers and preventing the big play have been the trademarks of the Buffalo Bills' defense this season. The Bills again played take-away Sunday but couldn't prevent two difference-making long-gainers in their 20-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Buffalo was one of only three NFL teams that had not allowed a pass play of 40 or more yards through the first f…

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Bills DEs vs. Bengals OTs The Bengals' starting tackles are shaky. Left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi (pronounced oh-BWAY-hee) was the 21st overall pick in 2015. He has super-long arms (35 7-8 inches), and he's athletic. The problem is his functional lower-body strength isn't good enough yet. He doesn't anchor well, and he gives up a lot of ground to bull rushers. He has split ti…