1. Strike quickly.
The Bills are averaging 31.3 points, third-best in the league, in large part because of Ryan Fitzpatrick's ability to get the ball out of his hands in a hurry, which is why he's been sacked a league-low six times. It seems like each week the Bills prepare to face one of the league's premier pass-rushing teams and today the Redskins come in tied for first with Minnesota and the New York Giants in sacks (21). Defensive end Adam Carriker and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo each have 4.5 sacks and will be the Bills' main focus. Carriker is best as a run stopper with the strength to anchor and confine running lanes at the point of attack, yet has already exceeded his season-high sack total. A prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker, Orakpo is explosive off the edge and possesses the quickness to turn the corner and get to the quarterback quickly. Washington doesn't blitz much on first and second down but turns it up in the red zone. Look for defensive coordinator Jim Haslett to bring a variety of seven- and eight-man blitz packages to force Fitzpatrick to make decisions quicker than he wants.
2. Steady Freddie.
Fred Jackson could enjoy a huge day. One of only two running backs averaging more than 100 yards rushing a game, Jackson also averages 5.7 yards per carry, and is the Bills' third-leading receiver. The Redskins have been woefully unpredictable at stopping the run while yielding 4.6 yards per attempt. That doesn't mean Fitzpatrick will neglect wide receiver Stevie Johnson, a dangerous downfield threat, who must keep the defense honest. Meanwhile, Washington's offense will be without two of its key players. Wide receiver Santana Moss will miss at least five weeks with a broken bone in his hand, while running back Tim Hightower suffered a torn ACL and is lost for the season. Quarterback John Beck is making only his second start this season and Shanahan will probably run screens, hitches and draw plays until he gains a measure of confidence.
3. Pressure points.
The Bills feast on turnovers and ball security isn't a strength of the Redskins' quarterbacks. Beck and Rex Grossman have combined for 13 of the 14 Washington turnovers this season and the Bills already have 15 takeaways. They've displayed a knack for creating turnovers at opportune times while returning three interceptions for touchdowns. Pressure on the quarterback tends to lead to miscues, but the Bills suffered a setback with the loss of Shawne Merriman. The former Pro Bowl linebacker wasn't and may never be the force he once was in San Diego, which made him an easy target for the team's pass-rushing ills. But now that he's lost for the season the Bills' challenges of reaching the quarterback just became more complex.
Like it or not, Merriman was the only player on the roster capable of getting to the quarterback without the aid of a blitz. Spencer Johnson, Danny Batten and Arthur Moats will share time at outside linebacker opposite veteran Chris Kelsay and only Johnson has a sack this season.
4. Missing Williams.
The loss of Merriman is huge, but playing without nose tackle Kyle Williams will have a greater impact on the defense. A short-area playmaker with the power to penetrate gaps, Williams' toughness will be sorely missed. Washington runs a stretch-based scheme and the Bills have to get pressure up the field to disrupt the offense and nose tackle Kellen Heard is the key. A three-technique defensive tackle, Heard is big (346 pounds) and physical enough for the challenge but has to play well. The Redskins will try to shorten the game with the run, which is wise considering the Bills allow 136 yards a game rushing.
Ryan Torain and Roy Helu both average 4.9 yards a carry in place of the injured Hightower.
5. No place like home.
While the Toronto series has boosted the franchise financially, it hasn't been a home away from home for the Bills. Buffalo is 0-3 in regular-season games at the Rogers Centre since the series began in 2008 and to a man the players have said the rowdy atmosphere at Ralph Wilson Stadium can't be duplicated up north.
Also, the Bills have played three thrilling games at The Ralph -- against Oakland, New England and Philadelphia -- which have been decided by a total of 13 points. Playing in Orchard Park has given the Bills a psychological edge that will be missing this afternoon.
Prediction: Playing in Canada may not be the Bills' first choice but if they get a huge day from Jackson and force turnovers against a struggling Washington offense, the bus ride back to Orchard Park should be enjoyable. Bills 30, Redskins 14.