1 Keep moving the chains.
The New York Giants’ defense is having all sorts of trouble getting off the field through the first three weeks of the season. The Giants rank last in the NFL in third-down defense, allowing opponents to pick up a first down 53.5 percent of the time. As a result, New York is allowing opponents an average of 24.7 first downs per game, which is also the worst number in the league. The Buffalo Bills’ offense ranks right in the middle of the NFL converting third downs, as their 41.0 success rate is 16th. Buffalo has averaged 19.7 first downs per game, which is tied for 19th in the league. Moving the chains was a big key for the Bills in their Week Three win over Miami, especially in the first half, when they dominated time of possession.
2. Give Eli his first interception.
Surprisingly, Giants quarterback Eli Manning is one of only three starting quarterbacks who have yet to throw an interception this season, with New England’s Tom Brady and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers being the others. That’s surprising because since the start of 2010, Manning has been intercepted 97 times – 11 more than any other quarterback. Led by Manning, the Giants have taken good care of the ball. New York, which is 7-1 in its past eight games without a turnover, has a plus-5 turnover differential, meaning it will be a battle of strengths Sunday. The Bills have the same plus-5 differential, with only Denver at plus-6 being better.
3. Calf injuries a problem on both sides.
Bills receiver Sammy Watkins and Giants receiver Victor Cruz are both unlikely to play because of calf injuries. Cruz has yet to play this season after initially suffering the injury during training camp. He aggravated it during Wednesday’s practice. If Watkins is out, it will be the first game he’s missed in his NFL career. It also means he’ll miss his sharing a field with Giants star Odell Beckham Jr. – the player his career will likely always be compared to. That’s because the Bills traded up in the 2014 draft – including their 2015 first-round pick in the process – to pick Watkins, while Beckham lasted to No. 12 overall in 2014, meaning the Bills could have stayed put and had him. To this point in their careers, it’s been a bad call by the Bills. Beckham has 1,574 yards and 14 touchdowns in 15 career games and has become one of the NFL’s brightest young stars, while Watkins has 1,081 yards and seven touchdowns in 19 games.
4. Build on those goal-line stands.
It wouldn’t have mattered even if Miami did score, but the Bills’ defense had a pair of goal-line stands in the fourth quarter in Week Three, holding the Dolphins out on first and goal from the 2-yard line, and then first and goal from the 6-yard line. Those sequences showed a lot about the mentality of this defense. The Giants enter Sunday’s game with the worst red-zone offense in the NFL, converting just 27 percent of their chances through three weeks. The Bills are in the middle of the pack in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns 56 percent of the time. A trait of any great defense is the ability to hold teams to field goals as opposed to touchdowns, something the Bills have room for improvement on.
5. Stop complaining about shorter rest.
It appears the Bills’ complaints about playing against teams with extra rest didn’t end when former coach Doug Marrone opted out of his contract. Rex Ryan took a shot at the NFL when talking about how the Giants are coming into Sunday’s game with the added rest that comes with having played on Thursday night in Week Three “which is interesting – that’s two out of the four games. Just a side bar,” Ryan said. It will be three in five when the Bills play Tennessee in Week Five, as the Titans are on bye in Week Four. It shouldn’t matter. All teams face these types of situations. Yes, it's seemed to have happened to the Bills more than some other teams in recent years, but the Bills also have the added benefit of playing three out of their first four games at home. Complaints about the schedule just come across as petty.
The Bills looked every bit like a playoff team last week in Miami. Playoff teams don’t lose home games to the Giants, who since the start of 2013 are 5-0 against Washington and 9-21 against the rest of the NFL. The Bills need to take care of business Sunday.
Bills 27, Giants 16