When the Bills run: LeSean McCoy got just four touches in the first half of Week 1. That’s not anywhere close to enough. McCoy admitted this week he has a tendency to try and do too much when the offense is struggling. He rushed for 114 yards and accounted for two touchdowns against Los Angeles last year (one rushing, one receiving), providing one of the Bills’ few bright spots in a 54-24 loss. Keep an eye on the carries behind McCoy – Marcus Murphy got more of them than Chris Ivory in Week 1. If that becomes a trend, it will signal a shift on the depth chart. Linebacker Kyle Emanuel was stout against the run for the Chargers in Week 1, recording four “stops,” according to analytics website Pro Football Focus. Those are defined as failures for the offense. EDGE: Even.
When the Bills pass: Have you heard? It will be Josh Allen making his first career start. The Bills are making the move to their prized rookie after Nathan Peterman melted down for the second time in three career starts against the Ravens in Week 1. Whether Allen is ready might not matter – because Peterman clearly showed he’s not. By benching him, Peterman won’t have to face a Chargers defense that intercepted him five times in the first half last year in his first career start. One player to watch for Los Angeles: Safety Derwin James. The rookie from Florida State took every snap in Week 1, registering a sack and pass defensed. EDGE: Chargers.
When the Chargers run: Melvin Gordon will challenge the Bills up the gut. He ran 10 times for 39 yards in Week 1 against the Chiefs on plays straight up the middle. After a tough start to his NFL career, Gordon has developed into one of the top dual threats in the NFL. His 3,136 yards from scrimmage since 2016 ranks fifth in the NFL. Austin Ekeler is a solid No. 2 running back. Of his 39 rushing yards in the season opener, 25 of them came after first contact. Receiver Travis Benjamin is a threat on reverses – he ran one last week for 19 yards. Given Gordon’s ability to attack the middle of the defense, the Bills need Star Lotulelei at his best Sunday. Lotulelei graded out poorly in the opener, according to PFF. EDGE: Chargers.
When the Chargers pass: Is Philip Rivers a Hall of Famer? He sure would be if he could play all his games against the Bills. Rivers is 4-1 against Buffalo as a starter, throwing for 1,115 yards on a 68.2 completion percentage, 10 touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 110.1. The big play is a staple of Los Angeles’ offense: Rivers completed an NFL-leading eight passes of at least 20 yards in the opener, and his 23 completions that produced first downs is also tops in the NFL. He finished with 424 passing yards in a losing effort against the Chiefs. Left guard Dan Feeney was the weak link on the Chargers’ offensive line in Week 1, allowing a total of six pressures, according to PFF. It’s just a hunch, but look for Vontae Davis to make his Bills debut after being a healthy inactive in Week 1. If rookie Taron Johnson can’t play, the Bills could move Phillip Gaines to slot cornerback and put Davis outside. EDGE: Chargers.
Special teams: It was a comedy of errors in Week 1 for Los Angeles. The Chargers gave up a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown, fumbled away a punt return and watched kicker Caleb Sturgis miss a 48-yard field goal. Not surprisingly, they sit 31st in Football Outsiders’ rankings of special teams after Week 1. The Bills aren’t much better, ranking No. 26. New punter Corey Bojorquez dropped a snap in the rain, leading to a turnover. Otherwise, he averaged 49.7 gross yards and 42.7 net yards on eight punts against the Ravens, placing three of them inside the 20-yard line. EDGE: Bills.
Coaching: Sean McDermott is starting to feel some heat after he completely miscalculated Peterman’s readiness for the second time. It was a weak look on the coach’s part to say he didn’t feel like he needed to elaborate on the decision to turn to Allen, and saying he would “go to his grave” feeling like Peterman was the right choice to start in Week 1 is over the top. There’s nothing wrong with admitting a mistake, coach. Make no mistake: McDermott’s not on the hot seat, but he’s being second guessed now perhaps more than any other time as the Bills’ coach. Anthony Lynn returns to Buffalo for the first time since being passed over for the job McDermott got. Lynn led the Chargers to a 9-7 record in his first season, but they missed out on a playoff spot largely because of an 0-4 start. After losing the opener, Lynn will be determined to have his team ready for Sunday. EDGE: Even.
Prediction: Chargers 30, Bills 17