Everything you need to know, plus what I’ll be watching for Sunday when the Buffalo Bills open the home portion of the 2018 season against the Los Angeles Chargers:
TV: CBS. Announcers: Tom McCarthy (play by play), Steve Beuerlein (color analyst).
Radio: Bills Radio Network. Buffalo-WGR 550 AM; Toronto-Fan 590 AM; Rochester-WCMF 96.5 FM and WROC 950 AM; Syracuse-WTKW 99.5 FM and WTKV 105.5 FM. Announcers: John Murphy (play-by-play), Mark Kelso (color analyst).
Series history: Chargers lead, 23-10-2. The Bills are just 1-5 in their last six games against the Chargers dating back to 2005.
Bills injury report: Out: DE Shaq Lawson (hamstring), CB Taron Johnson (shoulder). Questionable: WR Ray-Ray McCloud (knee).
Chargers injury report: Out: DE Joey Bosa (foot), T Joe Barksdale (knee), CB Craig Mager (hamstring). Questionable: WR Travis Benjamin (foot).
Point spread: The Bills are 7.5-point underdogs at footballlocks.com.
Did you know? If he can bring down Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds can become the first rookie in franchise history to record a sack in his first two professional games.
Next up: The Bills hit the road again, visiting the Minnesota Vikings at 1 p.m. next Sunday.
Here are five things to watch against the Chargers:
1. The start of the Josh Allen Era. Another obvious selection for No. 1 on any “what to watch” list is the first career start for Allen, the seventh overall draft pick in April. The future is now for the Bills, brought on by Nathan Peterman’s meltdown in the season opener against Baltimore. Allen relieved Peterman in that game, but entering the game when it was 40-0 meant it was a glorified preseason game. Sunday will be the real deal, as the Bills try to avoid an 0-2 start that could signal a long September, considering the next two games are at Minnesota and Green Bay.
2. With Jeremy Kerley gone, will the WR corps rebound? The Bills doubled down on their youth movement at receiver Saturday by releasing eighth-year veteran Jeremy Kerley in order to add a backup defensive tackle, 331-pound Robert Thomas. Kerley played 69 percent of the offensive snaps in Baltimore and caught two passes. The move should give veteran Andre Holmes and undrafted rookie Robert Foster more snaps. Meanwhile, it has been a tumultuous week for the team’s No. 1 receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, starting with being called out by Zay Jones’ mom for not knowing where to line up. Seriously. Benjamin also told ESPN of the Week 1 loss, “I don't think it was that bad. It was just a blowout." OK, then. To avoid a repeat of that, it would help if Benjamin can improve on his one-catch, 10-yard performance against the Ravens. Coach Sean McDermott said he didn’t have any questions about Benjamin’s effort in the game, but that’s something every coach has to say. It’s clear Bills fans don’t agree with McDermott’s assessment.
3. Is it Vontae Davis time? The Bills’ veteran cornerback was a mildly surprising healthy inactive in Week 1, but that could change Sunday. Rookie cornerback Taron Johnson is out with a shoulder, so it would make sense if the Bills shift Phillip Gaines – who started outside last week – and place Davis in the lineup for his Bills debut. McDermott said Davis is healthy enough to play, so it’s a question of how much faith the coaching staff has in him. If the above scenario doesn’t play out, it’s hard to understand why Davis is on the roster.
4. How do the tackles hold up? Even though Joey Bosa is out for the Chargers, the Bills still have to deal with Los Angeles pass rusher Melvin Ingram, who was a menace in last year’s meeting. The offensive line’s failure to protect whoever is at quarterback has been a major concern throughout the summer, and that continued in Week 1.
5. Can the red-zone defense rebound? The Bills gave up six touchdowns on six trips to the red zone last week against the Ravens. Like most other parts of the game, that’s unacceptable. The Chargers were perfect on two trips to the red zone last week, but struggled in that area a year ago, ranking just 28th in the NFL in touchdown percentage. If the Bills can hold Los Angeles to field goals, they’ve got a much better chance of hanging in the game.