When the Bills pass: Josh Allen did most of his work near the line of scrimmage Sunday. He went just 1 of 3 on passes that traveled 20-plus yards in the air – the 26-yard touchdown pass to Jason Croom. That is not meant as a negative. The knock on Allen coming out of college was his accuracy on those short and intermediate throws, and that wasn’t an issue against Minnesota. Allen needs his receivers to make a play for him. Kelvin Benjamin had a pair of drops. Robert Foster let a deep ball go through his hands and Charles Clay also couldn’t hang onto a touchdown. Coach Sean McDermott is right when he says similar missed opportunities could come back to haunt the team down the road. There could be a chance for more deep shots this week for Allen and Co. The Packers have allowed 13 catches of 20-plus yards and three catches of 40-plus yards this season, totals that rank tied for sixth most and tied for second most, respectively, in the NFL. EDGE: Bills.
When the Bills run: Yards weren’t easy to come by against the Vikings in Week 3, but the combination of Allen, Chris Ivory and Marcus Murphy combined for 124 yards. Allen’s running – and hurdling – ability remains one of the best parts of the Bills’ offense, but the team needs to limit the amount of hits he’s subjected to. Running back LeSean McCoy’s playing status is still uncertain, although he was “progressing well” during the early part of the week. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him return after a one-game absence. The Packers lost defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson to a season-ending ankle injury in Week 3. He was Green Bay’s second-best run defender, according to grading by analytics website Pro Football Focus. Packers edge rusher Clay Matthews has graded out poorly against the run through three weeks. EDGE: Even.
When the Packers pass: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is gutting it out. He suffered a knee injury in Week 1 against the Bears, and coach Mike McCarthy said it’s something his star quarterback will “be dealing with for a while.” Receiver Geronimo Allison has brought a big-play element to the Green Bay offense. He’s averaging 16.1 yards per catch. No. 1 receiver Davante Adams is off to a good start, with 20 catches for 204 yards and three touchdowns in three games. The Packers are dealing with some significant injuries along the offensive line. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga (back) and right guard Justin McCray (shoulder) both were hurt in Week 2. That’s a potential advantage for a Buffalo pass rush that has come alive over the last six quarters. Jerry Hughes in particular has been a terror coming off the edge. EDGE: Packers.
When the Packers run: Green Bay uses a running-back-by-committee approach. The Packers got Aaron Jones back last week after he served a two-game suspension, and the second-year player averaged 7.0 yards per carry against Washington (six rushes for 42 yards). Jamaal Williams leads Green Bay with 135 yards on 36 carries. He’s been at his best running to the right side of the offensive line, which makes the potential absences of Bulaga and McCray more problematic. Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds bounced back from a tough game in Week 2 to make 10 tackles against Minnesota. He was charged with only one missed tackle by PFF. EDGE: Bills.
Special teams: The Bills made a big jump in Football Outsiders’ special-teams rankings this week, moving from No. 28 to No. 15. They did so thanks to a solid showing against the Vikings that included a 50-yard field goal by Stephen Hauschka and punter Corey Bojorquez, who placed five of his six punts inside the Minnesota 20-yard line. The Bills made a change by putting Ray-Ray McCloud in at punt returner in place of Marcus Murphy. Green Bay is 13th in Football Outsiders’ rankings. Safety Jermaine Whitehead is a core member of the special teams, taking a team-leading 75 snaps this year. EDGE: Even.
Coaching: Mike McCarthy is in his 13th season in Green Bay. It’s been an impressive run, but it’s worth wondering whether it will come to an end if the Packers miss the playoffs. McCarthy has new coordinators on both sides, with former Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine holding the same job in Green Bay. McCarthy calls the offensive plays. Bills coach Sean McDermott rallied his team again last week after it was counted out, similar to what happened last year. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier resumed play-calling duties and put together a gem of a game against Minnesota. EDGE: Even.
Prediction: Packers 27, Bills 20.
Story topics: Charles Clay/ Corey Bojorquez/ Jason Croom/ Jerry Hughes/ Josh Allen/ Kelvin Benjamin/ LeSean McCoy/ Leslie Frazier/ Marcus Murphy/ Mike Pettine/ Ray-Ray McCloud/ Rober Foster/ Sean McDermott/ Stephen Hauschka/ Tremaine Edmunds