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Bills-Colts scouting report: Indianapolis' edge on special teams could be difference

When the Bills run: LeSean McCoy is still looking for his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, but has been better in the last two weeks. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry against Houston in Week 6, gaining 73 yards on 16 carries. Backup Chris Ivory has done some good work at times, but the numbers overall don’t look good. He’s averaging just 2.5 yards per carry this season on 51 attempts. The Bills have been strongest running off left tackle, averaging 6.01 yards per carry there, according to Footall Outsiders, third in the NFL. That makes sense given Buffalo’s best offensive lineman, Dion Dawkins, plays there. Runs off right end, meanwhile, are averaging just 2.81 yards per carry, which ranks 28th. Indianapolis has been strong against the run on a per-carry basis, allowing an average of 3.75 yards that ranks fourth in the NFL. The Colts’ best run defender is 330-pound nose tackle Al Woods. EDGE: Even.

When the Bills pass: They will have their third different starter in seven weeks Sunday as veteran Derek Anderson replaces rookie Josh Allen in the lineup. Anderson, who joined the team less than two weeks ago, got the call after second-year pro Nathan Peterman melted down, again, last week against the Texans, throwing the game-deciding pick-six, and another interception after that. It’s time to start calling Zay Jones the Bills’ No. 1 receiver. He leads the team in catches and yards (16 for 199) and got his first touchdown of the season last week against the Texans. Edge rusher Jabaal Sheard leads the Colts with 23 total pressures, while linebacker Darius Leonard has made the most of his 16 snaps as a pass rusher, registering four sacks. Indianapolis has 17 sacks and nine takeaways in six games. EDGE: Colts.

When the Colts run: Indianapolis’ rushing attack has been nonexistent this season. The Colts rank 30th in the NFL, averaging just 83.2 yards per game. Second-year veteran Marlon Mack is healthy now, though, so things could improve soon. Mack rushed 12 times for 89 yards in a Week 6 loss to the Jets. Buffalo is up to eighth in the league against the run, allowing 92.5 yards per game. The secondary was strong in run support against the Texans in Week 6. Linebacker Matt Milano has eight stops and no missed tackles over the last two weeks, according to analytics website Pro Football Focus.  EDGE: Bills.

When the Colts pass: Indianapolis’ wide receivers, tight ends and running backs have all caught the same case of butterfingers. The Colts have 15 drops this season, including a whopping 13 in the last three games. “It’s been an issue,” Colts coach Frank Reich told ESPN. “And it’s past the point of, ‘OK, that was a fluke.’ ” It hasn’t helped that No. 1 receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle have been out. Their status for Sunday’s game is unknown. The good news for the Colts is quarterback Andrew Luck looks to be fully back from the shoulder issues that cost him all of 2017. Luck ranks eighth in passing yardage (1,792) and second in passing touchdowns (16) this year. The Colts are doing a good job of protecting Luck, too, allowing just 10 sacks of their franchise quarterback, second fewest among 25 qualified starters. EDGE: Even.

Special teams: The Bills dropped a whopping 10 spots, to 21st overall, in Football Outsiders’ special-teams rankings after a disastrous showing against the Texans that included a lost fumble by rookie Ray-Ray McCloud and a blocked punt. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Bills’ special teams efficiency score of 21.49 would be the worst for an entire season by any team since 2006, when it started using the metric. Linebacker Najee Goode is the Colts’ top special-teams player, with three tackles on a team-leading 147 snaps. Ageless wonder Adam Vinatieri has made 11 of 13 on field goals this season. Punter Rigoberto Sanchez has a big leg, averaging 42.4 net yards per punt. Receiver Chester Rogers is a dangerous punt returner, averaging 14.3 yards per attempt. EDGE: Colts.

Coaching: Coach Sean McDermott made the only possible decision to start Anderson. He risked putting his own job security in jeopardy by stubbornly sticking with Peterman. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll faces a big challenge in getting Anderson up to speed in time to put together a game plan for the Colts. That will put immense pressure on defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier to once again try and carry the Bills with that side of the ball. Both franchises are in rebuild mode. Colts coach Frank Reich, the former Bills’ backup quarterback, has gotten off to a 1-5 start, but he’s getting credit for being a steadying influence on an organization that has been in turmoil recently, starting with Luck’s injury and continuing with being left at the altar by Josh McDaniels. EDGE: Even. 

Prediction: Colts 17, Bills 13

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