3 Key Bills/Raiders Matchups

The Buffalo Bills need a win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Buffalo has some matchups that heavily favor them. The top matchup? Buffalo's WRs vs. Oakland's CBs.

The Buffalo Bills pulled off an upset over the Green Bay Packers in Week 15. This week, the team is on the road against the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders record would make you think that the team will be a pushover, but Oakland is 2-0 in their last two home games (Chiefs and 49ers). Buffalo needs this win, and some help, to stay in the playoff picture. Here are three key matchups for the Bills.

Matchup of the Week: Sammy Watkins/Robert Woods/Chris Hogan vs. Raiders Cornerbacks

Kyle Orton hasn’t been very sharp at quarterback as of late, but Buffalo’s best plan of attack may be to go pass heavy. Why? Oakland’s cornerbacks are banged up. Tarell Brown, a starting cornerback, has already been ruled out for Sunday’s game. D.J. Hayden, the other team’s starting corner, is questionable with a back injury. Behind them, Chimdi Chekwa, the team’s fourth corner, is officially out and T.J. Carrie is listed as probable. At best, the Raiders have a hobbled Hayden and Carrie at cornerback without much behind them.

This bodes very well for Buffalo’s wide receivers. If Hayden plays, he’ll likely draw Watkins in coverage. Hayden has missed plenty of time with injuries, but he’s played fairly well when on the field. This is still a matchup where Watkins could have a big game. He’s 150 yards away from reaching 1,000 yards on the season and there’s a good chance he picks up a good chunk of this yardage on Sunday.

Robert Woods will likely get Carrie. Carrie has played outside at cornerback throughout the season, but spent the last four weeks in the slot. Woods has been quiet as of late, but Orton will certainly look his way on Sunday. Chris Hogan could benefit the most of any receiver. Based upon Oakland’s unofficial depth chart, Neiko Thorpe or Keith McGill could be the next man up. Don’t be surprised if Hogan gets more targets than usual on Sunday.

Latavius Murray vs. Bills Front Seven

The Raiders have finally come around to the fact that Latavius Murray is their best running back. In the last two weeks, Murray has 39 touches. Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew have a total of eight touches over this time.

Thirty-five of Murray’s 39 touches have come on the ground. He’s rushed for 135 yards in those carries (3.86 YPC). On the season, he has 49 rush attempts for 301 yards (6.1 YPC). Murray also has 10 receptions for 61 yards in this time. He should be Buffalo’s No. 1 priority on defense.

Last week, Eddie Lacy carved up the Bills defense. Lacy had 97 yards on 15 carries (6.5 YPC) and a touchdown. One reason why Lacy had so much success was the lack of snaps for Brandon Spikes. Spikes, one of the best MLB in terms of run defense, only played nine snaps against the Packers. Buffalo was playing against the pass and their game plan worked overall. On Sunday, Spikes should see more playing time and hopefully that’ll fix some of the problems Buffalo’s run defense saw last week.

Buffalo has been strong in run defense this season, allowing 103.4 yards per game. It’s good for ninth in the league, but the Bills need to prove that last week’s effort was a fluke. By containing Murray, Buffalo’s odds of winning will improve significantly.

Mario Williams vs. Khalif Barnes

Mario Williams is having one of the best seasons of his career. Currently, the defensive end has 13 sacks, seven quarterback hits and 31 quarterback hurries. In addition to his terrific pass rush stats, Williams is also playing well against the run. On Sunday, he’ll face off with Khalif Barnes.

Oakland’s right tackle isn’t having the best season. His biggest weakness is run blocking, but he’s also been up and down as a pass blocker. Barnes has only allowed two sacks this season, but he’s also responsible for allowing five quarterback hits and 14 quarterback hurries. Barnes is going to have his hands full against a defensive end who doesn’t have many weaknesses in his game.

Behind Barnes is rookie quarterback Derek Carr. If Williams can pressure Carr, the rookie quarterback could make a few costly mistakes. Buffalo’s defensive end will also play a big role in containing Latavius Murray. That leads us to the second key matchup.

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