Colts-Bills: Behind Enemy Lines, Part 2

Bills Digest's associate editor Mark Ludwiczak talks about who Peyton Manning will undoubtedly target as the weak link in the Bills secondary on Sunday, why Buffalo is struggling in the red zone, the most surprising aspect of their passing strategy, and more!

Ed Thompson:  Buffalo's only converting 27 percent of their third-down opportunities. Is it Losman, the receivers, lack of a short-yardage running game, or something else that's causing the struggles there?

Mark Ludwiczak:  I'd have to say all of the above. When the Bills have needed some tough yards on the ground, the offensive line has been unable to pave the way. If they convert a crucial fourth-and-one against the Patriots in the season opener, the game is essentially over. But they didn't, and of course Tom Brady mounted a comeback. Losman has looked uncomfortable in the pocket in recent weeks, so he should get his share of the blame as well.

ET: It was surprising to me that with a running back like McGahee, the Bills only have four rushing touchdowns this season. Are they struggling in the red zone?

ML:  They're struggling big-time in the red zone. And not just in the red zone -- they have trouble even getting to the red zone. Through eight games, here's Buffalo's key stats offensively around the league -- 30th in total offense, 22nd in rush offense and 31st in passing offense. Yes, you read that right. They're struggling across the board offensively. They're struggling in the red zone, but it's tough for McGahee to get any touchdowns when the offense rarely even gets that far on the field.

ET:  Is there anyone in the secondary that Peyton Manning's more likely to pick on than the other defensive backs?

ML:  This one's easy - I expect Manning to have a field day against Terrence McGee. McGee's a good person and a stand-up guy in the Buffalo locker room, but he's been absolutely awful for most of this season. Opposing quarterbacks have singled him out and just thrown to his side whenever they get the chance. Nate Clements isn't playing like a shutdown corner on the other side either, which may surprise some people.  He's proving this year that he's not a franchise corner by any means. But Manning should be throwing to McGee's side all day.

ET:  At the midpoint of the season, who's the team's offensive and defensive MVP so far....and why?

ML:  Offensively I'd have to go with Lee Evans. On an offense with so many problems, he's still produced when given the chance. And take the Packers game, for instance -- he was wide open on a deep ball that Losman threw short. On a better team, I think Evans would be a superstar -- he reminds me of a younger Steve Smith in his ability to separate from defensive backs and catch the ball with his hands, not his body. Defensively, I'd say it's a toss up between defensive ends Chris Kelsay and Aaron Schobel. Despite the Bills' defensive woes, they've been pretty good as far as generating pressure on the quarterback goes.

ET:  Based on the team's receiving stats, is the 3-wide receiver set the most frequent offensive scheme, or are the tight ends very active as well?

ML:  I'd say the Bills still run most plays out of their basic package with two receivers and a tight end or two -- but the tight ends are rarely targets in the passing game. That's been a surprise to many of us, because with a young quarterback like Losman, you would expect the Bills to use their tight ends as a safety net of sorts. But they've been virtually non-existent through the air. Earlier in the season, the team was having success with it's three- and four-wide receiver sets, but it really hasn't made much of a difference lately because of Losman's struggles. I expect Buffalo to try and run the ball early and often against the Colts, both because of the Colts' struggles against the run and the fact that the longer the Bills' offense stays on the field, the less Peyton Manning is out there. I doubt it will make much of a difference, though. The Colts won't have any problems handling the Bills.

Mark Ludwiczak is the associate editor of Bills Digest, a great source of information for Bills fans that is published 24 times annually! Click the link to learn more about the insightful coverage they provide.

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