Defensively, the Giants and Bills seem to be mirror images, as they both possess great run defenses (each allowing just 74 yards per game), but own porous pass defenses, 31st (Buffalo) and 32nd (New York), respectively.
Sunday’s tilt at Orchard Park (1 p.m., FOX), though, may be decided by two offenses that are near the top of the league in essentially every important category. The Giants (1-2) are averaging 347 yards per game, mainly on the strength of quarterback Eli Manning’s 243 passing yards per game. While the Bills (2-1) may get their yards in a different manner, as they actually garner more per game (373) due to a great rushing attack (league-best 153 per) and a play-action based passing that leaves defenses guessing.
Metro takes a look at key factors to watch as the game unfolds.
What to watch for:
1. Irresistible force meets the immovable object
Sure, the Bills are tied with the Giants for the stingiest run defense, and New York’s rushing attack has a lot to be desired (93 yards per game), but for Manning to make the passing game work, they have to at least try and run the ball. Buffalo’s 31st pass defense can be exploited should they be kept somewhat honest in defending the run. No one is scared of Big Blue’s triumvirate of Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, and Shane Vereen, but if the Giants eschew the running game completely and simply throw early and often, that’ll allow Buffalo’s vaunted pass rush to get after New York’s immobilized leader. That’s a recipe for disaster, on the scoreboard and on Manning’s health.
2. Stars unseen
The star power is just as good on the sidelines as on the field, as the Bills will be without running back LeSean McCoy and No. 1 wideout Sammy Watkins, as both are dealing with ailing hamstrings. Percy Harvin (hip) may also be limited, so that’s three of Buffalo’s top weapons – guys who are known to make explosive plays – not on the field to help their young quarterback, Tyrod Taylor. The Giants, meanwhile, will be without their ailing wideout, Victor Cruz (calf). Dealing with Cruz’s absence has already been old hat for the Giants, as he hasn’t played in a game since last October, but it’d still be nice for Manning if he had his full complement of weapons. The silver lining for the Giants is that they’ve been able own leads of 10 or more points in the fourth quarter of every game, so they already know how to adapt to life without their fallen star.
3. The little things matter
Glossing over the finer details in football is what gets teams beat, so neither can afford to overlook things. Buffalo may be without the services of McCoy, Watkins, and Harvin, but that doesn’t mean Big Blue can breathe easy. The Bills still have the dual-threat quarterback, who is deadly accurate in the pocket, throwing on the run, or simply tucking the ball and running. If the Giants fail to contain the edges, Taylor could make it a long day. And sans their top receiving threats, it makes stopping their forgotten tight end all the more important. Charles Clay, who has 12 catches for 144 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the season, can be a sneaky-good outlet for Taylor. As aware the defensive ends need to be of Taylor’s ability to break containment, the linebackers and safeties need to be just as mindful of Clay streaking down the middle of the field. Lose sight of those details, and the Giants could end up squandering another winnable game.