Its probably still too early in the season to label any game as a "must win", but this week's tilt between the Bills and the Eagles is about as close as you can get. The Bills are 3-1, and while still technically in good position for the postseason, are fresh off a loss to the Bengals, and starting a stretch where they will face off against the Giants, Redskins, Jets and Cowboys.
The Eagles meanwhile, are 1-3 after a disastrous loss to the San Francisco 49ers last week. The "Dream Team" has underachieved mightily this year. Despite occasionally excellent numbers on offense, the only win the Eagles have managed has been against the 0-4 Rams. They're desperate for a win, and the Bills will need to tread carefully if they are to come up on top.
- You've really got to expect Freddie Jackson to have a huge day. The Bills will have starting RG Kraig Urbik back in the fold to face the league's 30th ranked run defense. The Eagles are giving up 5.3 yards per carry, including three 40+ yard runs. Gailey has made it clear this week that he wants to get Jackson as many touches as he can, and this may be the perfect week to do it.
- On paper, you would think that the Eagles have about the best trio of cornerbacks in the league, but it certainly hasn't played out that way so far this season. While the Eagles haven't given up many yards through the air, they are the league's second worst team in opposing passer rating, with their 106.7 only ranking ahead of the Denver Broncos. Despite getting excellent pressure on the QB (they are tied for the league lead with 15 sacks), Philly has managed to pick off only two passes, while surrendering 10 TDs.
While I expect Buffalo to focus on the running game, there is the potential for big plays against this secondary. Both Samuel and Rodgers-Cromartie are the type of CBs who like to peek into the backfield, making them highly susceptible to double moves. We've seen plenty of those this year on the outside from both Stevie Johnson and Donald Jones. With the sheer number of quick slants that Johnson runs in Buffalo's offense, I'd expect at least one sluggo route from him to go for a big gainer.
- Plenty of folks are concerned about the matchup between Eagles DE Jason Babin and our replacement LT Chris Hairston in the passing game, but I'm more concerned about that battle in the run game. Demetrius Bell has gotten plenty of positive press about his pass blocking this year, but I think he's been as good or better as a run blocker.
- I'd expect the Bills to be physical at the line of scrimmage with Philly's receivers. They simply don't have the speed in the secondary to deal with the likes of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. McKelvin isn't a particularly physical corner, but both Florence and McGee are very capable.
- Plenty of folks, myself among them, have been extremely critical of Chris Kelsay over the last couple of years, and probably with good reason. As questionable as he always will be in coverage, there is no doubt that he's been maybe the most consistent player on the defensive side of the ball. He plays the run well, and has been probably our best pass rusher this year, despite not yet notching a sack. His absence certainly isn't going to help Buffalo's anemic pass rush any.
- Peter King mentioned in his weekly pick 'em column that he foresees Mike Vick trying to step outside of the system and win this game all by himself. I for one would welcome that turn of events. Don't get me wrong, there is perhaps no more dangerous single athlete in football than Mike Vick, but the man always seems an inch away from catastrophe. He's already fumbled seven times in four games, on a pace to fumble a ridiculous 28 times this year. He's also thrown and interception in each of the last three games.
If there is one thing that Bills have done well this year, its capitalize off of turnovers. The Bills have scored on every turnover except DaNorris Searcy's game sealing interception for Jason Campbell in Week Two, a total of 62 (or a shade under half of their point total for the year). Here's hoping the Eagles keep coughing the ball up.