Thursday, December 11, 2014

Packers On The Road: Comparing The Bills to The Vikings

The Packers are only 3-3 this season on the road, so visiting an opponent (even one not as good and not likely to make the playoffs) can turn any game into a close one. The Packers are currently ranked No. 4 overall by Football Outsiders but the Bills are a respectable 10th because of their great defense.
Of the defenses currently ranked in the Top 10 by Football Outsiders, the Bills will be the 6th Top 10 defense the Packers have faced this season (Lions, Bills, Seahawks, Eagles, Dolphins, and Patriots). They've previously faced three of these defenses on the road (Lions, Seahawks, and Dolphins) and scored an average of 16 points. The Bills haven't allowed more than 17 points in their last three home games but that has come against a collection of weak offenses (Browns, Chiefs, and Vikings).

Before that streak, the Bills hosted three offenses ranked as above average by Football Outsiders (Dolphins, Chargers, Patriots) and they allowed an average of 23 points. They allowed 37 points to the Patriots, which is the offense that most resembles the Packers. Despite their great defense, they do allow points against better offensive teams and the Packers's offense has no signs of weakness at the moment. They should be able to score in the mid-20s against the Bills, similar to what they scored on the road against the Vikings.

The second half defensive collapse against the Falcons is the Packers's big story at the moment, but that damage was mostly confined to an unstoppable Matt Ryan to Julio Jones combination. The Bills have WR Sammy Watkins, and I'm a big fan, but he's no Julio Jones yet. Watkins is currently ranked No. 42 overall by Football Outsiders (Jones is No. 8) which is about the same ranking as Packer rookie WR Davante Adams (No. 50 overall). Watkins is basically having Adams's season with twice the number of targets and twice the yards and touchdowns. The next highest ranked receiver for the Bills is Robert Woods at No. 62. So they don't have any receiver like Julio Jones to attack the Packers's defensive weakness.

And Kyle Orton is certainly not the same as Matt Ryan. Ryan is similar to Drew Brees (both are QBs the Packers have struggled against this season) while Orton more closely resembles Mark Sanchez. Orton's QBR is 42.1, which is similar to Teddy Bridgewater (46.0), but those two QBs have almost nothing in common. Bridgewater ran for 32 yards against the Packers on November 23rd, but Orton's only ran for 21 yards for the entire season. Maybe the Bills can score 20 or 21 points like the Eagles and Vikings did against the Packers, but they're no threat to go for 37 points like the Falcons or 44 points like the Saints.

This isn't as simple as comparing the Vikings to the Bills, those are two different types of teams, but their overall efficiency is similar. The Vikings also beat the Bills in Buffalo by a score of 17 to 16 back in October. When the Packers played in Minneapolis, the final showed that the Vikings only beat the Packers by 3 points, but it wasn't as close as the score. The Packers led the entire game and clearly looked like the better team. I expect the same will happen when the Packers play the Bills.

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