After both teams suffered rough stretches earlier this year, the St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills have their seasons on life support as we hit the final quarter and the turn for home. The winner of this game however will retain a sliver of hope of playing in January, while the loser will certainly be watching the playoffs from their couch.
The Bills are coming off a 34-18 win at home against the Jaguars last week in a game where C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson racked up over 200 total yards combined. It may be tougher to match those totals this week however, as the Bills are without a few key players including the anchor of the offensive line Eric Wood, who is out with a knee injury.
The Bills are also down to their third string right tackle in Sam Young, a third year man out of Notre Dame, and will once again be without defensive end Mark Anderson (knee). Combine that with a talented Rams defensive front and the Bills offense has their work cut out for them.
“They do a great job of rushing the passer and (Chris) Long will be a challenge over there for Sam,” Bills coach Chan Gailey said. “That will be a real challenge for him. To be honest with you, they rotate through a lot of guys that can play. This might be overall as athletic of defensive front, and powerful combined with quickness a defensive front, as we have played all season.”
If there is good news for the Bills however, it is the fact that wide receivers Stevie Johnson and Donald Jones are both expected to play after being banged up in previous weeks.
Meanwhile in St. Louis, the Rams have won two in a row and will try to win their first set of back-to-back road games in two years. Even though the playoffs are the main goal, Coach Jeff Fisher is reminding his players and fans to keep a “one game at a time mentality.”
“This team is focused on Buffalo. It’s our next opponent,” said Fisher. “There’s too much that could happen right now. I don’t even know what the record is of some teams in the division. So, we just go play.”
If the Rams are going to win two consecutive road games they must keep Sam Bradford upright. Bradford has been sacked thirty times this season (tied for third highest in the NFL) and will face a Buffalo front that has finally started earning the money they invested, including the $100 million on defensive end Mario Williams. In the last three games, the Bills have ten sacks while allowing only 65 yards per game on the ground, and have allowed just three offensive touchdowns. They are 2-1 in that stretch, with the only loss against 8-4 Indianapolis despite holding Andrew Luck to 20 points. In the last three games, Williams has 5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 stuff and 2 passes defensed.
Sunday’s game is calling for rain and temperatures in the mid 40’s, so both teams may rely more heavily on the running game than usual. The weather may favor the run-heavy Bills, with the fourth best rushing attack in the NFL, who played in similar conditions last week and came out on top. Either way, expect a dog fight in Orchard Park on Sunday as both teams know that this game is as “must win” as they come.
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