The Washington Redskins are set to travel to Toronto, where on Sunday they face the 4-2 Buffalo Bills, who are coming off a bye week they hope will get them back to their early season form. The Bills opened the year with three straight victories. Since then, Buffalo has gone 1-2, with losses to Cincinnati and the New York Giants.
Buffalo’s offense has carried it this season. Ryan Fitzpatrick & Co. generate 378.5 yards per game (10th in the NFL) and put up 31.3 points a game (third in the league).
Despite leading the AFC with 16 takeaways and scoring four defensive touchdowns, Buffalo’s defense has struggled to stop teams. It ranks 30th against both the pass and the run. The Bills are aggressive in going after turnovers, but have only four sacks in six games.
The Bills aren’t the only ones giving up chunks of yardage on the ground, however.
Washington’s defense opened the year on a strong note, but in three of the last four games (all three losses), has struggled to stop the run. The defense has given up 125, 192 and 175 yards in those defeats. And waiting for them this week is Fred Jackson, who averages 5.7 yards per carry, third in the league.
Here are some of the key matchups for this game:
WSH LBs London Fletcher, Rocky McIntosh vs. BUF RB Fred Jackson
Fletcher entered the week hobbled by a hamstring injury, but has gradually ramped up his activity as the game has drawn closer, and it appears that he will keep alive his streak of 214 consecutive games played. He and McIntosh – and their fellow defenders – will have to work hard to bottle up Jackson, who has topped the 100-yard mark in four of his six outings this season. If the Bills can get the running game going, they should be able to control the clock and wear out Washington’s defense, just as the Carolina Panthers did last week.
WSH LB Brian Orakpo vs. BUF LT Andy Levitre
This should be one of the big mismatches of the game. The Bills are hurting at the left tackle position, and this week it appears that they will start guard Andy Levitre at that spot opposite Orakpo, who along with Adam Carriker, leads the team with 4.5 sacks. Through six games, the Bills have done a good job of protecting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, yielding only six sacks. But Orakpo and the Redskins, who struggled to pressure Carolina’s Cam Newton last week, must get to Fitzpatrick enough that he doesn’t have time to pick them apart.
WSH TE Fred Davis vs. BUF LB Nick Barnett
The Redskins are missing playmakers Santana Moss and Chris Cooley, so a heavier load will be on the shoulders of Fred Davis, who leads the team with 28 catches for 423 yards and two touchdowns. Look for the Redskins to use Davis in a variety of ways Sunday. Buffalo linebacker Nick Barnett will likely find himself matched up with Davis more often than not, and safety George Wilson could be used to help as well.
WSH CB Kevin Barnes vs. BUF WR David Nelson
Nelson is Buffalo’s No. 2 receiver with 27 catches for 319 yards and two touchdowns, and Buffalo loves to use him out of the slot, meaning Barnes – who has served as nickelback all season long – could see a lot of him. Barnes struggled in his last outing and is looking to rebound. If he can’t, then Phillip Buchanon could get the nod.
WSH RBs Ryan Torain, Roy Helu vs. BUF defensive front
The Redskins lost workhorse Tim Hightower to a torn ACL. Torain and Helu will have to shoulder the load in the running game, which is crucial to easing pressure on John Beck and helping keep Buffalo’s high-powered offense off the board. They also must step up when it comes to pass protection. Hightower did a good job of picking up blitzes and buying his quarterback a little extra time. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan says Torain and Helu both are improving in this aspect.