Nov 20, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) celebrates after scoring a first quarter a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
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The Buffalo Bills’ Week 12 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Orchard Park
After three straight weeks of backwards steps, the Buffalo Bills finally got going back in the right direction last weekend.
While the Week 11 win against the Cincinnati Bengals wasn’t pretty, the Bills did just enough to pull out the victory. Now they can get back above .500 with a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday in Orchard Park.
For the longest time, Buffalo had a terrible case of the injury bug, but with Sammy Watkins nearing his return – which could be Sunday – and LeSean McCoy avoiding a serious thumb injury in the win over the Bengals, injury concerns are starting to disappear for the Bills.
A win Sunday will put the Bills right back in the thick of the AFC wild card race with the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos facing off this weekend. But before that, Buffalo must take care of business Sunday and beat the two-win Jaguars.
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Each week during the regular season, this column will provide the three ways the Bills can secure a victory. So, without further ado, here’s the Three Keys to the Game for the matchup against the Jaguars, which kicks off Sunday at 1 p.m. at New Era Field on CBS.
Nov 20, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) carries the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bills won 16-12. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Attack Jacksonville on the ground
If there’s one thing the Jaguars do well, it’s defend the pass.
Jacksonville ranks fifth in the league against the pass, however just 23rd against the run. That is an area the Bills should look to take advantage of Sunday.
Whether LeSean McCoy plays or not Sunday – Tyrod Taylor said the veteran running back looked full go and had no problems catching the ball Wednesday – or even Mike Gillislee, who missed practice Thursday after injuring his hamstring at the end of Wednesday’s practice, for that matter, the Bills still need to rely on their running game. The Buffalo offensive line looked more than capable without Eric Wood last week against a stout run defense in the Bengals and need to keep the ball rolling against weaker Jacksonville squad.
#Bills QB Tyrod Taylor says LeSean McCoy (thumb) told him he's "full go" for Sunday's game vs #Jaguars.
If Buffalo can continuing running the ball, and Taylor can keep Jacksonville on its toes with his legs, there should be some plays downfield in the passing game. With Sammy Watkins possibly returning, Percy Harvin with another week of game action under his belt and mixing in the speedy Marquise Goodwin the Buffalo receiving corps should have some opportunities to be on the receiving end of a couple deep balls from Taylor.
With Gillislee looking more and more like he’ll miss Sunday’s game, this could be a big week for Jonathan Williams. The rookie back looked good last week, in limited time, averaging 6.5 yards per carry.
Nov 20, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Brandon LaFell (11) is pushed out of bounds by Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore (24) after making a catch in the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bills won 16-12. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Take away Allen Robinson
There’s only one person on the Jacksonville offense that should scare the Bills: Allen Robinson.
Robinson is a big-bodied receiver that has struggled this season, but is still one of the most-talented wideouts in the league. The Bills cannot sleep on Robinson, because if they do, the former Penn State star will have a big day.
Blake Bortles is not a good NFL quarterback, and most of his stats are padded from garbage time. However, if Bortles can find Robinson and Allen Hurns early, he could find a rhythm and turn into a nightmare.
The one thing going for Bortles is his big arm, which has given the Bills’ problems this season. Buffalo must defend the deep ball to perfection because it’s likely the only way Jacksonville will be able to put points on the board. With T.J. Yeldon likely out, and Chris Ivory mostly ineffective this season, the Bills should be able to take away the Jacksonville run game, turning Jacksonville one dimensional.
Stephon Gilmore needs to build off of his big game last week against the Bengals when he registered a pair of interceptions. Bills fans can only hope that Gilmore has built some confidence that can carry over the rest of the season.
Gilmore registered an 80.9 from PFF for his play in Week 11.
The veteran corner could be one of the Bills’ most important players Sunday.
Nov 20, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan looks on from the sidelines in the second half at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bills won 16-12. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Do not look past the opponent
Yes, the Jaguars have just two wins on the season. But it’s a deceiving record. Jacksonville has some playmakers.
Allen Robinson is still a stud and Allen Hurns and Chris Ivory are more than capable offensive weapons. Defensively, Jacksonville is stacked with former first-round selections. Whether it’s Jalen Ramsey, Dante Fowler, Prince Amukamara, Jacksonville guys can get the job done, defensively.
Rex Ryan wasn’t blowing smoke when he said the Jaguars were the best two-win team he’s ever seen. They’re no joke as far as two-win teams can be concerned, and can’t be slept on.
#Bills HC Rex Ryan on Jacksonville: That's the best two-win team I've ever seen. I don't get it.
Remember when Buffalo was a similar situation last year in London? Yeah, the last thing the Bills want is to lose to Jacksonville with some critical matchups down the road.
It’s key that the Bills score first and put the pressure on Jacksonville early.
Prediction: Bills 31, Jaguars 20
Buffalo’s defense will prove to be too much for Blake Bortles and Co., Sunday.
Bortles can be careless with the football at times, and Buffalo is one of the best defenses in the league when it comes to causing takeaways. The Bills rank 12th in takeaways and fourth in turnover differential.
Facing an inferior opponent like Jacksonville, Sammy Watkins has the perfect opportunity to get his feet wet before a big game in Oakland next week.