Buffalo Bills vs. San Francisco 49ers: Three Keys to the Game

Oct 9, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Buffalo Bills free safety Corey Graham (20) celebrates recovering a fumble in the first half against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills vs. San Francisco 49ers Week 6 matchup kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Buffalo.

After traveling out west and taking care of business against the Los Angeles Rams, the Buffalo Bills are set up with a glorious opportunity to win their fourth straight game and improve to 4-2 on this young season.

Sunday’s matchup at “The Cap” is the type of game the Bills are supposed to win. They’re taking on a lackluster San Francisco 49ers team that just changed its quarterback and is looking for a spark. The Bills cannot let Sunday be that spark.

If Buffalo wants to truly show it’s for real, a dominating win will prove that not only can the Bills rise to the occasion against the likes of the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots, but they can take care of business when they’re 8.5-point favorites, which is what they were as of Saturday afternoon, too.

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The Bills matchup very well with the 49ers. Buffalo is the top-ranked rushing offense in yards per attempt while the 49ers are second-to-last in run defense. Buffalo has the speed on the outside to take the top off of an average San Francisco secondary. It’s all about executing now.

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 49ers, which kicks off Sunday at 1 p.m. from New Era Field.

Oct 9, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) carries the ball against the Los Angeles Rams during a NFL game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pound the Rock

The biggest advantage the Bills have Sunday is LeSean McCoy and the rest of their run game against a porous 49ers run defense.

The Bills rank atop the league in yards per attempt while the 49ers rank second to last in rushing yards allowed. It would be extremely surprising if Buffalo’s dominance didn’t carry over on Sunday.

While it has been apparent all season to Bills fans, Pro Football Focus pointed out this week that McCoy is having “something of a renaissance year” and because of it, he ranks third among running backs in breakaway percentage and seventh overall. From a purely statistical standpoint, McCoy ranks fourth in the league in rushing, with 447 yards, and in a tie for seventh in yards per rush, with 5.3 yards.

The one player that has benefited most from the change in offensive coordinator has been McCoy. After a slow start to the season, McCoy has registered over 100 all-purpose yards in each of his last three games.

With the Bills’ aerial attack less than stellar this season, McCoy will need to be a catalyst on the offense on a weekly basis.

Tyrod Taylor should be another big factor in the run game this week as well. A combination of Taylor and McCoy in a zone read offense could give a depleted San Francisco defense fits.

Oct 9, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (57) brings down Los Angeles Rams quarterback Case Keenum (17) during the 4th quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Bills went on to a 30-19 win. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Contain Colin Kaepernick

In an essence, Colin Kaepernick is a bit of a mystery.

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There’s the Kaepernick that took the league by storm in 2012, leading the 49ers to an NFC Championship and an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII, but then there was the 2015 season which ended in the former Nevada quarterback getting benched in favor of journeyman Blaine Gabbert. But now Kaepernick is back in the saddle, replacing a lackluster Gabbert.

But which Kaepernick are the Bills going to get? That is the question.

Will they get the Kaepernick that has reportedly looked like the third-best quarterback in San Francisco during practices this season – behind Gabbert and Christian Ponder – or will Kaepernick be that spark the 49ers are so desperate for.

The Bills haven’t faced a quarterback with Kaepernick’s athletic ability this season, however, they have had success against mobile quarterbacks in the past. Last season the Bills took down a Marcus Mariota led Tennessee Titans squad. In 2014, they beat Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns, the New York Jets twice, who were quarterbacked by both Geno Smith and Michael Vick, and a deceptive Teddy Bridgewater and the Minnesota Vikings.

It’s extremely important that the Bills keep Kaepernick in the pocket and force him to beat them with his arm and not his feet, even if that means Buffalo doesn’t turn in a big day in the sack department. If Buffalo can keep Kaepernick in the pocket chances are good he’ll be in his 2015 form and not his 2012 form.

Oct 9, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Buffalo Bills tight end Charles Clay (85) runs upfield after catching a pass in the 1st quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Get Charles Clay More Involved

Charles Clay is the seventh-highest paid tight end in the NFL this year, but you wouldn’t know that if you just watched the Bills play and didn’t do a search on Google.

The Bills have gotten Clay more involved in the offense since Anthony Lynn took over as offensive coordinator, but it’s not enough. Clay is a talented tight end that averaged 45.3 yards a game in his final two years in Miami and is currently well below that pace.

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Clay saw his best game yet last week against the Rams, hauling in all five of his targets for 73 yards, but has yet to find the end zone. It’s quite possible that Clay’s end zone drought ends this week.

As far as fantasy football is concerned, the 49ers rank 23rd against tight ends this season, according to ESPN.com. While real football is what is being discussed here, that certainly has some merit.

With the absence of Sammy Watkins, Clay should be one of the focal points in the passing game.

Prediction: Bills 34, 49ers 14

The Bills have much more talent than the 49ers, and while Colin Kaepernick is now quarterbacking San Francisco, things might not change all that much. However, the fact that he is Kaepernick still scares me.

Overall, the 49ers don’t have many playmakers offensively and their defense is full of injuries, with five players on the injury report. Expect a big day for the Bills offense while the defense has a chance to increase its takeaway total.

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