The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Bills weaknesses play perfectly in to 49ers' hands. Turnovers, soft defense, injuries will doom the Bills at Candlestick on Sunday.
Is there ever an easy game in the NFL? Will the 49ers' week 5 matchup against the Buffalo Bills in San Francisco be one? The answer is yes. We all know that anything can happen in this league, as any number of cliche can attest, but the Bills are primed for the 49ers to beat. Three reasons jump out at you. Turnovers, lack of consistency on defense and key injuries are setting the Bills up for a hard task. Add in a cross country trip to a hostile and energized stadium and you're left a Bills with little chance of walking out of Candlestick as winners
Few teams have been as careless with the ball as the Bills. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is tied for second in the league in interceptions. All seven of his interceptions have come in the Bills two losses, which happen to be the two games they have played against ball-hawking defenses. It should be noted that Fitzpatrick also leads the league in touchdown passes, and it shouldn't be a surprise if he throws for a couple against the 49ers. Aside from the interceptions, the Bills have also been fumble prone. Both Fitzpatrick and breakout running back C.J. Spiller have fumbled twice this year. The 49ers haven't caused turnovers at the same rate as last year, but the Bills propensity to give the ball away has led to both the Jets and Patriots setting season-highs for turnovers in their victories over the Bills, and expect the 49ers to do the same.
The Bills' defense ranks near the bottom of the league in quite a few key categories. They are 30th in points against, 27th in yards against and 28th in rushing yards against, 29th in first downs against and 26th in third down defense. The Patriots game last week skewed a lot of these stats but the New England Patriots are the only good team the Bills have faced. The Bills have beaten a Cleveland team that looks headed for the No. 1 draft pick and a Kansas City Chiefs team that is losing the turnover battle on the season 15-2. Outside of Tom Brady, the other three quarterbacks they've faced are in the bottom four in the league in quarterback rating. Yet the Bills are still managing to look bad on defense. The 49ers rarely turn the ball over and shouldn't be expected to here, and with any kind of field position, they should be able to put points on the board fairly easily. Third down conversion has been a sore spot for the 49ers, but with the Bills near the bottom in defending third downs you can expect the 49ers to complete a higher percentage than what they have so far in the first quarter of the 2012 season. Short fields plus a string of first downs turns field goals into touchdowns, and that's exactly what the Bills have to offer.
The third thing conspiring against the Buffalo Bills are injuries. The Bills have had more than their fair share of injuries starting off the season, while the 49ers go into the game with nearly all guns blazing. For the Bills, they have five players already on the injured reserve or PUP list. Their top two running backs have missed snaps this year. Fred Jackson missed two games and C.J. Spiller missed most of game 3 against Cleveland after going down with an injury in the first half. Jackson has been ineffective all year while Spiller excelled in the first two games, but has had 49 yards combined in the last two games. If the Bills are unable to establish a run game against the 49ers heralded run defense then they will have to rely on the pass. Which only brings us to more injuries. Two starters on the offensive line, Cordy Glenn and Kraig Urbik, are out for Sunday's game. Chad Rinehart, Urbik's replacement, is questionable as well. The 49ers' should be able to get enough pressure without bringing extra people, forcing Ryan Fitzpatrick to make harried throws into a defense with seven men back in coverage. That hasn't worked out well for the Bills to date. TE Scott Chandler and WR Donald Jones are two of Fitzpatrick's favorite targets and are listed as probable, while WR Ruvell Martin is questionable. It all adds up to a Bills team with a lot of bumps and bruises at the skill positions going up against one of the league's hardest hitting defenses.
The Bills haven't won out West since 2004 and I don't expect them to now. When they leave Candlestick they face an Arizona Cardinals team in Phoenix that will be looking to avenge this week's upset loss to the Rams on Thursday night and they could very easily go home at 2-4. The defense's inconsistencies, combined with Ryan Fitzpatrick's turnover-prone play will leave the Bills with very little margin for error. An injured offensive line going up against Justin Smith, Aldon Smith and the rest of the 49ers' defensive front is a battle that few teams could win. The 49ers standard recipe for victory fits perfectly with the Bills weaknesses . The Bills just don't have the roster to compete with the Niners at the best of times and, with injuries at the positions the 49ers are best able to exploit, the 49ers should win this one easily. Chan Gailey might even end up on the hot seat if his Bills, following last week's meltdown at home against the Pats, fail to have a good showing. Expectations were high this season, and the year is close to slipping away for the Bills.