At 6-5, the Buffalo Bills are a deceptive team.
They don’t rank among the AFC’s leading contenders for a championship, and their passing attack ranks last in the NFL.
Yet the Bills have playmakers on both sides of the ball and their running game is the best in the league. The Bills this season have some impressive victories against the Cardinals, Patriots, Bengals and Dolphins.
If the Raiders want to get their 10th win Sunday, the Oakland defense will have to stop the running game and force quarterback Tyrod Taylor to throw. Then, the Bills will be especially vulnerable because Taylor already has been sacked 30 times.
Taylor, however, is one of the reasons the Bills move the ball so well on the ground. He’s one of the NFL’s best running quarterbacks, with 439 yards, five TDs and an average of 6.3 yards per carry. Former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy has been terrific, with 819 yards and nine TDs and No. 2 back Mike Gillslee has 326 yards rushing and four scores.
Raiders defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. says the entire Raiders defense will have to play together and have no letdowns if it wants to stop the Bills from running the ball.
“Everybody understands it’s a disciplined type game plan,” he told reporters this week. “It’s a disciplined type team you’re playing. You have to be connected across the board. McCoy is a type of runner, he can start to the right and he could end up on the left.
“It kind of reminds you of the old days, Barry Sanders. He could be anywhere. It’s important each player who’s involved in the defense and in charge of the gap, you have to be solid, you have to (be) sound and you have to be disciplined and understand that we’re all connected. Everybody plays together. Not one guy tackles him. The whole unit is responsible for the running game.”
The Raiders defense was poor early this season but has made steady improvements. The NFL Network noted this week that over the past six games, Oakland’s defense ranks 10th in the league.
Overall, the Raiders still aren’t where they want to be against the run, giving up 116.9 yards per game (26th in the league). But, while the Raiders have given up 275 points this season (10th worst in the NFL), they have been better in the fourth quarter of close games, allowing quarterback Derek Carr and the offense to pull out several tight victories en route to a 9-2 record.
Over the final three minutes of games this season, Oakland has outscored its opponents 39-0.
Oddsmakers have made the Raiders 3½-point favorites for Sunday’s game. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.