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Spadaro: 6 storylines that will define this Bills vs. Eagles showdown

Jordan Mailata and Fletcher Cox
Jordan Mailata and Fletcher Cox

Kelly Green is back, the Buffalo Bills are in town, and the Eagles are prepped for an extremely important game on Sunday (4:25 PM, Lincoln Financial Field, CBS) as they look to push their record to 10-1 on a short work week.

We've got some storylines for you, and they are good ones as the 6-5 Bills fight for their playoff lives in the AFC ...

  1. Buffalo is a desperate football team coming to South Philadelphia

Things haven't quite yet played out the way Buffalo scripted the 2023 season, but that can change quickly for such a talented team that knows how to win. Buffalo is currently on the outside looking in when it comes to the AFC postseason picture with a 6-5 record, so the Bills know every game means so much to their chances. This is their final game before the bye week and the Bills are going to lay it all out on the line here. Don't ever underestimate the hunger a team in this position has. The Eagles, coming off a big win on Monday night, have to play good football from the start and perform with intensity against a team that knows it can't afford to lose many more games and reach the playoffs.

  1. The quarterbacks are as dynamic as any in the NFL

Josh Allen has accounted for 29 total touchdowns (22 passing, 7 rushing) to lead the league. Jalen Hurts is third with 24 (15 passing, 9 rushing), and their multiple-threat abilities stress defenses every which way. Mobile quarterbacks aren't anything new for the Eagles, who have faced Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes the last two games, but Allen (6-foot-5, 237 pounds) is something a bit different because he runs with power, he has no fear, and he can turn into a big running back in the open field. Plays are never dead with either of these quarterbacks, so the defenses that adjust and limit the running game and the ability to buy time with their feet have the advantage. Buffalo's defense leads the league in quarterback hits and ranks third in the NFL in quarterback sacks (39) and, conversely, the Bills are the best in the NFL at not allowing sacks – Allen has been decked just 14 times.

  1. Injuries are again a factor

We know that tight end Dallas Goedert will miss the game with his forearm injury and the Eagles go into this one minus defensive tackle Milton Williams (concussion) as well. He's been playing outstanding football, so the Eagles have to make up for his absence against an offense that features Allen, a very good running back/dual threat in James Cook (who averages 5 yards per carry and is only 61 yards away from 1,000 scrimmage yards), and big-play pass catchers in wide receiver Stefon Diggs (77 rec., 895 yards, 7 TDs) and tight end Dalton Kincaid (51 catches, 2 touchdowns).

Buffalo has suffered injuries at all three levels of the defense and enters this game with backups at both cornerback positions. Rasul Douglas, acquired by the Bills from Green Bay at the trade deadline, is a former Eagle and a player who gets his hands on the ball – he had two interceptions and a fumble recovery last week. He will start on one side. The Bills are likely to go with Taron Johnson at the other cornerback spot in place of Dane Jackson, who was injured last week in the win over the Jets.

  1. Ball security is vital – or else

The Bills have given up the football too much – 19 times in all – and that's something that has been much discussed throughout the season. However, the Bills are at the even mark in turnover differential because they hunt the football and then, here is the important part, they take advantage after taking the ball away.

Buffalo has scored 65 points off of 19 takeaways this season and that's the highest total in the NFL. So, yes, the Eagles must be secure with the football. It is always an important talking point and emphasis and so that doesn't change.

  1. This is so repetitive but, yes, the red zone means so much

The Eagles' offense has been on fire in the red zone lately, converting 81 percent of their trips in the last three games into touchdowns. Great, great stuff from Offensive Coordinator Brian Johnson and from the players for executing the calls. The defense forced two Kansas City turnovers on Monday night and that provided the winning margin in the 21-17 victory.

Buffalo is third in red zone efficiency offensively and a solid 10th in the red zone on defense. How many times do we need to be reminded of the importance of this statistic? Every week, probably. Sometimes, football isn't that tough to figure out.

  1. More numbers: The third-down winner could win the game

This is the story of two teams who get it done on third down: The Eagles lead the NFL with a 48.2 rate of conversion on third downs and Buffalo is a smidge behind that at 48.1. And here we are with maybe a leap of faith: The team that handles third down the best will win on Sunday? Don't know, just a thought.

For the record, the Eagles have converted 76.5 percent of their fourth downs and, when you consider the Eagles' offense, you have to take that into account.

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