Who are the Buffalo Bills?
One of the upstart teams this season, the Bills are 5-1 with their only loss a six-point defeat at the hands of the undefeated New England Patriots. It is, however, the Patriots' only win that wasn't by double digits.
On the flip side, the record of the teams that the Bills defeated is a combined 6-27. Still, the Bills have found a way to get the better of their opponents.
From an advanced metrics standpoint, the Bills rank 21st in the league in team DVOA, according to Football Outsiders. The offense averages 20.2 points per game, good for 22nd in the league, but the defense is stingy, allowing just 15.2 per game, the third-best mark.
From a team-building standpoint, the Bills are very similar to the Carolina Panthers, which shouldn't come as a surprise since head coach Sean McDermott was the defensive coordinator in Carolina (as well as Philadelphia) for six seasons.
Starting with the offense, second-year quarterback Josh Allen has a lot of the same traits as Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Allen has a strong arm and he'll use it to thread the ball into tight spaces. Allen will also beat you with his legs on both scrambles and designed runs. Allen is second on the team with 190 rushing yards and actually leads the team with three rushing scores.
An interesting stat from Pro Football Focus regarding Allen, he is the NFL's top passer on short-to-intermediate throws, fewer than 20 yards. But Allen is the lowest-graded quarterback on throws of 20-plus yards.
The offense, under coordinator Brian Daboll, utilizes creative run game concepts, similar to Carolina, that will force the Eagles to be disciplined. The tireless Frank Gore is the lead back and at 36 years old, Gore is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, pacing the Bills with 388 yards on the season. The Bills used a third-round pick on Devin Singletary, a big-play threat out of the backfield. Slowed down a bit by injury, Singletary has just 153 yards, but is averaging 9.0 yards per pop.
The Bills paired Allen's arm talent with wide receiver John Brown, who has the speed to stretch a defense. Brown has 473 yards on 33 catches and two touchdowns. Brown has been consistent, as he's one of just two players (New Orleans' Michael Thomas) with at least 50 receiving yards in every game this season. Former Dallas Cowboy Cole Beasley (30 rec., 283 yards) still operates out of the slot. Rookie third-round pick Dawson Knox is the top pass-catching option at tight end with 12 catches for 178 yards.
Now, how about the defense? McDermott learned under Jim Johnson in Philadelphia before taking over for him as the team's defensive coordinator in 2009. McDermott doesn't rely on the blitz the way Johnson did, but he's got tremendous talent to work with at all three levels of the defense. And this is a unit that doesn't give up a ton of points, nor does it allow a lot of explosive plays.
How can the Eagles succeed?
It's going to have to start up front as the Bills rank 22nd in sacks per pass attempt and 10th in rushing yards allowed per game. First-round pick defensive tackle Ed Oliver is coming off his best performance to date against the Miami Dolphins, but he's been a rotational player early because of his penchant for getting beat against the run. When matched up with right guard Brandon Brooks, this is one that the Pro Bowl lineman should come out on top.
Last week, the Dolphins were able to have success against the Bills converting 7 of 13 third-down opportunities, 3 of 4 chances in the red zone, and outgaining the Bills in both yardage (381-305) and first downs (24-17).
Trent Murphy, Jerry Hughes, and Shaq Lawson are the primary edge rushers, but tackle Jordan Phillips leads the team with four sacks on the year. Former Carolina Panther Star Lotulelei provides a run-stuffing presence along the interior.
Last year's first-round pick Tremaine Edmunds highlights a quality linebacker group along with veteran Lorenzo Alexander and an under-the-radar player in Matt Milano, who is questionable for Sunday's game.
The secondary is outstanding, led by former first-round pick Tre'Davious White, the reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Week, at cornerback. Expect the Eagles to focus their throws in the pass game at Levi Wallace on the opposite side of White. Safeties Jordan Poyer, a former Eagles draft pick, and Micah Hyde are a very good 1-2 punch at the position with their chemistry and ability to play off of one another.
The Eagles will have one healthy scratch Sunday against the Buffalo Bills as six players were ruled out on Friday due to injury: linebacker Nigel Bradham (ankle), wide receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen), defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (foot), cornerback Avonte Maddox (concussion, neck), tackle Jason Peters (knee), and running back Darren Sproles (quadricep).
Everyone else is good to go.
For the Bills, five players are questionable, including starting linebacker Matt Milano (hamstring), left guard Quinton Spain (foot), and wide receiver Duke Williams (shoulder).
THIS AND THAT
Jim Schwartz raves about Jalen Mills' return
Jalen Mills made his return from nearly a full year off the field, one that had its ups and downs – the Eagles lost, of course, and that's the downer, but he also stayed healthy, was competitive, and had a late-game interception that drew the attention of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
"Jalen has worked extremely hard to work out on the side, but he's been working with trainers. He hasn't been able to work with his teammates. He hasn't been able to stand out there in walk-through," Schwartz said. "He's been great in the meetings, great in paying attention to all our stuff, but there is a big difference. He was able to get on the practice field last week and be able to go, but there are going to be some inconsistencies there. I think you can see that in his play. I will say this: his competitiveness showed though, and I think it showed no better than we had to go on the field on that short field, and they tried to ice the game right away. Three-score game with 10 minutes to play is still a game.
"They took a shot at the end zone and he made a great interception, one of the best interceptions I've seen around here in four years and gave us a chance. Didn't work out for us, but if we're able to get a score after that and make it a two-score game with about ten minutes to play, you're talking about a stop and a score and everything else."
Andre Dillard sets foundation for second start
First-round draft pick Andre Dillard made his starting debut on Sunday night at Dallas and played well at left tackle going against an array of veteran pass rushers in an adverse situation: The Eagles were in a 14-0 hole quickly and the Cowboys' pass rushers could pin their ears back and go after quarterback Carson Wentz.
Offensive coordinator Mike Groh liked what he saw from Dillard, understanding that there is plenty of room for growth.
"I think he did a really good job, commendable job under difficult circumstance playing against two really good rushers, or three really good rushers, guys that he matched up with down there in Dallas and acquitted himself very nicely," Groh said. "I think his confidence ought to grow as a result of his performance."
Nelson Agholor previews one of the league's top cornerbacks
Wide receiver Nelson Agholor has all the respect in the world for Buffalo cornerback Tre'Davious White, the reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Week. White, a first-round draft pick in 2017, has blossomed into one of the game's best cornerbacks. Agholor and the Eagles' receiving corps have a challenge ahead on Sunday.
"He's got good feet, he plays the ball well, and we have to be prepared for him," Agholor said. "They do a good job of communicating, starting with the two safeties (Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer) on the back end and they have a good feel for playing with each other. They trust White and he goes out there and makes plays. It's going to be fun going against those guys."
Defense prepares for Buffalo running game
This one won't be a breeze. The Eagles' defense knows it has to stop the run, first and foremost, against the Bills on Sunday. Buffalo will run, no matter the situation.
And it's the way they run that has caught the attention of the defense.
"They're really creative," defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. "We have to prepare for everything. We didn't do a good job of stopping the run last week (against Dallas) so we expect them to try to run the ball a lot. We had poor tackling – it was just one of those games for us. This week, it will change. The guys will really focus on getting the running back on the ground – or whomever will run the ball for them. We know their quarterback (Josh Allen) likes to run it and keeps it on designed plays. It's a challenge."
BY THE NUMBERS
50: The Bills have a better record, but the Eagles have scored 50 more points than Buffalo this season.
48.4: The Eagles' third-down success rate of 48.4 percent is the fifth-best in the league.
10: Quarterback Carson Wentz is tied with Seattle's Russell Wilson for the longest active streak of 10 straight games with at least one touchdown pass.
36: The Eagles' defense has produced 36 tackles for loss, tied for the second most in the league.
19: Only four NFC teams have scored more touchdowns than the Eagles' 19 this season.
1993: The Buffalo Bills are trying to become 6-1 for the first time since 1993.
91: Going back to 1993, the 91 points allowed by the Bills is the fewest through six games since that season.
139.6: Bills quarterback Josh Allen has the league's best passer rating in the fourth quarter this season.
50: Bills wide receiver John Brown is one of just two players (New Orleans' Michael Thomas) to have at least 50 yards receiving in every game this season.
68.8: The Bills' red zone offense is second in the league with a 68.8 percent success rate.
18: The Bills have allowed fewer than 400 yards to an opposing offense in an NFL-best 18-game streak.
40: The Bills have not allowed a touchdown pass of 40 or more yards in 40 straight games, dating back to October 8, 2017.