Packers vs. Bills: 5 Things to Watch and a Prediction

Five things to watch and a prediction for the Packers' Week 15 matchup with the Bills. 

After four of five games at the friendly confines of Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers (10-3) will go on the road to play the Buffalo Bills (7-6) at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Week 15. 

 

1. Finale Primer

Could the Packers ask for a better tune up before facing the Detroit Lions in Week 17? The Bills and Lions are very similar: destructive front four, athletic linebackers and a good enough secondary. Buffalo might actually be better up front, with three players already totaling 9.5 sacks (Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus and Jerry Hughes) this season. In general, the teams that have fared the best against the Packers offense have had front fours capable of consistently getting pressure without blitzing. That’s true for almost any offense-defense matchup, but it's especially important against Aaron Rodgers. Blitz him and you’re done. Get pressure with four and play max coverage and you have a chance. The Bills, as coordinated by former Lions coach Jim Schwartz, rarely blitz. It will be interesting to see how the Packers fare against a defense capable of pulling off the successful blueprint. Can Green Bay be the physical aggressor? The Lions will certainly be paying attention. 

 

2. Another Turnover Test

It seems like every week we talk about turnovers in this space, but the Packers have been historically good avoiding them and recent opponents have been heavily dependent on getting takeaways. The Bills are no different. Buffalo is currently second in the NFL in the all-important statistic with 28, including six over the last two games. The Bills are just 3-2 when getting at least three turnovers, so it can’t be considered one of those tell-all numbers. Still, Buffalo is averaging over two takeaways a game. The Packers haven’t had a turnover in four games, and are on pace for just 10 this season, which would tie the NFL record. Extending the spotless streak to five games would be a huge achievement Sunday. 

 

3. Redemption Opportunity

The Bills are 27th in yards per attempt (6.7) and yards per play (5.1) and 25th in rushing average (2.5). The Buffalo offense is one of the least efficient in football. Still, there will be a capable quarterback under center and a tough matchup at receiver. Sound familiar? Kyle Orton isn’t Matt Ryan and rookie Sammy Watkins isn’t quite Julio Jones, but the two probably liked what they saw on film from Green Bay’s second half against the Falcons. Was last Monday night just an aberration, the result of playing relaxed after another big half time lead? Or did Atlanta expose something in the Green Bay defense? Maybe Ryan just got hot and Jones wasn’t going to be stopped by any defense. You’d expect the Packers to put a better collective effort on the field against Orton and Watkins Sunday. 

 

4. Pressure Dropping 

This should be one of those games where Julius Peppers makes a sizable impact. He’ll be going head-to-head with rookie right tackle Seantrel Henderson, who is having a tough first season. Mike Daniels should also have a favorable matchup inside against a weak interior offensive line. The Packers simply weren’t good enough getting after the passer last week. Green Bay got a huge lead, knew Atlanta was going to pass and still couldn’t consistently pressure the Falcons quarterback. Another poor game rushing the passer would be concerning. Kyle Orton is one of the league’s least mobile quarterbacks, and his line has weak points all over. It’s time to starting turning up the heat on opposing passers. 

 

5. Homecoming for 44

The Packers list running back Eddie Lacy as probable with a hip injury, but it’s certainly possible he’ll be a limited participant in Week 15. A week of rest might be the best decision long term. If that’s the case, backup James Starks will become the featured back. The University of Buffalo product produced his finest game of the 2014 season against the Falcons, rushing 10 times for 75 yards—including a 41-yard scamper to finish off the contest—and catching two passes for 26 yards. The Bills are giving up 3.9 yards per carry and under 100 yards per game, both top-10 marks in the NFL. It’ll be tough sledding regardless of who is in the backfield for the Packers Sunday. If Lacy is limited or can’t go, expect a suddenly reborn Starks to carry the load. 

 

Prediction: Packers 21, Bills 20 (9-4)

The comparisons to the 2011 loss in Kansas City are real and worthy of discussion. It wouldn’t be completely shocking to see the Bills pull off a similar win. The difference here is Green Bay’s offensive line, a unit playing as well as any Packers line in the Rodgers era. A win in Buffalo would be one of the most impressive of Green Bay’s season, and that’s saying something. 

 

Zach Kruse contributes to Cheesehead TV. He is also the Lead Writer for the NFC North at Bleacher Report. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected].

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Comments (17)

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MarkinMadison's picture

December 12, 2014 at 11:19 pm

I don't think it will be that close. Packers by 14.

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lucky953's picture

December 12, 2014 at 11:57 pm

I like your confidence and hope you nail it, as Zachary makes a good comparison with Detroit, who I do think the Pack will stomp. But on the road, I'm feeling cautious at Packers 27-21.

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David Beyer's picture

December 12, 2014 at 11:53 pm

Buffalo has very little offense compared to all offense Packers. Not bad defense against very little offense. Greatest offense against very good defense. Packers by 17, something like 30 to 13.

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TommyG's picture

December 13, 2014 at 08:32 am

Two deep safety and a successful four man rush are our offense's Achilles heal. This one is going to be a win, but it is going to be very frustrating and very close. 22-19 Packers.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

December 13, 2014 at 09:20 am

The 2 deep safety help only hurts when Rodgers is only looking for the deep ball. If we can run - things shouldn't be too difficult to get the W. If we can spread em out and complete medium-to-short passes up and down the field (like against NE & ATL) - this shouldn't be too difficult to get the W. Rodgers (who has shown patience) just has to take what the Def, is giving (IF that D-Line is wrecking havoc).

On the flip side - our Defense BET NOT GIVE UP NO MORE THAN 17 POINTS!

I expect a good fight,but nothing too close. No real threat.

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4thand1's picture

December 14, 2014 at 06:28 am

The Bills shut down Manning last week. The Broncos ran all over them. The Packers watch film too.

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mcduff67's picture

December 13, 2014 at 10:20 am

The giant is stopping his way to the Super Bowl
The Pack 38 - Buffalo 16

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Mojo's picture

December 13, 2014 at 10:25 am

It's all on the 0-line in this game. If they play like they have recently - they win. But this will be their biggest test in some time. Buffalos d-line is legit. Rodgers won't have twelve seconds to survey the field. I have a feeling Masthay sees a lot more action this week.

Why do I get the feeling it's going to come down to something we haven't seen In a while - Crosby lining up a 45 yarder with a few seconds on the clock to decide the game.

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JimTaylor31's picture

December 13, 2014 at 11:24 am

I think Buffalo's defense keeps this one very close. Always tough to face a desparate team with a good defense on the road late in the season. We really need this game to avoid plying at Seattle down the road. I think the Packers win a close one: 27-23.

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Tundraboy's picture

December 13, 2014 at 06:10 pm

Tough game that I can't wait for. Won't be able to watch and will have to follow on CHTV, Aargh. Expect a lot of check downs to Lacy, which must be why he is active, screens, Play action and Starks to have a huge game.

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Big Moe's picture

December 14, 2014 at 12:22 am

I'm gonna Relax and enjoy the Packer victory 30-10 (The Bill's O just isn't good enough). GO PACK GO!!!!!!

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LAS VEGAS-TOM's picture

December 14, 2014 at 01:11 am

Hope you're right, but GB is up against a BIG TREND. They've Never won in Buffalo. I think the weather will help GB tomorrow. It's suppose to be 39 degrees, cloudy, & 15 % chance of rain. If we can keep the rain away, I think that will help GB.

The game started out GB -6. It's now down to GB -4 -4 1/2. That does not bode well for GB. That doesn't mean they will lose. I've said a number of times, it's hard to win betting GB. I hope the weather holds, & GB wins big. I Do Not want to see GB -2 against Detroit. LVT

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LAS VEGAS-TOM's picture

December 14, 2014 at 11:39 am

I'm not picking against GB, but Orton is a good QB too, & he has a Pretty Good record against GB. Rain is an Equalizer IMO, regardless of who's playing. It actually helps an Offense. I think GB wins the game, I hope they win it big. Keep in mind, They've Never Won in Buffalo, (Ever). I'm already looking at the spread for the Detroit game. I hope it's -6 or -7, not -2. LVT

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

December 14, 2014 at 01:28 am

Everyone talks about the sacks rung up by Buffalo's defensive line. That is true (12, 10, 9.5 and 5 sacks is a lot). But they each would be among the leaders in tackles at their positions as well. Hughes (45), Dareus (43), Kyle Williams (36) and Mario Williams (33) make a lot of tackles, and as you might expect, tackles made by defensive linemen tend to be near the line of scrimmage. That's 157 tackles by D-linemen. And they have 2 LBs with roughly 90 tackles each. By comparison (and we are talking apples to oranges since there are schematic differences), Daniels has 30 tackles, Guion 25, Datone 19, and Boyd 15. That is 89 tackles by GB's defensive line. We need a good performance from our offensive line this week. Can we run against 7 in the box? I am thinking 6 receptions by the TEs would go a long way to loosening up Buffalo's defense.

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LAS VEGAS-TOM's picture

December 14, 2014 at 01:38 am

I believe you're right. I think our passing is going to have to control the game. Anything that Lacy & Starks do will be a plus. I really think the weather is going to factor into this game. I'd love a Great Ground game, if we can get one. LVT

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4thand1's picture

December 14, 2014 at 06:40 am

Low scoring game. Packers need a game like this. Both teams have something to play for. Bills are still in the play off hunt in the AFC and the Packers want home field. Nail biter.

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Mario Willis's picture

December 14, 2014 at 08:40 am

I think the difference will be the PROBLEMS that the Bills have on their OFFENSIVE LINE Kyle Orton will not have time to set his feet all day. Our defense needs a grind out game.
Slow work on OFFENSE and a tired BUFFALO defense.

This will be a 2 half game. We have been winning the first half defensive battle all year. Late in games we seem to fall apart for me the stat to watch today is Time Of Possession...

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