Buffalo vs. New Orleans: How Can the Bills Upset the Saints?


Buffalo will have their hands full against a red hot New Orleans team

On Sunday, the 5-3 Buffalo Bills will square off against the 6-2 New Orleans Saints who enter the game following six consecutive wins. This represents just the 11th meeting between the two teams since 1973 with the Saints holding a 6-4 all time advantage over the Bills.

As of Thursday, Odds Shark has New Orleans favored by 3 points and the total over/under at 46.5. Buffalo will look to remain undefeated at home this year and improve their record to 5-0, something only the Philadelphia Eagles have accomplished thus far. However, this will be a difficult task as the Saints have been solid on the road with a 3-1 record and have Hall of Famer, Drew Brees, playing lights out as of late.

Drew Brees has been torching defenses this year

The Saints’ veteran quarterback has shown no signs of slowing down despite his 38 years of age. Through 8 games, Brees boasts a 71.6% completion rate (1st), 2,214 passing yards (5th), 13 touchdowns, and just 4 interceptions. The Bills’ secondary, which has been trending downward and ranks 26th with 250 yards allowed through the air per game, will be facing its toughest test this season.

"“Drew, I don’t think he’s a guy you can stop. I just think he’s a guy that you hope that you’re able to manage what he does.” — Bills’ coach, Sean McDermott on Drew Brees"

If historical performances mean anything, however, the Bills may have a few advantages. The following statistics taken from Pro Football Reference represent Brees’ win percentages in different scenarios that are applicable Sunday:

  • Games 1-8: 58.1%;  Games 9-16: 54%   (-4.1% change)
  • October games: 67.1%;  November games: 61%   (-6.1%)
  • Home:  61.2%;  Away:  52.1%  (-9.1%)
  • Playing in domes: 59.6%;  Playing outdoors:  54.2%  (-5.4%)

These may or may not mean all that much, but if you’re looking for something to keep you optimistic about the Bills’ chances, these should help.

TE Charles Clay could return Sunday

Some other good news for the Bills is that TE Charles Clay has been practicing this week which could be an indication their leading receiver will return to action against the Saints after suffering a knee injury back in week 4. CB E.J. Gaines has reportedly been practicing this week as well and is listed as probable for Sunday.

Unfortunately for Buffalo, WR Zay Jones and OL Cordy Glenn, yet again, did not practice Thursday which means it is doubtful we’ll see them on the field this week.

For New Orleans, OL Terron Armstead and S Kenny Vaccaro are currently listed as questionable. WR Michael Thomas was limited as practice Wednesday due to an ankle injury, but his official status is probable.

Four keys to a Buffalo victory

Continue the strong play at home: The Bills have undeniably been one of the NFL’s best home teams this year. Not only are the undefeated, but they’re beating the visitors by a 10.5 point margin on average. They’ve also scored at least 20 points in 13 straight home games which is the longest active streak league-wide and are averaging 27.8 points in this year alone.

The Bills will need to keep the same kind of positive energy that they had against Oakland when they “defended their dirt” two weeks ago:

Buffalo has also had noticeably more success on the ground at New Era Field. The Bills currently rank 2nd in the league with 151 rushing yards per game at home. They’ll need to attack a Saints defensive front who have surrendered 125 rushing yards per game while on the road which ranks 26th.

Expose New Orleans’ big play susceptibility: The Saints defense has ascended from the lowly depths it inhabited during the Rob Ryan years. They are currently 12th with 210.5 passing yards allowed per game and 9th with 19.4 points given up per game.

However, the defensive unit has been caught sleeping quite often this year as they have allowed 9 running plays for 20+ yards and 3 for 40+, each of which is the most given up by any team. They also have yielded 29 passing plays of 20+ yards which ranks 26th. This means the Bills should run the ball often, but change it up here and there with a deep ball.

Give Shady the ball: It may seem obvious, but Buffalo needs to find a way to get LeSean McCoy the ball. Even with him having a “down” year, the Bills are 5-1 in games in which he’s touched the football at least 20 times while they are 0-2 when he’s had less. It is certainly an injury risk given that the Bills don’t have much depth at running back, but their best bet to win is to get the ball in the hands of their most explosive offensive weapon.

Spread the ball around to the receivers: Newly acquired Kelvin Benjamin will see the field for the first time as a Bill this Sunday. Despite only seeing the playbook for a little over a week, he’ll need to contribute to open up Buffalo’s other receivers and allow Shady to break loose.

Benjamin will likely be covered by the Saints’ top corner, Marshon Lattimore. Though just a rookie, Lattimore has been outstanding for New Orleans so far this year.

However, Benjamin has a serious size advantage over the 6’0, 192 pound corner as he checks in at 6’5 and 243 pounds. He may not be able to create separation with his speed, but he should be able to out muscle him for a lot of passes should Tyrod Taylor simply throw it in his direction.

The Bills receiving corps will be perhaps at its strongest point this year as Benjamin, Clay, Jordan Matthews, and Deonte Thompson are all expected to play. Tyrod needs to spread the ball among them in order to keep a solid Saints pass defense honest.


27. 16. Final. 23. 15

This obviously will be a very tough game for Buffalo, but if they can execute the keys mentioned above, they have a chance. The Bills love being the underdog and they come in listed as such yet again with many analysts picking the Saints to win.

Buffalo will also be well rested after extended time off from a semi-bye week.

Next: Buffalo Bills at New York Jets: Risers and Fallers

The Bills offense will continue its strong performance at home while Drew Brees will be less effective due to the cold weather, Bills Mafia, and a defense coached by Sean McDermott who is very familiar with the Saints’ quarterback.