Home NFL AFC TONY’S TAKE: FIVE THINGS TO LOOK FOR AGAINST CHICAGO

TONY’S TAKE: FIVE THINGS TO LOOK FOR AGAINST CHICAGO

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CHICAGO, IL – AUGUST 30: Buffalo Bills tight end Keith Towbridge (86) celebrates a game winning touchdown catch in the 4th quarter during an NFL preseason football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Chicago Bears on August 30, 2018, at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. The Bills won 28-27. (Photo by Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Welcome to Week Nine of the NFL season. Here at 300 Level Media, we will attempt to inform and educate our readers about the Buffalo Bills’ upcoming opponent and what each team might do to emerge victorious.

The Bills’ ninth game of the 2018 season will take place at New Era Field as they battle the Chicago Bears. Here’s what to watch for:

BILLS’ DEFENSE BACK ON THE UPSWING

After laying an egg against the Indianapolis Colts in Week Seven, the Bills’ defensive unit knew they would have to step up their game in a big way if they were going to compete with the New England Patriots on Monday night.

They did just that, limiting the Pats to just 12 points through the game’s first three quarters and also allowing Tom Brady and company to convert just five of 14 third down opportunities. As alluded to last week, the Bills’ best chance of having success against Brady was to create an effective pass rush with just four men and play stifling coverage on the back end, especially in man coverage. They did just that, even without defensive end Trent Murphy out of the lineup (he was replaced in nickel packages by Lorenzo Alexander).

Despite not getting much help from their counterparts on the other side of the ball, the Bills’ sixth-ranked defense put forth perhaps their best effort of the season and kept them in the game for three quarters. Now come the Chicago Bears, which will present a different challenge. Watch for Buffalo to bring even more pressure on a Bears offensive line that will be missing guard Kyle Long due to injury and also to test young quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s patience in the pocket.

BILLS’ OFFENSIVE WOES CONTINUE

Another week, another signal-caller under center for the Buffalo Bills. With Derek Anderson in concussion protocol, second-year man Nathan Peterman will get the starting nod.

Buffalo fans are likely shuddering at the possibility, given Peterman’s historic ineptitude and penchant for turning the ball over. With Peterman under center – and no consistent running game in which to speak of – it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Bears’ defense have eight defenders near the line of scrimmage, daring Peterman to beat them with his arm.

The good news for the Bills is that they finally brought in a wide receiver who has shown an ability to get open vertically in Terrelle Pryor. Pryor, a former quarterback who has bounced around the league between Oakland, Cleveland, Washington and the New York Jets, has turned into a decent wideout with some speed.

MONSTERS OF THE MIDWAY ARE BACK

When John Fox was hired as the Bears’ head coach in 2015, he brought along former 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio with him to mold that side of the ball. Fangio, a onetime protégé of Dom Capers and Jim Mora, had built a dominating unit in San Francisco, helping Jim Harbaugh and company reach three consecutive NFC championship game appearances and a berth in Super Bowl XLVII.

Transitioning Chicago to an effective 3-4 defense has taken some time over the last few years, but it’s been well worth the wait. The drafting of players like Eddie Goldman, Roquan Smith, Leonard Floyd and Kyle Fuller, and the acquisitions of players like former Raider and UB alum Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks has turned the Bears from a bottom-feeder to an elite outfit that would make past Bear defenders proud.

While Fangio, who was retained by Matt Nagy, doesn’t like to blitz much – relying on a four-man pass rush most of the time – he does heavily employ well-disguised zone concepts. With Mack and Floyd adept at both rushing opposing signal-callers and dropping into coverage, Fangio has a lot of chess pieces at his disposal. They’ve paid off so far with 11 interceptions through seven games and are ranked seventh in yards allowed.

BEARS’ OFFENSE A MIX OF OLD AND NEW IDEAS

Nagy, a former offensive coordinator for Andy Reid in Kansas City, has brought an intriguing version of the West Coast offense to the Windy City. According to the MMQB’s Andy Benoit, “(Nagy’s) system features the misdirection, presnap motioning and multi-option plays that are now in vogue. Nagy aims to isolate specific defenders (often linebackers) and present them with run/pass assignment conflicts. He also gets defenders flowing one way as the ball goes another.”

Trubisky, in his second year out of the University of North Carolina, reminds one of a mix between Jake Plummer and Kirk Cousins. While not extremely athletic nor having an elite arm, Trubisky has just enough of both traits in order to play effectively. He also is very good at play-action, is decently accurate has solid vision outside of the pocket, despite not being great at handling the timing and rhythm of the passing game.

Wide receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel are excellent vertical threats, while tight end Trey Burton possesses sure hands and good short-to-intermediate route running ability. Running back Jordan Howard is great at working off of inside and outside zone plays, and scatback Tarik Cohen – reminiscent of a young Darren Sproles – is used in Nagy’s misdirection concepts like the Chiefs use Tyreek Hill.

THIS AND THAT

  • Colton Schmidt will take over punting duties from rookie Corey Bojorquez while the latter recovers from injury. Schmidt was the Bills’ punter for four years prior to the start of this season.
  • The Bills’ offense is averaging just 10.9 points-per game, the third-worst output since 2000, 4.1 yards-per play (dead last in the league) and have had 33 offensive penalties, worst in the NFL.
  • Buffalo has also allowed 29 sacks in eight games, and is on pace to surrender 58 this season.

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