Bills look to gamble their unbeaten record against Raiders in Vegas
Ahhhh, there's nothing like a trip to Vegas. You know what that means; unbridled fun, some debauchery, a lot of off-the-record shenanigans, and of course going home with more capital than you came with.
Okay, I was kidding about that last one. Everyone knows that a trip to Vegas always means coming back with less than you brought. Is that what Buffalo has to look forward to? The unbeaten Bills will be the second visiting team to play in the giant Roomba known as Allegiant Stadium. You know, that Raiders stadium that does not have a Black Hole in the end zone?
But here is the important part, the Bills are 3-0. And in the last three years, NFL teams that started out 3-0 made the playoffs nine out of 12 times, seven won their division and three reached the Super Bowl. So you know what a win here would mean, right? It'd mean I have to look up more stats on the fate of teams that start out 4-0.
Buffalo at Las Vegas
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 4 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Buffalo -3
Three Things to Watch
1. An Old West shootout
Sure, this one comes out of the no-brainer department, especially when you consider the Bills are ranked third in the NFL in scoring at 31.0 points per game and the Raiders are ninth at 29.3. But you also have to couple that with some flimsy defense on both sides as the Bills relent 25.7 points per game and the Raiders give up 30.7. The two QBs in this game are precision tacticians, both connecting on better than 70 percent of their pass attempts — Josh Allen at 71 percent and Derek Carr at 74 percent — and are second and fifth in QB rating respectively. Expect these two to take advantage and make it rain points.
2. All apologies to Josh Allen
Last week in my preview for the Lions-Cardinals game, I mentioned four MVP quarterback candidates — Kyler Murray, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Patrick Mahomes. Man, did I ever screw up on not mentioning Josh Allen. Sure he can fling it with anyone, considering he's second in the NFL with 1,038 passing yards but did you see him running the option vs. the Rams? On their second scoring drive of the game, he ran the ball three straight times (twice on option keepers) to punch it in. That's pretty good athletic ability for a 6-foot-5, 240-pound pocket-style QB.
But also keep an eye on his long-throw game. In his first two seasons, Allen hit on 56 percent of his pass attempts, but just 25% of those that went further than 20 yards. This year? He's hitting on 73 percent overall and a stellar 78 percent of those bad boys that are beyond 20 yards. Ain't that somethin'? You know he has to be salivating in anticipation of facing that hither-and-yon Raiders D this week.
3. Tune in to Frazier
That doesn't mean the Bills defense is off the hook here either, especially in the second half where they have been outscored 63-34. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier really has to step up against a dangerous Raiders offense and make some better halftime adjustments. The pass defense that Carr will face has already allowed both Jared Goff and Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for more than 320 yards, so expect Carr to post similar numbers. For the Bills, cornerback Josh Norman could be back in the lineup for the first time this season, which should help things since his replacement, Levi Wallace, has been picked on a lot by opposing QBs. In addition, free safety Micah Hyde is listed as questionable for this week's game due to an ankle injury
These two quarterbacks are the dodgy, resourceful types who both grew up in the agricultural-centric central valley of California. Their resilient style of play should make this an interesting four-quarter affair. And don't just zero in on the QBs and the passing game, as both teams have begun to find some running lanes to balance out their offense. The Raiders have seen Josh Jacobs gain more than 70 rushing yards in all three games and the Bills have an emerging star in Devin Singletary, who totaled 121 yards from scrimmage in last week's close win over the Rams.
But if this one gets to being a white-knuckler, remember that Josh Allen has led the Bills to eight fourth-quarter comebacks over the last three years, which leads the entire NFL. Could this be the ninth? I say yes.
Prediction: Bills 38, Raiders 35
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.