A rather intriguing battle of NFL division leaders is on tap in Upstate New York on Sunday as the Seattle Seahawks take on the Buffalo Bills. These two teams last met back in 2016 in Seattle as the Seahawks defeated the Bills 31-25 in a back-and-forth affair on "Monday Night Football."
Russell Wilson got back on track for the Seahawks (6-1), putting together an extremely efficient performance against a San Francisco defense that is pretty rugged even with all of the injuries suffered. Wilson completed 27 of 37 passes for 261 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions as the Seahawks defeated the 49ers 37-27. Another key to the victory was the pressure Seattle's defense put on Jimmy Garoppolo, sacking him three times and intercepting him once.
Garoppolo was pulled in the fourth quarter with the Seahawks leading 30-7 and was later diagnosed with a high ankle sprain. Nick Mullens replaced him and led the 49ers on several garbage-time drives but the game was already decided. Still, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. probably reminded the team about the need to finish out games.
For Buffalo, it wasn't easy but the team finally snapped its home losing streak to New England, beating the Patriots 24-21 last Sunday. The defense stepped up at the right time as Justin Zimmer recovered a Cam Newton fumble at the Buffalo 14-yard line with 31 seconds left to seal the Bills' first home win against the Patriots since 2011. This was a huge mental hurdle for Sean McDermott's team to get over as Buffalo (6-2) is firmly in the driver's seat in the AFC East. Miami is in the mix at 4-3 but with New England (2-5) already four games back in the win column, it sure seems like the Patriots' lengthy reign in the division will come to an end.
But for the Bills, it's about more than just winning the AFC East and if they are going to make any noise in the playoffs, Josh Allen will have to play more like he did at the start of the season than he has lately. Against New England, Allen was 11-for-18 for 154 yards and an interception. Those numbers won't get it done against the elite teams of the NFL, especially if that team has the player who many consider the front-runner for MVP.
Seattle at Buffalo
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. ET
Spread: Seahawks -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Russell Wilson vs. Josh Allen
Wilson is a top candidate for the league MVP as he has been putting on a clinic throwing the football all season. Allen got off to a great start but has struggled over the past couple of weeks as a passer. He still has the ability to make plays with his legs that can cause havoc for opposing defenses. For the Seahawks, this week will be another opportunity to continue to let Wilson cook on offense using his arm as the health of the running back room is still a bit of a problem. Wilson also should have success moving the chains on third down as the Bills are allowing teams to convert half of their opportunities.
Buffalo offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will have the challenge of putting Allen in a position to succeed throwing the football against a Seattle defense that will be getting some help this with the addition of Carlos Dunlap up front and the return of Jamal Adams to the secondary. Allen will need to take some early shots down the field to Stefon Diggs to test the Seahawks defensive backs, a group that has had a roller-coaster ride of a season. The Bills don't need Allen to be a superhero they just simply need him to play within himself and take what’s available in the passing game because there will be opportunities to make plays with his arm on Sunday.
2. Buffalo running game vs. Seattle Defense
Devin Singletary and Zack Moss did an outstanding job of grinding out yards on the grounds last week against New England. Singletary rushed for 86 yards on 14 carries while Moss went for 81 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. This was a much-needed boost for a running game that ranks 20th overall in the NFL with 108.6 rushing yards per game at the halfway point.
For the Seahawks, linebacker Bobby Wagner, who had 11 tackles and two sacks against San Francisco, played with a "pissed off" mentality according to head coach Pete Carroll. Following Wagner's lead, Seattle's defense limited the 49ers' normally productive running game to just 52 yards on 22 carries, albeit they scored twice on the ground and were without an injured Raheem Mostert. Still, that kind of effort will need to carry over to this week as Wagner and running mate K.J. Wright have the challenge of slowing down a Bills' ground attack that comes into this game with a little extra confidence following last week's performance. Buffalo's offensive line will be a little shorthanded, however, as center Mitch Morse was ruled out on Friday due to a concussion suffered last week.
3. Seahawks' offensive line vs. Bills' pass rush
Duane Brown and Ethan Pocic are underrated keys to success for the Seahawks offense as both guys have brought a stabilizing effect to the offensive line. Brown currently ranks fourth out of all tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, with a grade of 86.2. The ability to stay healthy has been a big plus for Brown as he battled his fair share of nagging injuries during the 2019 season. Pocic has stepped into the center position this season and has done a nice job of staying on the same page with Wilson to keep things rolling on offense.
The Bills have the ability to cause plenty of problems for opposing quarterbacks with 19 sacks in eight games. So you know head coach Sean McDermott will want his unit to stay aggressive and try and at least make Wilson uncomfortable in the pocket. Of course, Buffalo defenders also have to account for his ability to make things happen if he gets away. Either way, Seattle's front will need to play disciplined and avoid missed assignments or line calls so that the offense can stay on schedule and keep the Bills' D on its heels.
This game will be a great example of how the lack of a home-field advantage in 2020 can affect the outcome. If Bills Mafia was allowed into the stadium this week at even a reduced capacity, they would have been able to create some problems for Seattle on offense. Unfortunately, that is not the situation for this week as there won’t be fans in attendance and Buffalo is not explosive enough on offense to overcome mistakes by Josh Allen throwing the football against this Seahawks offense. Russell Wilson will put together another high-level performance, throwing the football and churn out about 50 or so yards with his legs on quarterback runs. Finally, the depth at wide receiver for Seattle will wear down the Bills' secondary to allow the visiting team to secure a fairly comfortable victory and improve to 7-1 on the year.
Prediction: Seahawks 38, Bills 28
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.