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Green Bay vs. Buffalo Prediction: Scuffling Packers Seek to Stop Bills' Stampede on SNF

Reigning back-to-back MVP shares the prime-time spotlight with this season's front-runner.

When NFL schedule-makers planned for the Packers and Bills to meet on "Sunday Night Football" in Week 8, it seemed like the perfect choice.

Back-to-back MVP against the Super Bowl favorite in prime time. What could go wrong?

Well, things have gotten almost exactly as hoped for Buffalo, whose only blemish was a loss at Miami in extreme heat. Green Bay, on the other hand, is not even on pace to make the playoffs.

Related: Expert Picks for Every Week 8 NFL Game

After three straight upset losses — to the Giants, Jets, and Commanders — the Packers (3-4) are struggling to find an identity and trail the Vikings in the NFC North by 2.5 games. They are 23rd in the NFL in scoring and desperately hope that Aaron Rodgers can rescue their lost offense. 

Buffalo (5-1), meanwhile, had a week off after an emotional win over Kansas City that effectively provided them a two-game cushion in the race for the AFC's No. 1 seed. With the top-ranked total offense and total defense, it's no exaggeration to say that they're the class of the NFL.

This may not be the competitive game the NFL hoped it would be at the start of the year. The 11.5-point line is the largest of the week. But at minimum, with two of the most exciting quarterbacks of the last few years facing off, there will be plenty of storylines with this game.

Sunday Night Football: Green Bay (3-4) at Buffalo (5-1)

Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 30 at 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: Bills -11.5
Tickets: As low as $234 on SITickets.com*

Three Things to Watch

1. No. 1 passing attack vs. No. 1 pass defense
After adding more weapons — with potentially more to come — the Bills have the top passing attack in the NFL. They rank first in yards per game (323.0) and net yards per attempt (7.6) while only trailing the Chiefs in touchdowns (17).

But Sunday night will be their biggest test yet as they face off against a talented Packers secondary. Green Bay is holding opponents to a league-low 168.9 passing yards per game and has yet to give up 270 yards to any opponent. 

Something will clearly have to give, but one interesting aspect of the Packers' defense is that for all of their success, they only have two interceptions. This after recording 18 last season, including five from Rasul Douglas in 12 games.

A key matchup to watch in this case will be Jaire Alexander, who will likely be on Stefon Diggs. Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry has left Alexander to shadow the other team's best receiver in recent weeks rather than leave him on one side of the field, and minimizing Diggs' impact after he brought in 10 catches for 148 yards and a score in the Week 6 win over Kansas City would be critical.

2. What is left of the Packers' passing attack?
Green Bay's passing attack looks like a shell of its old self after trading Davante Adams over the offseason — actually grading out as below-average. Rodgers has a career-worst 6.5 yards per attempt and is in the midst of a massive drop-off in touchdown rate (down to 4.5 percent).

Green Bay is still looking for a No. 1 receiver, and arguably Rodgers' current favorite target, Allen Lazard, is out with a shoulder injury. What's left is tight end Robert Tonyan (30. rec., 251 yds., TD), Sammy Watkins (8, 147), along with rookies Romeo Doubs (26, 234, 2) and Christian Watson (7, 52). Buffalo's secondary is not healthy, missing top corner Tre'Davious White and safety Micah Hyde, but Green Bay would be able to more easily exploit that if they had a dominant X receiver.

Instead, the Packers' top passing options are likely going to be running backs Aaron Jones and (to a lesser extent) AJ Dillon. Jones is second on the team in targets and finally saw more than five last week (10) for the first time all season.

Here's the problem, though: The Bills are one of the best teams at limiting pass-catching back. Last season, they held opposing RBs to a league-low 57 receptions and just 495 yards. They've been nearly as stingy this season thanks to several upgrades on defense, which will force Green Bay to get creative.

3. Can Green Bay bring pressure with just four players?
Passing and scoring are down across the league, but one thing remains clear: it's going to be nearly impossible to stop elite quarterbacks like Josh Allen without being able to bring pressure with four players. Send more blitzers, and you run the risk of getting burned deep. 

Green Bay has been able to bring pressure this season, ranking fourth in the NFL with a 27.1 percent pressure rate. But it's also largely thanks to them being one of the most blitz-heavy teams, at 34.0 percent (fourth). Threading that needle will be perhaps the team's biggest challenge of the day.

The Packers have plenty of talented pass rushers, but the biggest focus will be on Rashan Gary, who is tied for fifth in the league with six sacks and seventh with a 25 percent pressure rate. Kenny Clark also rates third among defensive tackles with a 20 percent pressure rate. Of note, Buffalo will be without right tackle Spencer Brown, who exited last week's game with an ankle injury and did not practice this week.

Final Analysis

It's going to be challenging for the Packers to keep up with the Bills, especially since Buffalo sports the NFL's best run defense. We're talking about needing a vintage Rodgers performance, and considering his lack of weapons and track record this season, that seems unlikely. Perhaps Green Bay can squeak out a win in a low-scoring affair, but, with an extra week to prepare, this game seems ripe for a Bills blowout.

Prediction: Bills 27, Packers 10

*Price as of publication.