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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Week 12 Preview: 3 Key Matchups to Watch During Chargers vs. Bills

Coming off a much needed bye week, the Buffalo Bills look to shake off the heartbreaking defeat they suffered at the hands of DeAndre Hopkins in Week 10. When asked about the emotional toll of the game-winning “Hail Murray”, Bills HC Sean McDermott said “One pass is not going to define our season…we’ve moved on from it.” The Bills have now turned the page from one Murray to another, as they prepare to take on rising star rookie linebacker Kenneth Murray of the Los Angeles Chargers. Despite sporting just a 3-7 record, the Chargers do possess a top 3 offense and rank just outside the top 10 in total defense this season. Led by a rookie sensation in QB Justin Herbert, the Chargers passing attack is certainly one to be wary of this weekend. Los Angeles has kept every game close this season, though they have struggled to close out most of those games. With a long flight ahead of them, it will be interesting to see how the Chargers come out of the gates on Sunday, especially since the Rams fell behind 28-3 to Buffalo after making the same trip in Week 3. In addition to the exciting battle between two young star QB’s, this game features a beautiful uniform matchup as the Bills will don their throwback threads against LA’s brand new navy blue alternates. One thing is for certain, this game will be easy on the eyes for fans of all teams.

Key Matchups

1. Cole Beasley vs. Chris Harris Jr.

While Stefon Diggs has gained most of the national attention for his performance, and deservedly so, Bills slot receiver Cole Beasley is quietly putting together a career year in his 9th NFL season. As Diggs said, “Cole Beasley is always open”, and that could not be any more true. Beasley has put on a route-running clinic all season long, shaking some of the league’s best corners out of their cleats with his swift footwork. Josh Allen has not hesitated to look Beasley’s way in crunch time, including last week when number 11 flashed a spectacular one-handed grab to pick up a clutch 3rd down conversion. Though their late go-ahead TD drive did not result in a W, it was another promising sign of what this offense is capable of. This season, Beasley is on pace for career-best marks in targets, receptions, and yards. Meanwhile, Stefon Diggs is on a record-setting pace of his own, on his way to potentially shatter the Bills single-season receiving yards record set by Eric Moulds in 1998. The sky’s the limit for this Bills offense, even with John Brown being ruled out while he battles through an ankle injury. On the other side, the Chargers are preparing to welcome back star slot-cornerback Chris Harris Jr. after being placed on IR since Week 3. In his absence, Tevaughn Campbell has filled in nicely, but the Chargers are certainly happy to welcome back the four-time Pro Bowler whom they brought in this offseason. This matchup features two of the league’s best at their respective positions, so it will certainly be one to keep an eye on this Sunday.

2. Tre’Davious White vs. Keenan Allen

After facing two superstar wideouts in DK Metcalf and DeAndre Hopkins in back-to-back games, the competition does not get any easier as one of the game’s savviest route-runners in Keenan Allen arrives this weekend. Allen has developed great chemistry with his rookie QB, coming off a game in which he set a franchise record in receptions with 16 against the Jets last week. Bills CB Tre’Davious White has not had the same eventful season stat-wise that he had last year, but his production has started to pick up recently with his first interception and fumble recovery of the season. Much like the matchup between Beasley in Harris, this one features two of the league’s very best. Keeping Allen quiet should be a priority for the Bills defensively and will be a challenge that White is willing to embrace. Hebert looks Allen’s way frequently, so fans should expect a much more active game from Tre White this weekend.

3. Dion Dawkins/Darryl Williams vs. Joey Bosa

Offensive lineman never get enough credit when they do their job effectively, but a huge factor in the success of the Bills passing offense this season has been the stellar tackle play from both Dion Dawkins and Darryl Williams. Dawkins continues to prove the Bills front office right for handing him an extension prior to the season, while Williams seems to have regained his form from his Carolina days prior to his injury problems. The two have a tough task ahead of them this weekend as the Chargers carry one of the league’s most dominant pass rusher. Joey Bosa has terrorized opposing quarterbacks since he was drafted with the third overall pick in the 2016 Draft. Bosa has recorded double digit sacks every season he has been in the league except 2018 when he experienced a season ending injury. Paired with Melvin Ingram, the two have consistently generated pressure on both sides of the line for the past few seasons. Ingram has not had his usual success statistically this season, but it will not matter this week after he was already ruled out with a knee injury. Additionally, backup DE Uchenna Nwosu has also been ruled out, meaning former Notre Dame lineman Isaac Rochell is likely next in line to step up in their absence. The Chargers have utilized Bosa on both sides of the line as recently as last week, so there is a great chance that both Dawkins and Williams match up with him at some point. The Bills will need Dawkins and Williams to continue their strong play to keep Josh Allen upright this week as the interior o-line still tries to find the best combination for them.

Thanks to a Denver Broncos upset victory over the Miami Dolphins last Sunday, the Bills still have some breathing room on the division leaderboard. However, the pressure is still on to deliver and finally reclaim the division title for the first time since 1995. Considering that there are only 6 games left to play in the regular season, the Bills are very much in the driver’s seat as long as they continue to stack up W’s in the final stretch. This Sunday’s game may end up being closer than most expect, but if Josh Allen continues to deliver in the clutch like he has been all season long, they should have a very good chance of moving to 8-3 for the second season in a row.

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