Saints vs. Bills 2013 Scouting the Enemy

Rick Stewart

In anticipation of the Saints' matchup against the Bills in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, I caught up with SB Nation's resident Bills expert, Brian Galliford, from Buffalo Rumblings to get his inside perspective on the Saints' upcoming opponent.

Dave Cariello: The Bills defense isn't great overall statistically on paper, but they're sneaky good and to be respected, including a great pass rush and a good secondary. What's the best way for the Saints' offense to attack?

Brian Galliford: Buffalo is vulnerable against the run - they really struggled in that department in last week's win over Miami - and have given up 10 passing plays of 40 or more yards, so they're susceptible to the big play, as well. They make up for some of their liabilities with scheme: Mike Pettine is a Rex Ryan disciple (Buffalo's defense looks quite similar to the one the Saints run under Rex's brother, Rob), and his attack is geared to try to confuse and pressure opposing quarterbacks. The Bills lead the NFL with 12 interceptions in seven games, and are tied for fourth with 23 sacks. New Orleans' charge is fairly simple: they need to study Pettine's pressure and coverage tendencies, and try to stay ahead of the curve as Pettine tries to scheme the Saints into mistakes. If Sean Payton can win the chess match, the Saints will be able to break off big chunks of yardage, even if Jimmy Graham doesn't play.

***

Dave: Both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are dealing with respective injuries. Who do you expect to be taking handoffs for the Bills on Sunday?

Brian: The Bills have been using three backs, kind of like the Saints do, with the two top runners dinged. If Spiller plays, his role will be limited to 15-20 plays and a smaller number of touches. Fred Jackson will probably play roughly half of the snaps, with Tashard Choice filling in on the rest. Buffalo has had one of the most productive and consistent rushing offenses this year, but they're coming off a season-worst performance in that category (90 yards against Miami), and that's due in part to the aforementioned injuries.

***

Dave: Are you comfortable with Thad Lewis starting this game? Will Matt Flynn ever get a chance?

Brian: The only way Matt Flynn gets into a game for Buffalo is if Thad Lewis gets hurt and the coaches are comfortable enough to make him the game day backup over rookie Jeff Tuel. That didn't happen last week - Flynn was inactive - so I wouldn't expect to see him any time soon (and, hopefully, we'll never see him in action). As for my comfort level with Lewis - he's been efficient for stretches and is a gamer, but he also takes way too many sacks and is as haphazard as you'd expect a backup to be. Bottom line: the sooner EJ Manuel is healthy, the better.

***

Dave: How's head coach Doug Marrone working out for ya?

Brian: So far, so good. The Bills are 3-4, but have played a consistent, competitive brand of football every week. Buffalo hasn't made the playoffs since the 1999 season, so we are intimately familiar with what a bad football team looks like up here in Western New York. The 2013 Bills are most definitely not a bad football team. Whether or not they're good is another question entirely, and we may not know more on that front until Manuel is back in the lineup. But even baby steps are progress, and players have very clearly bought what Marrone is selling.

***

Dave: Tell me about a Bills player that Saints fans probably don't know about but might have an impact on the game.

Brian: If backup tight end Lee Smith has an impact on Sunday's game, Saints fans will notice only through the lens of New Orleans not generating much pressure on Lewis. When the Bills played the Jets in Week 3 against Rex Ryan, Smith played 67 out of a possible 84 snaps, serving as an extra blocker against Ryan's pressure fronts. The Jets still generated a good amount of pressure on Manuel that day, but it's tough to envision Buffalo's game plan changing much: you'll see No. 85 on the field a lot on Sunday as an additional blocker. Pass protection is a strong suit of his, and if he performs better than he did in New York, the Bills might just buy Lewis enough time to make a few plays.

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