Here are 10 things to know about today's Eagles-Bills matchup:
1. Ryan Fitzpatrick gets rid of the football. He's been sacked just two times all season, the least of any quarterback who's attempted at least 100 passes. What I noticed when watching last week's Bills-Bengals game was that Fitzpatrick is not afraid to throw to receivers who are covered; he lets them make plays. He'll also simply throw incomplete rather than take a sack. On the season, he's completing over 63 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Fitzpatrick has a 117.5 QB rating in the fourth quarter. Not a good sign for an Eagles defense that has consistently come up short in the final 15 minutes.
2. Fitzpatrick spreads the ball around. According to Football Outsiders, the Bills used four or five receivers on 25 percent of their plays last year, second-most in the league. And they went with an empty backfield 15.1 percent of the time, tops in the NFL. Fitzpatrick's favorite target is Steve Johnson, who's averaging 78.5 receiving yards per game.
3. Last week, Fitzpatrick was sacked once and hit six times. Left tackle Demetrius Bell got beat on one play, but Fitzpatrick got rid of the ball. Bell later gave up a sack in the third, but he's out with an injury Sunday. With Trent Cole out, rookie Chris Hairston will likely be lined up against Darryl Tapp, Jason Babin, Phillip Hunt and possibly Juqua Parker. Right tackle Erik Pears was beat on a play where Fitzpatrick was hit and threw incomplete. Pears was beat again later as Fitzpatrick scrambled up the middle on a third down.
4. Fitzpatrick is averaging 8.9 yards per attempt and completing over 60 percent of his passes against the blitz, according to Pro Football Focus. Last week, he beat a Bengals blitz with a 44-yard completion to Johnson. About 26 of those yards were after the catch. Opponents are averaging 10.5 yards per attempt and 24.9 yards per completion against the Eagles when they blitz. Last week, Fitzpatrick consistently looked to hit on big plays against extra pressure.
5. Look for the Bills to go to the screen on third downs. They ran a screen for ex-Jet Brad Smith that picked up 17 yards on one third down. And they ran two more screens on third downs to running back Fred Jackson. Jackson will line up all over the field. He could get lined up against Eagles linebackers out wide.
6. On the ground, Jackson is averaging 5.77 yards per carry, second to only Oakland's Darren McFadden among running backs with at least 30 attempts. Last week, he showed good patience and broke the tackle of a Bengals safety for a 21-yard gain. And later, a play Eagles fans probably aren't familiar with. Set up at the 2-yard line, the Bills handed the ball off to Jackson, their best running back, and he got in the end zone. A novel concept, huh? The Bills have scored touchdowns on 75 percent of their red-zone trips.
7. The Bills rank last in the NFL with just four sacks on the season. But they have some players in the front seven who are active. Chris Kelsay got some good pressure on Andy Dalton last week, but he's inactive. Rookie Marcell Dareus had his first career sack against the Bengals and also had a good pressure on third down. He'll likely get matched up with Danny Watkins, who's making his first career start.
8. In the secondary, teams have frequently targeted cornerback Leodis McKelvin. According to Pro Football Focus, McKelvin is allowing 20.2 yards per attempt, fifth-most in the NFL. Rookie A.J. Green made nice plays on the ball on two separate occasions last week, beating McKelvin for a 58-yard gain and a 40-yard gain. I counted at least two other times when Green had McKelvin beat, but Dalton couldn't connect. According to Football Outsiders, McKelvin allowed nine plays of 25+ yards last year.
9. The Bills' red-zone defense isn't quite as bad as the Eagles, but they are allowing opponents to score touchdowns on 66.7 percent of their trips inside the 20. That's 30th in the NFL. The Eagles are last (80 percent).
10. Opponents are averaging 4.9 yards per carry against the Bills, and they've allowed five runs of 20-plus yards. That's the same number as the Eagles. Buffalo is vulnerable to the big play, having allowed 17 pass plays of 20-plus yards, tied for fifth-most in the NFL.
Extra Points: The Eagles are tied for second in the NFL with 10 turnovers. The Bills have turned it over just four times. The Bills have a +7 turnover differential. The Eagles are a -6. That really tells the story of what kind of season each team has had so far.
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