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6 things to watch for in Bills vs. Rams | Week 3



It's often theorized that it's difficult for clubs located on the West Coast to travel and play a Sunday game in the Eastern Time Zone, as games feel as though they are starting at 10 am their time. But NFL clubs based out west have made successful adjustments for the earlier start times for them.

So far this season West Coast clubs traveling to play teams in the Eastern Time Zone are 5-0 this season, with one win by each of the five teams that practice, eat and sleep three hours behind the teams they defeated. Over a longer stretch, since the beginning of 2019 and including playoffs, those teams are 20-4 (.833).

The Rams already made one cross-country trip just last week and beat the Eagles in Philadelphia 37-19. Their initial plan was to remain on the East Coast all week after the Eagles game and then play the Bills, but the COVID-19 pandemic compromised those plans.

But Rams head coach Sean McVay isn't concerned about all the air travel in back-to-back weeks.

"It's only a challenge if we allow it to be," said McVay. "We don't make that an excuse. We made an easy trip there and back (last week) and guys are feeling good. If last week is any indicator we expect to be ready to go whether it's one o'clock kickoff east coast, or you say it's 10 am in our head, our guys will be ready. We practice early in the morning for these reasons and we're hopeful our play will be reflective of that against a great opponent on Sunday."

The Rams are 5-0 in the Sean McVay era (since 2017) when playing in the eastern standard time zone at 1 pm and they've scored 30 points or more in all five games.


The two quarterbacks squaring off on Sunday at Bills Stadium are representatives of the league's youth movement at quarterback. They're one of two pairs of QBs are under the age of 26, who will be taking their undefeated clubs up against another young signal caller. The Chiefs Pat Mahomes and the Ravens Lamar Jackson square off on Monday night in the other matchup.

Thirteen quarterbacks have a passer rating of 100 or higher through two weeks, the most in NFL history through Week 2. Five of those QBs are under age 26, including Josh Allen (122.9) and Jared Goff (108.5). Both passer ratings are career bests for Allen and Goff for the first two games of a season.

Those young quarterbacks have been instrumental in producing the most total touchdowns (186) and most total points (1,611) through the first two weeks of an NFL season in league history.

The Bills and Rams rank sixth and eighth in the league in scoring.


Taking the quarterback battle a step further, both Goff and Allen have been very productive off play action so far this season. According to Pro-Football-Reference Allen and Goff have more pass attempts off play action than any other quarterback in the league.

Allen has 32 play action pass attempts that have racked up 367 passing yards, while Goff has 31 play action pass attempts that have tallied 270 passing yards.

Last year, Goff wasn't nearly as successful passing the ball off play action as he has been this season. In 2019, Goff's passer rating off play action passes was 84.3, the second-lowest in the NFL according to NextGenStats. But this season his passer rating off play action is a gaudy 130.2.

He's completed 74 percent of his passes with a pair of touchdowns off play action this season. His yards per attempt off play action is also a giant number (10).

Not surprisingly, Rams head coach Sean McVay has put Goff in more play action situations through the first two games as 45 percent of his drop backs have utilized play action, which is the highest rate in the NFL.

Josh Allen, however, has been dialing it down to improve his passing efficiency. His deep passing success in Week 2 aside, Allen is averaging fewer air yards per attempt and getting the ball out quicker this season.

According to NextGenStats, Allen's air yards per attempt went from 11 in his rookie season, to 9.4 in 2019 to 7.9 air yards per attempt this season. That's been aided by a higher open throw percentage thanks to a receiving corps that specializes in early separation.

As a result, Allen's expected completion percentage in 2020 is almost eight percentage points higher (68.3) than it was in his rookie season (60.5).

And although his air yards on attempts have not been league leading, the yards accumulated after the catch by his receivers has him as the league leader in passing yards.


Top end skill position players like Stefon Diggs, who currently leads the league in receiving yards, and Rams CB Jalen Ramsey create a must-watch type matchup whenever they're across from one another.

Ramsey is a chance taker, who routinely peeks in the backfield at the quarterback to see if there's a route he can jump for an interception.

"He's a very aggressive corner," said Josh Allen. "He can play in man, he can play in zone. He's very good at route recognition, and it's going to be tough to win some matchups versus him. But at the same time it's not time to shy away from anybody. We understand whatever the defense gives us we're going to take that. But he's definitely a problem to be dealt with and we've got to keep our eye on him for sure."

Diggs is a receiver that has earned the respect of the Rams head coach before he even set foot in Buffalo.

"He's a complete receiver," said McVay of Diggs. "He has great ability to win at the line of scrimmage and track the ball down the field. He's got great RAC ability. You're not limited in anything that you can do with him. You can see he is picking up right where he left off (in Minnesota) with the Bills so far."

How often Diggs and Ramsey match up one-on-one remains to be seen, but for the plays when it does happen it figures to be an entertaining battle.

"I played him in a little bit of a different scheme," said Diggs, who played against Ramsey a couple of seasons ago when they each played for two different teams. "Jacksonville played a lot more man back then. Different scheme, same player. He's damn good everybody knows that. As far as like shying away it's football. We don't really shy away from anything, but I would just say, we trust Josh's decision making.


Buffalo and Los Angeles are a pair of top five offenses for a reason. They've had solid execution through the first two weeks of the season. But another reason for their success is the window dressing done by Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and Rams head coach and offensive play caller, Sean McVay.

The Rams are largely a two personnel grouping offense using 11 personnel 68 percent of the time and 12 personnel 29 percent of the time to account for 97 percent of their plays. It's the myriad of looks L.A. gives before the snap that throws their opponents off.

"Coach McVay has done a heck of a job," said Bills safety Jordan Poyer. "A lot of misdirection stuff a lot of stuff on the line of scrimmage, pre-snap and post-snap. Watching film before even getting our game plan I understood that our eyes are going to be probably the biggest thing coming into this game, figuring out where our eyes need to be and reading our keys because there's a lot of eye candy.

"They're trying to get you looking one way and the play is going the other way and I thought we had good practices this week. I thought our coaching staff did a good job, coming up with a game plan that we all feel good about and so you just want to continue to watch the tape from practice and then take it into the game."

The Bills do much of the same pre-snap motion and multiple alignments as well as misdirection.

"Coach Daboll has always been a guy I have a tremendous amount of respect for and you see the spots he's able to put Josh in with Josh's playmaking ability and the weapons on offense are really apparent," said McVay. "A lot of mixture of personnel and a lot of different looks that they can present and Josh's ability to beat you with his arm and create plays off schedule is a real winning edge. I've been impressed with him the first couple of weeks."


Despite the fact that the Rams are often labeled as a high-octane passing attack, it's been their run game that keeps their offense on schedule. Even though L.A. now has a committee of ball carriers in their offensive backfield, they are running the ball with extraordinary success.

The Rams are averaging an eye-popping 172 yards per game on the ground on the young season. The combination of Cam Akers, Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson has proven very effective after the team parted ways with feature back Todd Gurley.

Akers, who is recovering from torn rib cartilage is a question mark for Sunday's game, but Brown and Henderson are expected to be available.

L.A. also makes use of their receivers in the run game. Robert Woods had an end around for a touchdown last week against the Eagles.

Proof that Rams coach Sean McVay believes in the viability of his team's rushing attack is the team leads the league in rush percentage. McVay has called a run play on almost 57 percent of his play calls so far this season. The only other NFL clubs even close to that figure are the Chargers (55.3%) and the Ravens (54.5%).

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