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Weekend Look Ahead

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Bills at Saints | 6 things to watch for on Thanksgiving night

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) touchdown Buffalo Bills vs Dallas Cowboys, November 28, 2019 at AT&T Stadium. Photo by Bill Wippert
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) touchdown Buffalo Bills vs Dallas Cowboys, November 28, 2019 at AT&T Stadium. Photo by Bill Wippert

1. Bounce back ability

Bills head coach Sean McDermott has been very good at course correcting his team throughout his tenure when they suffer a loss. Since 2017, McDermott has a record of 18-9 in his team's next game after a loss.

"We've got to turn the page here to get going on the Saints, but not looking past why we got the results we got (Sunday) and that's the most important thing," McDermott said. "It's not just going to go away. It's something that we have to fix and that takes effort, that takes commitment and I know the team is working hard to get it done.

"I just feel like we do need to find some level of consistency game to game, but let's just start with this game and getting things fixed as quickly as we can, going down there with the right mindset and going in and playing our style of football. It's a good football team we're going to face down there."

This year, Buffalo is a perfect 3-0 coming off a loss, posting victories against Miami (twice) and the Jets after suffering defeats. The Bills are also 15-6 on the road over their last three seasons.

"You only have a couple days so you have to kind of fast track third down, red zone, blitz, kind of all in the one day and our guys handled it really well," said Josh Allen. "I think we've got a good grasp of what we want to do and how we're going to handle things. Our guys came in prepared ready to go."

The Saints started off 2-0 after losses earlier this season, but have dropped their last three in a row.

2. Curbing the turnovers

It's been a problem as plain as day for the Bills during their recent stretch of up and down play. Buffalo has had multiple turnovers in three straight games, with a total of nine (6 INTs, 3 fumbles lost).

Five of Josh Allen's eight interceptions this season have come in the last three games. Buffalo's QB has thrown an INT in three consecutive games, to match the longest streak of his career.

"(I've been) putting the ball in harm's way too often," said Allen. "I've got to be smarter with the football. We know that. We got to go out and play better. We've got to go out there and improve and be who we want to be. That's really all it comes down to, it's just going out there and executing, playing situational football and just kind of doing what coach preaches."

Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll knows all too well that the turnovers are the biggest self-inflicted wounds a team can deliver.

"I've been part of a lot of different ways to win games," said offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. "We've got to start with cleaning up the turnovers and that's the number one thing we've got to do. We've had nine turnovers in three games. Nine different times we've taken away a possession to score the football. That's almost double the amount we had in the first seven games. We've got to do a better job. It's something we constantly work on, whether you're running it or throwing it. Our job is to possess the ball and if we're not scoring touchdowns, ending every drive with a kick."

Buffalo's last turnover free game was against Miami on Halloween. Their last turnover free game on the road was at Kansas City in Week 6.

3. Beat up in the Big Easy

The Saints have a long injury list that includes their top offensive producer. RB Alvin Kamara, who has missed the last two games with a knee injury is still working his way back to full health and remains a question mark for Thanksgiving night. Other starters nursing injuries include both starting tackles in Terron Armstead (knee/shoulder) and Ryan Ramczyk (knee) and DE Marcus Davenport (shoulder).

Fellow RB Mark Ingram has also been limited by a knee injury.

Already without the services of starting quarterback Jameis Winston following a season-ending knee injury, New Orleans just lost starting TE Adam Trautman for four to six weeks with a sprained MCL suffered last week against Philadelphia.

Trautman was coming off his most productive outing of the season with five receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown. Other starters on injured reserve for the Saints included start OT Andrus Peat, nickel CB C.J. Gardner-Johnson and K Will Lutz. Top receiver Michael Thomas has not played this season and is still on the PUP list.

And rookie backup LT Landon Young, who had to start last week against the Eagles, suffered a foot injury that will require season-ending surgery this week.

4. Run defense humblings

Entering Week 10, the Bills and Saints boasted the number three and number one run defense units in the NFL. Both came out of their games last week with poor performances when it came to stopping the run.

Buffalo couldn't stop the Colts' Jonathan Taylor, who rolled up 185 yards and four rushing touchdowns."

"There were some times for sure where we could have been better with our gap integrity, and also, we were not tackling as well," said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier of Buffalo's performance last Sunday. "We missed a lot of tackles as well. So, a combination of the two is why you get the number of explosive runs that we end up with against the Colts."

Meanwhile New Orleans got torn up for 242 rushing yards on 50 carries by the Eagles in a balanced rushing effort filled largely by Miles Sanders, Jalen Hurts and Jordan Howard. Hurts had all three rushing touchdowns for Philadelphia.

"We've got to focus and be a better run stopping defense for that game never to happen again," said Saints DE Cam Jordan. "Moving forward we know what we can do. We know how to affect a quarterback. We know how to take over a run game. So we have to control what we can control. We have to focus on eliminating our mistakes with our gap integrity."

As a result of those games, the Saints slipped to third in run defense while the Bills fell to ninth in the league.

5. Red zone winners

If there is one area where the Saints have been consistent this season it's in the red zone on both offense and defense. New Orleans ranks third in the league in red zone touchdown efficiency this season with a success rate of just over 70 percent (70.3). This despite the fact that they've had to change quarterbacks and had a number of starters out of the lineup week to week.

Last week against the Eagles, the Saints went 3-4 in the red zone, which is right on pace for their recent uptick in conversion rate. Over the last three games, New Orleans has converted nine of their last 12 red zone opportunities for touchdowns (75%).

Defensively, they've been even more effective. The Saints have the second-best red zone defense in football behind only Baltimore. Opponents have cashed in on fewer than half of their possessions in the red zone against New Orleans going 14 for 30 thus far this season. That's a success rate of just over 46 percent (46.7%).

"Talented," said McDermott of New Orleans' defensive unit. "They've put a lot into that defense, and it's well coached by (defensive coordinator) Dennis Allen. They do a nice job of rushing the passer and affecting the quarterback and putting it together with the coverage on the back end."

6. Siemian striving for consistency

Since engineering a victory for the Saints as a sub for an injured Jameis Winston in Week 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it has been a rough go for Saints backup QB Trevor Siemian. In his three games since as a starter, Siemian has not helped enough to lift New Orleans to victory.

The Saints have lost three straight with Siemian under center and though he has a strong 4:1 touchdown to interception ratio since entering the lineup, consistency in the New Orleans passing game has proven difficult to capture.

He's completed just 57 percent of his pass attempts, as his completion percentage in each successive start has declined from 62 to 58 to last week's 55 percent. One area where the Saints have improved each of the last three weeks is converting on third down. In Siemian's first start they converted just 30 percent of the time. Last Sunday at Philadelphia they converted better than 46 percent of the time on third down.

New Orleans has also gotten off to slow starts offensively with Siemian in the lineup. They've yet to score in the first quarter in each of Siemian's first three starts and have managed just 13 points in the first half in those three games combined.

"I remember playing him my first year in Buffalo, he's grown a lot more since we played him," said Jordan Poyer. "I think he has a couple of throws I'm sure he wishes he had back, but he's put he's been putting the ball in spots where his receivers can make plays and he's running the offense pretty well. You can see his confidence in the offense has grown."

Siemian has one career start against the Bills, which came back in 2017 while he was with the Denver Broncos. He went 24-40 passing for 259 yards with a pair of interceptions and a 58.2 passer rating. Siemian was also sacked four times in a 26-16 loss to Buffalo.

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