Top 3 Individual Matchups
1. Kyle Williams vs. Olin Kreutz –Buffalo's nose tackle is playing at a Pro Bowl level and leads the team in sacks and tackles for loss. A good performance against six-time Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz could go a long way in helping his cause for his first trip to Hawaii in February.
2. Demetrius Bell vs. Julius Peppers –Bell squared off against Peppers last season when he was with the Panthers and fared relatively well. He surrendered just one sack and a quarterback hit in a 20-9 victory. Head coach Chan Gailey has already promised double team help to account for Peppers.
3. Roscoe Parrish vs. D.J. Moore –Coming off three of his four highest yardage output games of the season, Parrish has been a handful in the slot as he leads the team in third down receptions (11). Moore won the nickel job in camp and has impressed as he is atop the Bears interception chart with three INTs thus far this season.
Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good advantage –3rd down defense – The Bills ranking of 26th in 3rd down defense doesn't look all that impressive, but over the last three games Buffalo has allowed a conversion rate of just under 28 percent. Couple that with Chicago's league low conversion rate of 18 percent (15-84) and the Bills look to have the upper hand.
Best advantage –Red zone offense – Buffalo's attack had a hiccup last week in their low scoring affair last week against the Chiefs, but prior to that they had been averaging 26 points a game with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center and still rank sixth in the league in red zone touchdown percentage (61.5%). Their success in scoring TDs in the red zone almost matches Chicago's failure in keeping opponents out. Opposing offenses score touchdowns 60 percent of the time when they cross the Bears 20-yard line, which ranks 24th in the league.
Bills Number 1 Must
Pressure on Cutler –Jay Cutler didn't get hit at all by opposing pass rushers last week, but it was because the Bears had a bye week. Chicago has given up a league-leading 31 sacks this season, due in part to injuries on their offensive line, an offensive scheme that still employs a fair amount of seven step drop and inconsistent quarterback play. Buffalo has seven sacks in their last three games. If they can get to Cutler early his happy feet should lead to errant throws and takeaway opportunities.
Deep threatMuch like the Bills, the Bears do not necessarily have household names at the wide receiver position, but Chicago wideout Johnny Knox is a name being recognized by opposing cornerbacks. That's because Knox is a true deep threat as evidenced by his yards per catch average of 19.9 yards this season, good for sixth in the NFL.
One third of Knox's receptions this season have gone for 20 yards or more. With 476 yards on 24 receptions Knox is on pace for almost an 1,100-yard season (1,092). He's also the main reason why the Bears rank fifth in yards per reception (12.75).
Porous protectionThrough the first seven games pass protection has been a major issue for the Bears. One of the biggest culprits in the unit's suspect protection has been injuries and line shuffling.
Former first-round pick Chris Williams, who had played mainly left tackle, was moved inside to left guard after missing three games. To replace him at left tackle, starting right tackle Frank Omiyale was moved over to the blind side.
Meanwhile rookie seventh-round pick J'Marcus Webb has started each of the last three games at right tackle in Omiyale's place.
Starting guard Roberto Garza missed the last two games with a knee injury. Second-year man Edwin Williams has stepped in to start in each of the last three games. And second-year guard and former seventh-round pick Lance Louis has stepped in to make four starts.
Even veteran reserve tackle Kevin Shaffer had to fill the void with a pair of starts this season.
All of the shuffling has led to a lack of continuity and its showing up on the field in the form of 31 sacks in seven games, far and away a league high. Chicago has been particularly susceptible to blitzes by cornerbacks and safeties.
Also playing a role is offensive coordinator Mike Martz's use of the seven step drop at times with his quarterbacks despite the problems the line is dealing with in terms of injuries. The extra time it takes for Jay Cutler to get to the top of his drop is allowing opposing pass rushers more time to get home.
The bye week has helped by providing the line with time to heal up. Garza figures to be back in the lineup this week.
Angry BearsChicago's defense is back to form. After a lackluster 2009 campaign the Bears are playing solid defense ranking first in the league when it comes to forcing opposing offense three-and-out. Chicago has 36 three-and-outs this season on 94 total possessions by the opposition. More than one in three drives by the opposing offense is over by the third play of the series (38.3%).
All those three-and-outs naturally help the Bears defense in keeping opponents off the scoreboard as they rank third in the league in points allowed overall, but they're tops in offensive points allowed per game (14). They've surrendered a league low 98 offensive points in seven games.
Takeaway paradeThe addition of Julius Peppers in the offseason has also provided an impact in the takeaway category defensively. Though Peppers has just two sacks on the season, he's still hurrying throws by opposing quarterbacks and getting hits. It's helped Chicago's defense in the takeaway category where the Bears are tied for the third most takeaways thus far this season with 17 (9 INT, 8 FR). Leading the team in interceptions is nickel corner D.J. Moore (3).
Goal to go woesIt's bad enough that Chicago's red zone touchdown percentage is a league worst 30 percent (6-20) this season. But even in goal-to-go situations the Bears can't punch the ball into the end zone.
This season Chicago's offense is 0-for-10 from their opponent's one-yard line as their offensive line cannot get an effective push off the line of scrimmage apparently. And not only have the Bears failed to cross the goal line in those 10 goal-to-go situations. Twice they turned the ball over.
Happy returnsBuffalo has a solid stable of capable return men in Leodis McKelvin, Roscoe Parrish and C.J. Spiller. One unit that might have the Bills beat when it comes to production are the Bears. The trio of Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Danieal Manning has been solid this season.
Chicago is one of four teams in the league ranking in the top 10 in both punt and kick return average, as they rank first in punt return average thanks to Hester's league-leading 16.7 clip. And they rank eighth in the NFL in kick return average.
Manning and Knox handles kick return duties and they've combined to average 25.5 yards per kickoff. Both have at least one 40-plus yard return each this season.
Hester, who handles punt returns only, naturally has the touchdowns, scoring from 62 and 89 yards out this season to tie the league's all-time mark of 13 return touchdowns in a career in just his fifth NFL season.
Quote of the Week"He's a guy that with us he's always positive. He's trying to get us going. He always talks about the talent in the room and what we've done this year and what we've done successfully. He's been good. He's been a guy who keeps us going and I think he's done a really nice job of that."
--QB Ryan Fitzpatrick on head coach Chan Gailey
Stat of the WeekIn the last three games, the Bills have not allowed an opposing offense to convert a third down opportunity in the fourth quarter or overtime (0-14).
Milestones in reachLee Evans needs one 100-yard receiving game to move into fourth place in career 100-yard games in team annals with 15.
Steve Johnson needs a touchdown reception to break the team record for most consecutive games with a touchdown catch (5), which he currently shares with Elbert Dubenion, Eric Moulds and Lee Evans.
Kyle Williams needs one sack to tie a single-season career high (4), which he set last season.
Final noteJay Cutler passed for more than 300 yards in both career meetings vs. Buffalo, with one win (2007) and one loss (2008) while playing for Denver.