Scouting Report - Week 3 - Bills-Cardinals

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Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 - Sammy Watkins vs. Patrick Peterson
Peterson will follow the opponent's top receiver, so it's expected he'll do the same with Buffalo's Sammy Watkins. Bills new OC Anthony Lynn plans to get Watkins more targets and is expected to make use of isolation and pre-snap movement to accomplish that.  

2 - Jerry Hughes vs. D.J. HumphriesBuffalo's top pass rusher is coming off a solid performance in Week 2. The Cardinals former first-round pick has handled most of his assignments well through the first two games, but Hughes might be the most versatile outside linebacker he's faced thus far this season.

3 - Nickell Robey-Coleman vs. Larry FitzgeraldThe Cardinals all-time leading receiver is a likely first ballot Hall of Famer, and he's doing most of his damage out of the slot. Arizona will move Fitzgerald around to find favorable matchups, and Buffalo may need to give the undersized Robey-Coleman some assistance to contain Fitzgerald.

Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage - Pass protection
Even with Cyrus Kouandjio playing six of the season's first eight quarters at left tackle in place of Cordy Glenn, the Bills have done a good job of keeping Tyrod Taylor clean. Arizona certainly poses threats including Chandler Jones, who has a good history against the Bills from his time in New England. New OC Anthony Lynn however, is expected to turn up the tempo on the Cardinals and make use of quick throws to keep the Cardinals pass rush at bay.

Best advantage - Kick/punt coverageBuffalo's coverage units have been solid right from the start of the season. Whether it's been Jordan Gay or Dan Carpenter kicking off their coverage teams have kept returns to a minimum. The punt coverage unit has been even more impressive allowing just a yard on punt returns total on 10 kicks. The two units rank seventh and second in the league right now. Handing Arizona's offense long fields should give Buffalo's defense more chances to force a punt and get off the field.

Bills Number 1 Must
Get the playmakers in space
Buffalo's best offensive playmakers are 'make you miss' type talents. New offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn must devise effective ways of not only getting the team's playmakers the ball, but do it in space to put them in one-on-one situations. Whether that means splitting LeSean McCoy out wide as a receiver, detaching Charles Clay from the formation or stacking receivers like Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods at the line, Buffalo has to take advantage of the mismatches they feel they have offensively.

Scouting Eye Turnover perfectionIt's only been two games, but the Cardinals have been perfect when it has come to turnover margin. Their seven takeaways currently lead the league. Five of those coming in the win over Tampa last Sunday. Arizona also hasn't given the ball away to this point making their plus-seven margin an easy NFL leader. Carson Palmer did have a potential interception dropped last week in Tampa, but their giveaway column heading into Week 3 remains a goose egg.

Second quarter dominanceArizona's offense has found a lot of scoring success come the second quarter so far this season. After putting up seven points in their opener against New England in the second stanza, the Cardinals exploded for 24 points in their 33-point win against Tampa Bay.

Conversely, their defense has been especially stingy in the second quarter. Arizona's first two opponents were unable to put points on the board in quarter two, giving the Cardinals a 31-0 scoring margin in the second quarter so far this season.

New face on the cornerThe Cardinals acquired CB Marcus Cooper in a trade with Kansas City on Sept. 2nd and through two weeks his performance is likely to earn him more playing time. After platooning with rookie Brandon Williams opposite Patrick Peterson at cornerback in Week 1, Cooper got the bulk of the playing time in Week 2 vs. Tampa Bay. That was due mainly to a two-interception day against the Bucs. One of those interceptions Cooper returned for a 60-yard touchdown.

Head coach Bruce Arians said he went with the hot player. Cooper got 65 snaps last week to Williams' 27, and Williams is still learning on the job.

Mathieu stuck at safety for nowComing off an ACL tear in 2015, the Cardinals have made a concerted effort to keep DB Tyrann Mathieu out of the congestion near the line of scrimmage. Part of that effort has been keeping him in a traditional free safety role where he's often playing centerfield or covering a deep half or third.

Typically the versatile Mathieu lines up in a number of places including the slot to cover inside receivers in Arizona's nickel package. He also is usually seen more near the line of scrimmage to serve as a blitzer on occasion. When the current approach changes remains to be seen.

Getting off the fieldIf there's one area that has proven difficult for Arizona's defense it's getting off the field on third down. Through the first two games, the Cardinals have given up third down conversions almost 52 percent of the time (51.7%), good for 27th in the league.

Taking a closer look it's been third and medium that's been the issue. From 3rd-and-3 to 3rd-and-5 Arizona has allowed opponents to move the sticks almost 73 percent of the time (8-for-11).

No yellowsArizona had just three penalties in their 33-point victory last week. It was the 12th time the Cardinals have committed three penalties or fewer in their three-plus seasons under head coach Bruce Arians. Their 12 games with three or fewer penalties is tied with Minnesota for the most in the league over that stretch. The Cardinals have the fourth-fewest penalties in the NFL over the last three years.

Buffalo Chips
Quote of the week
"I just want to see us have success. I know how much talent we have. We played the Jets last week and they're the best defensive front in football and we held them to zero sacks up front. We went to Baltimore and it was a disappointing performance. You look back on those games and I still think we're the better team. We have the people in this room to do it and I just want to see it get done."
--G Richie Incognito

Stat of the weekTyrod Taylor has a 110.3 passer rating and nine touchdowns in his past five home games.

Milestones in reachJerry Hughes needs three sacks for 30 in his career as a Bill.

LeSean McCoy needs two rushing touchdowns for 50 in his career.

Tyrod Taylor needs two passing touchdowns to crack the Bills career top 10.

Final note:Sammy Watkins has 15 catches for 276 yards and three touchdowns in his last three games against NFC opponents.

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