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'They're gonna be ready to play' | How the Bills are preparing for a motivated Chargers team

Buffalo Bills Week 16 practice at One Bills Drive, December 20, 2023.
Buffalo Bills Week 16 practice at One Bills Drive, December 20, 2023.

The Buffalo Bills will travel to the Golden Coast Saturday to face a motivated Los Angeles Chargers team fresh off a 63-21 loss to Las Vegas and the firing of head coach Brandon Staley.

"I can't tell you what's going on in their minds right now with the coaching change and this and that, but I can tell you one thing: that they're gonna be ready to play come Saturday night," said quarterback Josh Allen after practice Tuesday afternoon.

The Chargers named outside linebacker coach Giff Smith as their interim head coach. Smith spent three seasons in Buffalo as the defensive line coach and addressed the media for the first time as an interim head coach on Tuesday.

"What I told [the coaching staff] and the players, we're all invested in these three weeks," Smith said. "We have to feel that energy from each other. We're coming together."

Since 2019, interim head coaches are 7-5 in their first games after taking over.

Khalil Mack earned some attention from the Buffalo media in their time with Allen. The Chargers outside linebacker has 15 sacks this season, tied for the third-most in the NFL. Despite being in his 10th season, Mack is on pace to have the most productive season of his career.

"He's still one of the more premiere pass rushers in this league. … A guy that can be extremely dominant," Allen said. "He's a fantastic player but they have some other guys on that defense too that can make some plays."

The Chargers defense has ranked in the bottom six of the NFL in points per game allowed, total yards per game allowed and interceptions per game. L.A. is 1-7 in games when they are not able to get four or more sacks, and with an offensive line that has been playing at a high level all season, Josh Allen is the least-sacked starting quarterback in the NFL.

Despite being favored by nearly two touchdowns, the Bills are refusing to overlook a team they say is full of talented players.

"They're professionals and they take pride in their work and they take pride in showing up on their respective game days," center Mitch Morse said Tuesday. "They have a good team and anyone else who's trying to talk you out of it is just living in a fantasy land."

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is considered one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, but had surgery last week on a fractured finger that landed him on the injured reserve list. Easton Stick will make the start Saturday for the second time in his NFL career. Against the Raiders, Stick threw for 257 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

"It's been a tough few days, for sure, for all of us and for a lot of different reasons," Stick said Wednesday. "Thursday, obviously, we were embarrassed. That's tough to get over, that lingers. Then, obviously, the moves that were made the next morning are tough. You put a lot into this, you put everything into this. So, when it doesn't go well, I certainly feel responsible. I know that all of our guys do."

Kellen Moore, who spent the last five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, is in his first season as offensive coordinator in L.A. Because of his impact on Dak Prescott and the Dallas offense, linebacker Terrel Bernard said that the Buffalo defense expects similarities between the Chargers and the Cowboys team that they beat 31-10 last week.

Scroll to see photos from the Buffalo Bills Week 16 practice as the team prepares to take on the Los Angeles Chargers.

"They run a similar offense to the team that we played last week," Bernard said after practice Wednesday. "So we're taking some of the concepts and stuff that we saw last week and expecting to see some of those show up in this game."

Standing at 8-6 and ninth in the AFC, the Bills are looking to end the season strong. Realistically, they must win at least two of their three remaining games to have a chance to make the playoffs. Winning out almost guarantees them a spot in the postseason.

Fortunately for Buffalo, the team is riding a two-game winning streak against two playoff contenders in Kansas City and Dallas, providing a boost of confidence for a team that at one point held a 6-6 record and a slim chance at making the playoffs.

Wide receiver Gabe Davis is looking forward to another opportunity for the team to prove that they belong in the conversation as one of the most talented teams in the league as the Bills prepare to fly to L.A.

"I'm excited wherever we go again. I feel like we have the best team in the NFL and I'm confident in all the guys that I'm with so when it comes to seeing what we can do against each team, I'm confident in our run game or pass game," Davis said.

The Bills will take on the Chargers at 8 p.m. on Peacock.

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