It's back home to New Era Field for the Buffalo Bills this week, and they're hoping it's back to the win column.
The Denver Broncos, winners of their first two games, hit the road for the first time this season in Orchard Park. Here are the top six storylines for this week's game.
1. WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO GET THE BUFFALO OFFENSE ON TRACK?
Sunday's offensive struggles against the Panthers were an eye opener. After scoring 25 points per game in 2016, and finishing in the top half of the league in offense (first in rushing offense), the Bills offense struggled to move the ball last week against a strong Carolina defense. The matchups up front worked against Buffalo and they're not likely to get much easier this week against Denver's fourth ranked defense.
Head Coach Sean McDermott says he's spending time this week reviewing the offensive plan and trying to come up with answers.
"We're looking at everything," McDermott said Monday. "Some of the deep shots we had up, called up down the field didn't work out the way we wanted them to." That may indicate that McDermott and the Bills are focused this week on firing the ball downfield, looking to hit some big plays, or at least loosen things up for the run game.
2. WILL THE BILLS BE HEALTHY IN THE TRENCHES?
A couple of injuries left over from the Carolina game could prove to be bothersome as the Bills get ready for the Broncos. On the defense, Marcell Dareus came up with an ankle injury after getting rolled up early in the Panthers game. Left tackle Cordy Glenn has an injury to his right foot and ankle, after dealing with an injury on his left foot during training camp.
The Dareus injury could impact the Bills plan to rotate defensive linemen onto the field as they have during the first two games. And rookie Dion Dawkins could be in line for a start if Glenn can't go this Sunday. Both injuries bear watching the rest of the week.
3. FIRST YEAR HEAD COACHES GO HEAD-TO-HEAD**
It's NFL game number three for both head coaches Sunday—Sean McDermott of the Bills and Vance Joseph of the Broncos. Joseph is trying to become the fourth Broncos head coach to win his first three games with the team (Gary Kubiak started 7-0 in 2015).
You could argue that Joseph walked into the best situation of the six new coaches hired this past offseason, thanks to the Broncos strong organization under John Elway. He made a solid move hiring former Chargers head coach Mike McCoy as his offensive coordinator. And Joseph took over a team that ranked fourth in defense in the NFL last year.
ESPN host Trey Wingo had words of praise for Joseph in an appearance on The John Murphy Showthis week.
"Vance has been sort of the CEO of this team, and he's got them to believe in the idea that 'we can win and we can compete as long as we finish'," Wingo said.
4. GROUND GAME SHOULD BE PROMINENT
Buffalo's troubles running the ball against Carolina have been well chronicled, but the Bills are still eighth in the league in rushing. And last year, LeSean McCoy had strong rebound games after less than
productive games—including 150 yards against the Rams (after running for 70 the week before), and 153 against the Browns (after 27 against Pittsburgh). And then there's Denver, with the NFL's number one rushing attack, C.J. Anderson has 199 yards in the first two games this year, and Denver averages 159 yards per game. Ground and Pound is on this week.
5. TIME FOR HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE TO KICK IN
Buffalo scored a big home win in the opener against the Jets, but the Bills were just 4-4 at home in 2016. On the other side, the Broncos play their first road game of the year this Sunday, after winning their first two at home. If you're looking for the Bills to get an edge, with the Broncos coming East, think about this: Denver has won 14 of its last 17 games when kicking off at 1 pm Eastern time—all of them on the road.
6. BRONCOS DBs AMONG THE LEAGUE BEST
They're veterans and they're talented. Denver's defensive backfield has three interceptions already in two games, good for second-best in the NFL in interception percentage. Bills QB Tyrod Taylor is very solid in avoiding interceptions, but extra care may be needed this week. The Broncos DBs are ball hawks, according to Bills Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison. "They rush the pass very well and they have great DBs," Dennison said Monday. "They all have great ball skills. Put the ball around them, they think it's theirs, so you've got to be careful."