In Week 10, the 3-6 Buffalo Bills hit the road and head to Pittsburgh to take on the 2-6 Steelers. The game will be kicking off at 1 p.m. and you can see it on CBS. Here are some things to look for Sunday.
Head Coach Doug Marrone officially announced today that E.J. Manuel will be the starting quarterback for Sunday’s game. I personally am really excited to see him hopefully pick up where he left off. Manuel had a solid start to his rookie campaign before the injury, throwing for 985 yards with 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in 4 and a half games. This Pittsburgh Steelers defense is not your father’s Steelers defense. Heck, it’s not your older brother’s Steelers defense. To put it lightly, they aren’t very good. I expect Manuel to be a little rusty to begin the game, but look for him to get more comfortable as the game goes on. This could be a big game for Manuel.
Another player that I expect to have a big game is running back C.J. Spiller. Spiller has been dealing with an ankle injury for the past few weeks, but looked much healthier against the Chiefs last week. Spiller looked to have regained some of his explosiveness and agility after sitting out in Week 8 to rehab the ankle. As a matter of fact, Spiller wasn’t even listed on the Bills injury report for the first time in what feels like forever. C.J. is probably going to get a lot of touches in the beginning part of the game while Manuel gets back into the swing of things. Also, if you can remember all the way back to when Manuel was healthy, he likes to check the ball down to his running backs a lot. You can expect to see Spiller get a lot of yards in the run and the pass game. If you have him on your fantasy team (I do), definitely start him (I definitely am).
This is going to be a great game for Manuel to come back, because the Steelers are one of the two teams that are worse at stopping the run than the Bills. Pittsburgh is the 31st ranked run stopping defense in the league. Last week, the Bills were able to rush for 240 yards against a really good defense, so I expect to see the Bills run the ball early and often. This will take some pressure off Manuel, and open up the play-action game for him.
The injury bug has been passed around Buffalo like the bubonic plague this season, and it has finally hit the receiving corps. Both of our rookies, Marquise Goodwin and Robert Woods left the game early last week with leg injuries. Goodwin was limited in practice all week with a hamstring injury and Woods did not practice all week with an ankle injury. My guess is that Goodwin will suit up Sunday and Woods will be in street clothes.
That leaves the veteran Stevie Johnson to take a bigger role in the passing game. Johnson has had a case of the drops lately, something that he has struggled with his entire career. If you remember back a few years ago, Stevie dropped a game-winning touchdown pass the last time the Bills played the Steelers. Stevie needs to live up to his #1 receiver billing and be a viable target for Manuel in the passing game.
Defensively, Buffalo needs to stop the run. I am so sick of typing that sentence every week. As I mentioned before, Buffalo is among the worst in the league at stopping opposing running backs. Last week they took a huge step in the right direction, holding Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles under 100 yards. Fortunately for the Bills, Pittsburgh doesn’t have a running back near the quality of Jamaal Charles. Pittsburgh has the 28th ranked running offense in the league. This will be a battle of weakness versus weakness.
As far as the front-7 is concerned, Buffalo has one of the best in the league. Last week, Buffalo had trouble sacking Alex Smith. Smith was able to escape the pocket and keep plays alive with his legs. The Bills will be facing a quarterback with similar abilities in Big Ben. Ben has made a career out of keeping plays alive and turning them into big plays. The defensive line is going to have to cut off escape routes for the elusive Roethlisberger.
Turning our attention to Vegas, the Steelers are favored by 3 points in this one. I don’t see how this is possible. The Steelers have not been good this season. Buffalo hasn’t been great, but have been in position to win in just about every game this year. My guess is the odds makers are just giving the Steelers a field goal because they are at home. My prediction: Bills 31, Steelers 17.