Chargers (0-1) At Buffalo (0-1)
When Chargers have the ball
Philip Rivers passed for 424 yards and had two 100-yard receivers in Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon last week versus Kansas City. He also had three touchdown passes, the same number Buffalo allowed Joe Flacco in its season-opening loss. The Bills gave up 47 points to Baltimore and only two teams surrendered more in Week 1. The Ravens had touchdown drives of — in order — 80, 66, 85 and 89 yards but also scored 20 points off short-field possessions. Gordon and Austin Ekeler combined for 103 yards in 20 carries against the Chiefs, and any time an NFL team can average five yards per rush, the opposition is generally in trouble. A year ago the Bills gave up the fourth-most yards on the ground in the NFL (Chargers gave up the second most) and allowed a league-high 22 rushing touchdowns. The Chargers are unlikely to match their output against Buffalo last season when they scored a franchise-record 37 points in the first half and 54 total thanks largely to a torrent of Bills turnovers.
When Bills have the ball
For the second consecutive season against the Chargers, Buffalo will employ a quarterback starting his first NFL game. The Bills have to hope this one goes a little better. It would be nearly impossible for it to go any worse. Last November, Nathan Peterman was intercepted five times before being benched at StubHub Center. Josh Allen, a rookie first-round draft pick, will start this time, his most recent start coming roughly nine months ago in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Central Michigan. In their season-opening loss, the Bills — with Peterman starting and Allen relieving — completed just 11 of 33 passes for 70 yards. As a point of reference, two players (Green Bay’s Randall Cobb and Miami’s Kenny Stills) had more than 70 yards receiving in Week 1 on single plays. In losing to Baltimore 47-3, Buffalo also somehow managed to get almost nothing from standout running back LeSean McCoy. He finished with seven carries for 22 yards and caught one pass for minus-one yard. It was not surprising then that the Bills finished two for 15 on third-down conversions and with 10 first downs. Buffalo, unlike the Chargers, was a playoff team last season. Their season opener, however, looked more like a team rebuilding from rock bottom.
When they kick
The offensive highlight last week for the Bills finally arrived in the final three minutes of the third quarter when Stephen Hauschka made a 35-yard field goal. Yippee! Those points prevented Buffalo from being shut out but hardly erased the reality that the Bills’ offense has to dramatically improve. Corey Bojorquez had eight punts, not including the time he fumbled to turn the ball over on downs. Caleb Sturgis kicked two fields for the Chargers last week but also missed a 48-yarder late in the fourth quarter when they were attempting to make it a one-possession game.
Jeff Miller’s prediction
The Chargers are heavily favored and understandably so. After Week 1, the Bills probably wouldn’t be favored over anyone Sunday, including half of the SEC. Speaking of which, Buffalo can be a difficult place to play, the crowds there almost collegiate in their zeal. Yet, losing to a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start and seeing only his second NFL game up close seems almost incomprehensible for a team expected to contend for a playoff spot. And the Chargers very much are expected to contend in the AFC. This game will be a step in that direction.