The Buffalo Bills are all but eliminated from the 2016 NFL Playoffs, marking the 16th consecutive season in which they’ve failed to make the tournament. However, that won’t stop them from trying to derail the Washington Redskins from achieving that goal on Sunday. Washington is currently in first place in the NFC East with a dazzling 6-7 record and has a nice core of young players that are developing nicely throughout the year.
Every game in the NFL will usually come down to three or four player vs. player matchups, so let’s take a look at what to watch for during Sunday’s contest.
Buffalo Bills WR Sammy Watkins vs Washington Redskins CB Bashaud Breeland
Ever since Buffalo Bills wideout Sammy Watkins made it clear that he wanted to the featured weapon within the team’s passing attack, he’s backed up his words. Since Week nine, Watkins has caught 28-of-44 targets for 569 yards—the third-highest total among receivers in that span—for an average of 20.3 yards-per-catch, the best among receivers and five scores, which is tied for third most.
He’ll face off against Bashaud Breeland, a cornerback many have never heard of, but the 2014 fourth-round pick out of Clemson has been coming into his own in the last several weeks as well. He’s been targeted 34 times, allowing just 18 receptions for a catch rate of 52.9% (8th), allowing just 177 yards (3rd) at a 9.8 yards-per-catch average (1st). Opposing quarterbacks are posting a 77.7 passer rating when throwing at Breeland, the fifth-lowest total among cornerbacks since week nine.
Watkins has been on fire and Washington doesn’t have safeties that can provide much help over the top, especially if Greg Roman gets him on Dashon Goldson, so this is a matchup that Tyrod Taylor will need to win if the Bills want to keep Watkins’ hot streak alive.
Buffalo Bills S Baccari Rambo, LB Manny Lawson vs Washington Redskins TE Jordan Reed
Jordan Reed is on the cusp of breaking into the top-tier of tight ends in the National Football League. Despite dealing with nagging injuries, Reed has led the team in targets with 92, catching 67 passes for 694 yards and seven touchdowns in 11 games this year. He’s an exceptional athlete that runs great routes and will create yards-after-the-catch—his 382 yards after the catch rank third behind Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, who have each played 190+ more snaps than him.
Bills’ safety Baccari Rambo has been getting better and better each week, since taking over a full-time role in Week 10 against the New York Jets. In his last five games, Rambo has recorded 23 tackles, one sack, an interception, six passes defensed and forced three fumbles.
Strong-side linebacker Manny Lawson has had a quiet, yet impressive season in his own right. In the last five games, he’s made 19 tackles, 13 of which resulted in “stops” according to ProFootballFocus. He’s been fantastic in coverage, holding pass-catchers to a 5.7 yards-per-catch average on the season with a long of 17-yards.
Jordan Reed is Kirk Cousins’ safety blanket, even with DeSean Jackson’s return to the lineup, so containing him will be key to a victory.
Buffalo Bills RT Jordan Mills/Seantrel Henderson vs Washington Redskins LOLB Ryan Kerrigan
The right tackle position has plagued the Buffalo Bills’ offensive line throughout the entire season, as Seantrel Henderson and most recently Jordan Mills have struggled to move defenders off the ball in the run game and have required additional help in pass protection.
This week they’ll see Ryan Kerrigan, who’s racked up 33 tackles, eight sacks, five quarterback hits and 39 additional hurries on the year. His 50 total pressures rank eighth among 3-4 outside linebackers, but he’s a force against the run as well, registering 24 tackles and 19 “stops,” the third most at his position.