The final game of Week 10 pits the Buffalo Bills against the Denver Broncos on “Monday Night Football.”
The Bills are coming off a close loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend, and looking to vault themselves forward in an increasingly crowded AFC playoff picture. Denver, meanwhile, was off last week, but put together back-to-back victories over the Packers and Chiefs to improve to 3-5 right before that.
It’s been a wild week of games so far, so if that’s any indication, we could get an interesting one on Monday night. So, can the Broncos return from their bye with another win, or will the Bills bounce back? We’ll find out soon enough. Before we break down the matchup, here’s a look at how you can watch the game.
How to watch
Date: Monday, Nov. 13 | Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
Location: Highmark Stadium (Orchard Park, New York)
TV: ABC/ESPN | Stream: fubo
Follow: CBS Sports App
Odds: Bills -7, O/U 47.5 (via Sportsline consensus odds)
When the Broncos have the ball
The Broncos have looked better offensively since Javonte Williams returned from a one-week absence earlier this season, as their run game has started to get untracked. After rushing for over 100 yards just once in the first four weeks of the season, the Broncos ran for 115-plus in each of their next four games. They have still been wildly inconsistent in the passing game, but at least they have something to base their offense around of late.
Buffalo’s defense, meanwhile, has taken several steps backward amid a rash of injuries. The unit lost Tre’Davious White, Matt Milano and DaQuan Jones for the season, plus Kaiir Elam to IR and players like Christian Benford, Micah Hyde and Terrel Bernard have been banged up as well. Plus, Von Miller is still not up to full speed. So it’s a bit easier to move the ball on them than you might think based on their reputation.
Benford and Hyde will miss this game, while Bernard is listed as questionable. That could theoretically give Denver some advantages on the perimeter, with Courtland Sutton working against almost exclusively backup corners on the outside and Jerry Jeudy doing the same and then tangling with Taron Johnson when he’s in the slot. Russell Wilson has to be willing to get aggressive in order to capitalize on those potential advantages, though. He has too often been far too early to check it down, as he has targeted his running backs with an incredible 27.6% of his throws, according to TruMedia. (The league average is 17.2%.)
Denver certainly wants to run it with Williams, as it showed when handing him the ball 27 times against Kansas City before the bye. This could be a decent matchup for Williams, too. Buffalo has allowed just 0.89 yards before contact per rush, but has struggled with tackling and yards after contact. The Bills’ avoided tackle rate for opposing rushers is third-highest in the NFL, and the 3.97 yards after contact per carry they have allowed are most in the league. Even coming off the injury, Williams checks in 21st in missed tackles forced per attempt and ninth in yards after contact per attempt.
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When the Bills have the ball
We’ve seen some pretty extreme swings so far this season with the Denver defense. The unit allowed 726 yards and 70 points to the Dolphins back in Week 3. It also held the Chiefs to 274 yards and nine points while forcing five turnovers back in Week 8. To say we don’t really have a good idea of what to expect would be putting it lightly.
We do largely know what we’ll be getting from the Bills, though. With Dawson Knox still on injured reserve, Buffalo will play almost exclusively from 11 personnel, with one back, one tight end (rookie Dalton Kincaid), and three receivers (Stefon Diggs, Gabriel Davis and Khalil Shakir for the most part, with Deonte Harty and Trent Sherfield mixed in). And they are going to put the game in Josh Allen’s hands, letting him distribute the ball like a point guard to his various targets.
They made an effort earlier this season to be a bit more multiple with their formations and run the ball in different ways, but “spread it out and let Allen cook” is how they’ve been at their best for several years now.
It seems highly likely that Denver will make an effort to have Patrick Surtain II shadow Diggs, though it remains to be seen whether Surtain will follow him into the slot. Diggs has lined up inside on 37% of his routes this season, per Pro Football Focus, but Surtain has only traveled there 4% of the time. If Denver is keeping him outside, it would be a good idea to have Diggs spend a lot of time in the slot to get him a better matchup. When Diggs is outside, it’ll be Shakir and Kincaid with the better matchups on the interior, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Allen targeted them heavily. That’s the best way to move the ball against Denver.
The Bills have tried to give their run game a boost but know they are at heart a passing team, which leads them to not give James Cook (their most explosive runner) as many snaps as you’d like him to have given his role in the run game, because the team trusts Latavius Murray more as a pass rusher. Still, if they can get Cook into open space, there should be opportunity for big plays. The Broncos have been gashed by explosive runs at times this year, and things can snowball against them on the second and third level.
Prediction: Bills 27, Broncos 17
Buffalo has lost some defensive talent to injury and that has shown up over the past several games, but the Denver offense has not yet shown the type of explosion it typically takes to keep up with Allen and Co. Even with the Broncos’ improved defensive performances of late, it’s not enough to take down the Bills here.
I like my pick for this game, but you might like Matthew Severances’ better. He’s our gambling guru over at SportsLine.com and he’s been on roll with his Broncos predictions, going 16-5 on his last 21 picks. Anyone who has followed him is WAY UP! If you want to check out his pick, you can do that right here.