Friday, October 12, 2012

Buffalo Bills vs Arizona Cardinals: ARI -4.5 (5Dimes)

Markets

The Bills weren't supposed to be this bad.  It's still early in the season, but the markets have consistently gone against them to start the year.  This game had the Cardinals as -2.5 favorites in the offseason, but that went to -4 in the look-ahead line, and reopened -5 on Sunday.

Five is a "dead" number, but I was surprised that some money moved it to -4.5 early this week.  It'll be interesting to see where it goes on Saturday/Sunday.

Mash-Unit

Unless an elite, marquee player goes down, injuries are not going to move the line very much, but the Bills are suffering in bunches.  Mark Anderson is one of the latest casualties, which leaves the Bills with only three healthy defensive ends - Kelsay, Moore, and M Williams.  There's even talk that Williams' wrist is affecting him more than the Bills are leading on.  Adding insult to injury (no pun intended), K Williams, their most disruptive interior lineman, has sat out two straight practices with a bad ankle.

The situation is even worse on the O-line. Urbik and Glenn went down two weeks ago, and Rinehart and Brown got banged up in San Fransisco. Rinehart remains a game-time decision and Sam Young might have to start as an emergency replacement.  Cluster injuries on the line is not what you want to have going on the road against a quality defense.

In Kolb We Trust?

I'll be the first to say that I'm very nervous about laying points with Kolb at the helm.  This is a guy with the talent to win, but the flaws to lose a game all by himself.  Yet, this is the NFL we live in.  Half the QB's in the league could probably fit into that category, so I have no choice but to trust he can do enough to get it done on Sunday.

The concerning aspect is the situation at both tackle spots.  Batiste and Massie are starting at these key positions for the first time in their careers, and the line as whole has given up a staggering 17 sacks in the last two weeks.  Things could get even more dicey when you consider Wells and Williams are out with injuries.  Yikes!  They're hoping Stephens-Howling is healthy enough to go, and he's a guy I like a lot.

On the bright side, Williams is the only real edge-rushing threat with Anderson out, so they should be able to double-team/chip block enough to get by.  The question is whether or not Whisenhunt is going to give them help.  That can't be assumed based on what we've seen in September.

Defensive Disparity

The primary reason I really like the Cardinals in this spot is the differences between these two defenses.

I have no idea why Aaron Williams and Stephon Gilmore have not played better, but the Bills secondary is getting shredded this year.  They've gotten decent production from the D-line, but nowhere near what we thought before the season.  It also doesn't help that they can't stop the run whatsoever.

I can understand some inconsistencies, especially when there is a schematic adjustment, but they rank so low in every critical category that there's no excuses on the planet that are going to justify it.  This gives a struggling offense like Arizona's a fighting chance.

The same can't be said for the Bills offense though.  CJ Spiller started the season on fire, but injuries have slowed his production, and the same goes for Fred Jackson.  Now they have to get it together and find success against one of the better run defenses in the league, and do it behind a scotch-taped offensive line!

This puts a lot of pressure on Fitzpatrick to get it done.  I've never been a big fan of his, and it was my one big worries in the preseason.  Thanks to him, the Bills are among the league leaders in turnovers per game.  That's not a category you want to have problems with, and the majority of those turnovers are interceptions - confirming that it hasn't been some freak occurrence. 

I fully expect a healthier Dockett, Campbell, and Washington to wreak havoc in the pocket.  Ray Horton must be licking his chops.  With his ultra-aggressive scheme, the Bills offense could be in for a long day.

Chan Gailey Fired?

The final thing that has me heavily on the Cards, is what's happened to Buffalo over the last couple games.  It's not that they lost big, but it's how they lost.  This team looks utterly defeated right now, and Bodog has Gailey as the leading candidate to be fired first this season.  Romeo Crennel is doing his best to make it a race, but the Chiefs aren't throwing in the towel.

Where is the leadership?  The pride?  The belief?  The Bills had such high expectations this season, and I was one of the people who loved what they did in the offseason.  Right now, the wheels are wobbling and about to fall off completely. 

Bottom Line

I'll be holding my breath when Kolb is on the field, but he has a great set of receiving options and the confidence of a great defense behind him.  Unless the Bills defensive line takes over the game, I don't see how they can overcome the mismatches, and I've seen nothing to indicate they have what it takes to fight back and save their season.

UPDATE: the trickling of early money on the dog has come even harder today.  If you like the Cardinals, wait to see how far it moves.  I'd be shocked if it hits -3, but -3.5's and -4's are becoming available. 

NFL Pick: ARI -4.5.