One of the best games in Week 10 of the 2020 NFL season with be the late-afternoon matchup between the Arizona Cardinals and the Buffalo Bills. A game between teams capable of winning their conferences, the clash puts a lot on the line, especially for the 5-3 Cardinals.
Arizona enters the game coming off a very tough loss at home against the Dolphins. Leading the close game for the majority of the time, the Cardinals missed a last-second field goal. Thus, they failed to tie the Seahawks at the top of the NFC West. Kyler Murray has been a sensation both on the ground and through the air. Moreover, DeAndre Hopkins has lived up to the high expectations while the receiving core he leads looked as deep and productive as ever. At the same time, their running unit is among the most productive in football and the defense is holding strong.
Therefore, they are partly justified to be favored in the odds spread by two points, according to CBS Sports. Yet, to some, it may seem rather surprising. After all, they are going up against a dominant Bills team that has more wins, the 12th-most yards per game, and a decent passing defense. This just goes to show how close the comparison, and subsequently the matchup, between the two sides is. However, the Cardinals are improving in key areas and the culmination of this process could spell trouble for the Bills come Sunday.
Here is what the Arizona Cardinals should succeed in to prevail over the Bills in what promises to, once again, be a close game at State Farm Stadium.
Cards should let Drake lead the ground game again
Arizona has one of the most productive running units in the league and nobody has contributed more than Kenyan Drake. With 5.2 yards average per run, the team ranks second in the league after the Dalvin Cook-led Vikings. However, the Cards have fared in a significantly different way, relying on multiple players alongside Drake.
Kenyan Drake was fairly efficient in the first seven weeks of the 2020 season. He averaged 4.3 yards per rushing attempt. This is not elite but it is undoubtedly satisfying for the team’s unit. The former Dolphin then missed the next couple of games. It became clear that while Drake is the leader of the stable, it wouldn’t be as productive with only him in charge.
And, speaking of efficiency, there’s one name of that running group that stands out, and he’s not a running back. Cardinals second-year quarterback Kyler Murray has not only improved his accuracy throwing the ball but has also stood out as one of the best dual-threat QBs in the NFL. The Oklahoma alum has 76 carries for 543 yards, averaging more than seven yards per carry. The efficiency on his runs certainly has made a difference with him being second in the queue. Chase Edmonds also deserves his fair share of credit for being a valuable air-raid asset in addition to everything else.
With Drake marked as a “game-time decision” and in line to return in Week 10, he should be back leading the pack again. Less than 4.5 yards per carry is not a figure that can guarantee a running back 25-30 touches per game. Meanwhile, Kyler Murray needs to focus on throwing the ball with the passing game also being a frequently-used component. Therefore, a 3:2 split between Drake and Murray should be the right distribution for Arizona to continue their ground game dominance. The Cardinals have rushed for over 120 yards in all but one game in 2020. Moreover, they face a weak Bills front line that has allowed 4.6 yards on average, tenth-most in the league.
Involve Edmonds in the air unit
Running back Chase Edmonds has been a game-changer in what has often been an underwhelming passing group for the Cardinals. He is fourth within the team with 35 targets and has caught a team-best 82 percent of these targets.
Arizona’s air raid ranks 13th in yards through the air. However, by far the biggest factor has been new wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. This means the rest of the staff doesn’t provide much depth. This is where Edmonds comes with an impact on every play he is targeted. The 24-year-old former Fordham prospect plays an important role because there are only two targets for Murray not counting Hopkins. On the one hand, Larry Fitzgerald has been very impressive with 33 receptions and 78% catches, despite being 37. On the other hand, Christian Kirk, the only real long-threat, catches an abysmal 57 percent of his targets.
With Kirk often struggling to find effectiveness, just two receivers don’t make for reliable weaponry. Edmonds is an irreplaceable part of the passing offense. His involvement in the pass helps the Cards utilize the intermediate passing game in a more versatile way.
Another tough day for the Buffalo rushing group
A careful overview of the matchups in this game makes the decision to pick a winner very difficult. The Cardinals and the Bills have very similar weaknesses and strengths, which ultimately reflects both clubs’ success this year. However, the two running factions are in very different places and Arizona could benefit from that enormously.
In their easiest matchup during the Buffalo game, the Cardinals face one of the most disappointing rushing units this year. The Bills running game ranks near the bottom part of the league, averaging just 3.9 yards per carry. This is the eighth-worst mark in the NFL.
Buffalo’s running back is structured as a 1.5:1 split between Devin Singletary and quarterback Josh Allen. Furthermore, Zack Moss has been used as a specialist back and a red-zone target while T.J. Yeldon has received a minimal focus this year. Firstly, Singletary has taken a major step backward from his debut season, gaining just over 4 yards per rushing attempt. For comparison, the FAU third-rounder averaged 5.1 per carry alongside veteran Frank Gore last winter in Buffalo. Secondly, Josh Allen, while touted as a prolific runner, has just 3.7 yards per run on 65 carries. It’s very apparent that the Allen-running game experiment is not working. HC Sean McDermott should pump the breaks on the idea due to its disastrous effect on the unit’s numbers.
The Cardinals don’t have the strongest defense against the opposing running games. They have conceded an average of 4.6 yards per rush, tied for eighth-worst in the league. It compares as a considerably equal force to the Bills running stable. However, unless they successfully incorporate another good back to replace Allen, Buffalo’s production could further decline. This could provide Arizona’s defense the perfect opportunity to negatively surprise the Bills on Sunday.
As mentioned above, both teams have similar records and strengths/weaknesses. This should prove to be a close one and a thriller like ARZ experienced last week. However, the Cardinals have a high ceiling offensively and can be even more productive ahead. Arizona is capable of exploiting even the areas in the Bills defense where they succeed. Furthermore, the Bills could fail to keep up with the Cardinals offensively due to their running woes.