With the SF 49ers hosting the Bills for Monday Night Football, Niner Noise went behind enemy lines with Buffalowdown to look at the matchup.
Week 13 on Monday Night Football is going to be a bit weird for the SF 49ers and their AFC East-leading visitors, the Buffalo Bills.
While technically a “home game” for the Niners, they’ll actually be playing at State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals, thanks to Santa Clara County shutting down any possibility of sports activities at the 49ers’ own home, Levi’s Stadium.
It might actually work in San Francisco’s favor, as head coach Kyle Shanahan’s team is 1-4 at Levi’s Stadium this year.
Nevertheless, the 5-6 SF 49ers don’t have a lot of wiggle room in terms of the NFC playoff picture, and an 8-3 Bills squad sitting atop its own division presents more than enough challenges to what the Niners need to do to climb up the conference’s seeding.
Needless to say, Week 13 winds up becoming a must-win game for San Francisco. And to preview the contest and get a better understanding of the bout from Buffalo’s vantage point, Niner Noise went “behind enemy lines” for a fun Q&A session with FanSided’s Bills site, Buffalowdown.
Enjoy our conversation.
NN: Bills quarterback Josh Allen, a Northern California native, has taken some serious strides this season after having some sparks of promise last year. What have you seen that have made the biggest differences from him? An improved offensive line? More receiving weapons?
"BL: This season has been a perfect storm for Josh Allen and it’s hard to pinpoint one singular thing that helped with his improvement. He had focused on improving fundamentals in the offseason and that has shown. He also has done a good job of limiting the mistakes and “hero ball” by getting the ball out quickly and to his playmakers. Which is the third part of this where he also has better weapons around him with Stefon Diggs, who has far and exceeded expectations his first year with Buffalo, as well as Cole Beasley, who has been getting showcased more and has been that sure-handed safety net for Allen."
NN: Buffalo is 8-3 and will most likely win the AFC East. But looking at the nature of competition within the division and the rest of the slate of games played, is it somewhat worrisome to Bills fans there hasn’t been a stretch of significant wins over quality opponents? And is it possible the Bills are looking at a trap game versus the SF 49ers before hosting the red-hot Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 14?
"BL: I think there is a chance that this could be viewed as a trap game when looking at the records of the 49ers and Steelers, however, the Bills and the coaching staff have done a good job in their four years of not looking past opponents and focusing on the task at hand. As for the opponents they have played this year, they have beaten some good teams like the Rams, Seahawks, and Raiders.I actually looked at this during their bye week and the Bills are 4-3 against teams who had six or more wins in their first 10 games. This compared to last year’s 7-3 start when they played only one team, the Patriots, and they lost that game. Right now it’s hard to say they are on the level of the Chiefs or Steelers but they have played well enough to be in that second tier within the AFC."
NN: Wide receiver Stefon Diggs has been a beast since being acquired from the Minnesota Vikings last offseason. On the field, what kind of tangible differences has he made for the offense? How has he opened things up?
"BL: The biggest difference is he is a true No. 1 wide receiver, a player who can get open almost at will and will make the play for Allen, almost regardless of where he puts the ball. Last year, John Brown had a good year but he struggled when opposing teams gameplan to limit what he can.The attention Diggs gets also opens up the rest of the offense as well. More times than not, he is getting safety attention and double teams which frees up John Brown and Gabriel Davis with one on one coverage on the other side but also the middle of the field and these underneath routes for Beasley."
NN: From an outsider’s perspective looking at the SF 49ers’ roster and depth chart, what are some concerns you’d have about facing San Francisco? And if you were a play-caller, how would you go about attacking the Niners on both sides of the ball?
"BL: Even with all the injuries, the 49ers defense is the biggest concern and whether or not the Buffalo Bills can move the ball against this group. The concern for me is that the Bills are one-dimensional and move the ball mostly through the air. Considering this, how does Allen move the ball knowing the 49ers are selling out to stop the pass. And if this is the case, are the Bills able to run the ball against a defense that excels in stopping the run. It will be a strength vs. strength matchup and it will be interesting who comes out on top."
NN: What are some key X-factors for both the Bills and SF 49ers this Monday? Who winds up being the biggest difference-maker?
"BL: The biggest X-factor for me is establishing the run but also stopping the run. As mentioned previously, the run game is one of the key X-factors for me and whether Devin Singletary and Zack Moss can build off a good performance against the Chargers, but the Chargers don’t have the same level of defense the 49ers do.Meanwhile, the Bills defense hasn’t done a great job stopping the run and the 49ers have typically had a strong run game. Since Nick Mullens is getting another start, do they lean on Raheem Mostert to move the ball, which is likely a winning strategy for the 49ers this week."
We’d like to thank our friends over at Buffalowdown, especially their site expert, Brandon Croce.
The SF 49ers and Bills kick off their Week 13 Monday Night Football bout on Dec. 7 at 8:15 p.m. ET.