Jacksonville Sports Day

NFL: Buffalo Bills Hosting Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday

Sports Xchange previews Sunday’s NFL game between the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8) and Buffalo Bills (5-5) in New York state.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, New Era Field, Orchard Park, N.Y. TV: CBS, Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker, Steve Beuerlein.

SERIES HISTORY: 14th regular-season meeting. Bills lead series, 7-6. The teams met last year in London in a memorable game in which the Bills fell behind 27-3 in the first half, came back to take a 31-27 lead and then lost on a late touchdown after a controversial pass interference penalty on Nickell Robey-Coleman. The last time the Bills hosted the Jaguars was in 2012, a 34-18 Buffalo victory.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Sammy Watkins are undeniably the Bills’ most talented and dynamic players on offense, and both could be on the field together for the first time since Week 2.

McCoy suffered a thumb injury in Buffalo’s 16-12 victory over Cincinnati and underwent surgery Sunday night. On Wednesday he was on the practice field with his thumb in a protective wrap. Coach Rex Ryan said he likes McCoy’s chances of playing against the Jaguars.

Watkins has not played since Week 2, and the Bills need him. He underwent offseason foot surgery and missed the offseason program and most of training camp. But he played in Buffalo’s first two games, catching six passes for 63 yards, before going on IR.

Jacksonville would like to run the ball against the Bills defense, which hasn’t had a lot of success stopping opponent’s ground attacks. But, since the Jaguars don’t even have a rusher among the league’s top 19 runners (compared to Buffalo’s three), that may not be the road to a win.

It leaves the Jaguars counting on QB Blake Bortles’ passing talents, which have been spotty, at best. Neither team has had a lot of success in stopping the run, so that might give the Jaguars hope. They will have a new starter in the offensive line in Chris Reed at left guard, his second appearance opening with the first string.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: –Bills RB LeSean McCoy vs. Jaguars LBs Paul Posluszny and Telvin Smith. McCoy suffered a dislocated thumb in the first half of last Sunday’s game against Cincinnati and didn’t play in the second half. He had surgery Sunday night and was on the practice field Wednesday. He is seventh in the NFL with 716 yards rushing, and his 5.2 yards per carry are second-highest among backs with more than 60 attempts. But the Jaguars have been stout in stopping ground attacks this season and last week held Detroit to just 14 yards on the ground.

–Jaguars wide receivers vs. Bills cornerbacks. Jacksonville has a talented group in Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee, but with QB Blake Bortles struggling so much this year, they haven’t produced. The Bills’ secondary was challenged last week by coach Rex Ryan to step it up, and they played very well in helping Buffalo win in Cincinnati. Now, CBs Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby and Kevon Seymour have to build on that performance. If they can shut down Bortles, it will be a long day for the Jaguars.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Bills K Dan Carpenter. On a day when a stunning 12 extra points were missed across the NFL, Carpenter stood head and shoulders above everyone. On a chilly, breezy afternoon in Cincinnati, Carpenter made all four of his kicks — one extra point and three field goals, one a 54-yarder in the third quarter that gave the Bills the lead for good in their 16-12 victory. For his efforts, he was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the sixth time. Coach Rex Ryan, who has some contentious history with Carpenter, changed his tune regarding his veteran kicker Monday, saying. “By the way, I think the star of the game was Carpenter; because, after watching 12 missed extra points in the league, just set a record, it was great we made all our kicks — including the 54-yarder, which really, in my opinion, was the biggest play of the game.”

INJURY REPORT: Jacksonville — Out: DE Jared Odrick (shoulder), LB Dan Skuta (back), DE Chris Smith (eye), TE Julius Thomas (back). Questionable: WR Arrelious Benn (concussion), CB Aaron Colvin (concussion), DT Abry Jones (ankle), RB T.J. Yeldon (ankle). Buffalo — Out: S Robert Blanton (foot), RB Mike Gillislee (hamstring), WR Robert Woods (knee). Doubtful: DT Corbin Bryant (shoulder). Questionable: LB Lorenzo Alexander (ankle), TE Charles Clay (knee), T Cordy Glenn (back), WR Percy Harvin (illness), T Seantrel Henderson (not injury related), RB LeSean McCoy (thumb), WR Sammy Watkins (foot).

FAST FACTS: Jags QB Blake Bortles passed for two TDs in the last meeting. In the past four games, he has 1,056 yards passing and nine TDs. … Jaguars LB Paul Posluszny spent four years with Bills (2007-10) and made two INTs in three meetings. … Jaguars LB Telvin Smith scored off an interception and registered three passes defensed in the last meeting. Since 2014, he is one of three players with 300 tackles (306), three forced fumbles and two interceptions. … Bills QB Tyrod Taylor leads NFL QBs with 401 yards rushing. Since 2015, he is the only QB with 4,500 yards passing (4,970) and 950 yards rushing (969). … Bills RB LeSean McCoy seeks a third consecutive game vs. the Jags with 100 yards from scrimmage. Since 2010, he leads the NFL with 7,766 yards rushing.

PREDICTION: This game may not win any awards for style, but the athleticism of the Bills’ skill players should win the day.

THEIR PICK: Bills, 31-17.
–Frank Coone

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