It’s no secret that Buffalo’s biggest Achilles heel this season has been the run defense. They’ve allowed over 100 yards rushing in all but two games this season, including allowing over 150 yards and 6.0+ YPC in half of their games. The number one stands for the number of games in which Buffalo has allowed 4.0 YPC or less in their last 13 games in Buffalo *prior to Thursday night’s game.*

The New York Jets game of Week 9 last season is the only game in Buffalo since Week 10 of the 2010 season that Buffalo allowed fewer than 4.0 yards per carry. There has been a pretty stark difference in the performance of Buffalo’s run defense at home vs the performance of Buffalo’s run defense on the road.  Buffalo managed to hold opponents to 4.0 YPC or less in four out of six road games this season while allowing 6.0 yards per carry or more in three out of four home games. Below is a breakdown of each game this season:

Opponent

Carries

Yards

YPC

@ NYJ

36

118

3.3

vs KC

24

150

6.3

@ CLE

13

33

2.5

vs NE

40

247

6.2

@ SF

38

311

8.2

@ ARI

30

182

6.1

vs TEN

27

197

7.3

@HOU

32

118

3.7

@ NE

29

117

4.0

vs MIA

24

60

2.5

 

 

 

 

HOME

115

654

5.7

ROAD

178

879

4.9

 

 

 

 

HOME (w/o MIA)

91

594

6.5

ROAD (w/o SF)

140

568

4.0

You can see a pretty significant difference in YPC at home vs YPC on the road for the Bills defense this year. That difference is exaggerated even more if you eliminate the two outliers this season, the game in San Francisco and the game last Thursday against Miami. You can see that, largely, Buffalo has been fairly successful in run defense on the road while they have been consistently terrible at home.

Granted, this is a small sample size so simply removing any data points will have a significant effect on final numbers. However, considering the Miami game is the only home game in which Buffalo allowed fewer than 6.0 YPC and the SF game is one of only two games on the road where Buffalo allowed more than 4.0 YPC, it’s fair to say these observations are highly influential and mostly likely to be outliers relative to all other observations.

The run defense could really come into the spotlight as we close in on the end of the season. Buffalo is facing three rookie quarterbacks in the final six weeks as well as two non-rookies that are experiencing significant struggles and rank near the bottom of the league in nearly every category.

The focus will be on the defense in stopping running backs like Maurice Jones-Drew (potentially, currently injured), Steven Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, and Reggie Bush. Indianapolis is the only team remaining that takes a decidedly effective pass-first approach. The remaining teams either have a highly ineffective passing game (Jacksonville) or take a decidedly run-first approach (Seattle).

Team

Pass Att

Rank

YPA

Rank

Rush Att

Rank

YPC

Rank

Indianapolis

412

3rd

7.2

17th

279

10th

4.0

17th

Jacksonville

349

16th

6.4

28th

222

31st

3.6

32nd

St Louis

337

20th

6.9

21st

258

21st

4.4

10th

Seattle

255

31st

7.3

13th

334

2nd

4.3

13th

Miami

327

23rd

6.9

22nd

277

12th

3.6

28th

NY Jets

321

25th

6.5

27th

291

7th

3.7

26th

Given the up-and-down play of Buffalo’s remaining opponent’s quarterbacks along with their relative strength at running back, Buffalo’s run defense will be highly influential in their ability to push themselves into the playoff picture. With four of their final six games being home games, Buffalo’s defense is going to need to carry the momentum from this week going forward.

* I am choosing to exclude the Redskins game in Toronto as what’s technically considered a “home” game and only counting games actually played in Buffalo.