Analysis

Packers vs. Bills Week 8 Scouting Report: Grades and Key Matchups

Josh Allen Gabe Davis celebrate Bills vs. Steelers

The Scouting Report for Sunday night’s Packers vs. Bills game is produced by The 33rd Team’s Scouting Department, led by former Eagles, Cardinals, and Ravens personnel executive T.J. McCreight and assisted by scouts Justin Casey, Kevin Cohn and Evan Pritt.

Aaron Rodgers vs Josh Allen 

  • Allen is playing at an extremely high level. His QB rating is second in the NFL at 109.1, and he has thrown 17 TDs and four interceptions. Many NFL teams and scouts learned something from the way Allen is playing – you can improve accuracy.
  • He is completing 66.9% of his passes even though the knock on Allen coming out of Wyoming was his overall accuracy. I see him make throws for the Bills he rarely made in college. The deep out route that he can put on a rope now, in college, he would spray that throw, and oftentimes it would take off high.
  • Allen’s strength and power are rare. He is so big and strong that he is difficult to bring down in the pocket. His lower body strength and sturdiness keep him on his feet, and he can still make a throw with people hanging on his body.
  • Similar to Ben Roethlisberger, there is a strategy to bring him down in the pocket. You must hang on and not allow him to wiggle out while you wait for help from a second defender. That second defender needs to attack his right arm. If you have his right arm he can’t throw the football.
  • We have also seen his athletic ability in the open field. Allen is a strong, tough, agile quarterback that runs well. He can move laterally, and he can avoid the big hit. He is savvy on the sideline where he can get the extra yard and still not take a shot from a defender.
  • For all of the issues the Packers have had, Rodgers still can play quarterback. He has thrown 11 TDs and only three picks through the first 7 games.
  • If I had to pick a quarterback for just one play, Rodgers would be one of the few I would pick. He is probably the best ‘hail mary’ passer I have ever scouted.
  • When you watch Rogers pay close attention to how the ball jumps out of his hand. He has a quick release, and the ball gets out quickly.
  • You can’t put a price tag on experience. Rodgers has seen it all. Every pressure, coverage and different defensive scheme he has seen during his career, and he understands how to attack it.
  • Nothing is more fun when watching a football game than when you have two great quarterbacks playing in the game. It is all about the quarterback. If you have a great one you always have a chance. This game will be a fun game to watch.

Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes and Rasul Douglas vs Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis

  • The foundation of Green Bay’s secondary was built through the draft. They used first-round picks on Alexander (2018), Stokes (2021) and FS Darnell Savage (2019).
  • They got a bonus when they plucked Douglas off of the Cardinals’ practice squad last October when Alexander injured his shoulder. All Douglas did was intercept five passes and return two for TDs in Alexander’s place.
  • The Green Bay defense is No.1 in passing yards allowed per game (168.9) and is third in third down defense (30%). These stats can be deceiving when you look at some of the offenses and QB/WR combos that they have faced. 
  • They’ve faced Justin Fields, Mac Jones/Bailey Zappe, Daniel Jones, Zach Wilson and Taylor Heinicke. Tampa was without Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in their matchup. Justin Jefferson torched them in the opener for 184 yards and two TDs. They have not faced an offense firing on all cylinders like Buffalo.
  • With Alexander back this season, Douglas has primarily played slot/nickel. Alexander appeared to travel to Terry McLaurin’s side of the formation against Washington and cover him in man coverage calls. Alexander missed most of the game vs Tampa and all of their game against New England with a groin injury/
  • Douglas played right CB in those games. Stokes has lined up at left CB except when Alexander was following McLaurin. I could see them trying to do something similar against Diggs.
  • Douglas is especially good at reading the QB and excels driving downhill on short routes. He is also effective with his length-disrupting releases when he is lined up in press coverage. He will get his hands on balls and play well through the receiver’s hands. He struggles to transition any time a receiver can manipulate him with their stem to get him to flip his hips. He also lacks great recovery speed.
  • Stokes has all the physical tools, but I question his instincts at times. He hasn’t gotten his hands on a ball this season, and it’s not because teams are avoiding him. 
  • Alexander doesn’t have ideal height and length, but he has excellent feet, transition skills and both short-area quickness and long speed. He can close on the throw and get his hands on passes. He has good eyes and feel for route combinations. He has struggled with his balance downfield at times this year and is not playing his best ball.
  • Alexander still might not be 100% from the groin injury he suffered earlier this season, but that doesn’t explain his sloppy technique in press vs. McLaurin. 
  • The Packers have only given up 17 completions of 20+ yards, which is tied for seventh in the league. Only one of those was an instance of the receiver getting behind the deepest defender. Alexander was beaten on a go route by a perfectly thrown ball to McLaurin last week for a 39-yard TD. 
  • Where the Packers have been vulnerable has been on deep over routes, especially on play action. 
  • The Jets hit them with a deep shot on an out and up, and both Douglas and Stokes are especially vulnerable to double moves. 
  • The Bills already have three completions of 50+ yards, and they are tied for fourth with 25 completions of 20+ yards. Diggs is second in the league in receiving yards per game (109.3) and receiving TDs (6).
  • Davis leads the league in yards per catch (27.36) and has six 20+ yard completions and four TDs despite playing in just five games and probably only being close to 100% healthy in three of them.
  • Davis is not a technician as a route runner nor does he have the cleanest hands, especially on contested catches. However, he’s a different player entirely when it comes to stacking and tracking the ball on a go route. He could also be effective with his speed running deep over routes against the Packers.
  • Diggs, on the other hand, is an excellent route runner with strong hands in contested situations. He lines up on both sides and in the slot, so he should see all three of the Packers’ corners unless they decide to have Alexander travel with him. Diggs could give Douglas some problems in the slot with his ability to change speeds and the way they use motion to create leverage for him at the snap. 
  • While Alexander is being paid like a No.1 corner and the Packers’ defensive stats make you think they have been suffocating offenses, there is room to make some plays against them if you can protect the quarterback.
  • You can see receivers getting Alexander on his heels when he plays off, so don’t be surprised if the Bills test them more vertically than they have been so far this season.

Rashan Gary and Preston Smith vs Von Miller and Gregory Rousseau

  • This is a matchup between two teams who can really get after the passer. Both are ranked in the top 10 in sacks per pass attempt, with Buffalo ranked fourth at 9.22% and Green Bay at 10th with 8.15%. The Bills rank seventh with 19 sacks and the Packers are not far behind them at 15 sacks.
  • Gary and Smith make up the pass rush tandem for the Packers. Gary is having a productive season ranking fifth in sacks with six. Gary is a game wrecker. He is a great athlete with a rare combination of speed and strength. He has an explosive get-off and uses his speed to disrupt the quarterback. He has great arm length and uses the long arm to his advantage to prevent tackles from getting their hands on his chest. He has good shock and shed and delivers a blow in the running game.
  • Gary has a variety of pass-rush moves he can use to win. Teams have had their most success slowing him down by chipping with backs or keeping a tight end in to block. Gary is strong enough to fight through double teams, so this doesn’t always guarantee you are going to stop him. He gets a ton of pressure and is a guy that needs to be accounted for at all times. 
  • Smith is also doing a nice job on the opposite side for Green Bay. Smith has 3.5 sacks so far and is another guy who gets a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Smith isn’t quite as explosive as Gary and relies more on his strength to get to the QB. Smith is more fluid than twitchy in his get-off but does show good speed on the outside.
  • He does a good job of preventing tackles from getting hands-on and using his strength to drive the tackle backward. Smith has strong hands to deliver a blow on the tackle’s chest. He relies mostly on the bull rush and the long arm to win. He is less likely to face double teams with Gary on the opposite side, but he takes advantage of seeing one on one situations. He is a smart player and uses his eyes well to identify where the QB is. Smith is a good compliment to Gary.
  • On the opposite side, the Bills will roll out Miller and Rousseau. Miller has been around the block for a while but is still playing at a high level. Miller is tied with Gary for the fifth most sacks in the league with six. Miller is still explosive on the edge with a quick first step and great speed.
  • He shows a wide variety of moves he can use to beat tackles. He has the strength and arm length to use the bull rush effectively. He uses his quickness to set up the spin move, which he has all but perfected. He has great hand usage to disengage and then turns on the jets to run right around his blocker.
  • Miller has great bend to dip around tackles. He plays with a high motor and is full go on every snap. You absolutely have to get hands-on Miller to slow him down, and that still may not be enough. 
  • Rousseau is the opposite edge rusher for the Bills. Rousseau is long, lean and athletic. If you had to draw up a prototypical edge rusher body type he is pretty close to it.
  • He is also having a productive season for Buffalo, totaling four sacks so far. Rousseau isn’t as explosive as Miller but does a good job winning with strength and lateral quickness. He has a good bull rush and long arm. He can drive the tackle back into the backfield. He is most effective when he shoots inside on loops. He can drive guards that are less strong than he is into the QB when he kicks inside
  • Rousseau’s long arms also allow him to disrupt passing lanes and tip balls. He does this extremely effectively. He needs to develop some more pass-rush variety, but he is a younger player and will continue to progress. Buffalo is in good hands with Miller and Rousseau on the outside.
  • Both offensive lines will need to put a heavy emphasis on defending the pass rush in this game. I expect the Packers to show Miller more double teams than he has seen so far. If David Bakhtiari can’t go on Sunday, rookie Zach Tom will slide into his spot. Tom played well last week against Washington, but you have to bet Miller is licking his chops at the chance to go up against a young and inexperienced tackle.
  • Buffalo has done a good job keeping Allen clean this season. I expect they will run some chips to slow Gary down, but don’t expect them to keep a tight end to block full-time. Allen can move around and does an exceptional job of evading sacks, so I don’t see them changing up too much of their approach upfront.

Extra Points

  • Green Bay Blitzes at the second highest rate (41.3%)
  • Buffalo rotates defensive linemen exceptionally well to keep guys fresh. Miller and Rousseau are the highlight guys, but they also use A.J. Epenesa and Boogie Basham. Buffalo has spent capital on pass rushers, a first-round pick on Rousseau, second-round picks on Epenesa and Basham, and big money to bring in Miller. This strategy has paid off and is paying dividends for them. 

Packers’ Keys to Victory

  • Their edge rushers need to win and their secondary needs to play up to its potential.
  • They need to run the ball more effectively than they have recently.

Bills’ Keys to Victory

  • Be aggressive against a Green Bay secondary that looks good on paper but is ripe to give up a big day if they can protect Allen.
  • Don’t let Rodgers get into a rhythm.

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