Watch the Big Guys - Week 15 Preview

mario williams

I think a lot of times we make football more complicated than it is. That's not to say it's not a very complicated game, because it can be. At a basic level, though, it's about very large human beings.

Anybody who's ever played sports knows this is true in most situations. If you're warming up for your high school basketball game and the other guys come into the gym led by some 6-10 troglodyte with biceps the size of watermelons, suddenly all the practicing you did that week seems a lot less valid. The question is no longer "can our plays beat their plays?" but "is that guy as good as he looks?"

Now, complicated defenses and Ph.D level offenses have mitigated the "our big guys vs. their big guys" struggle, but at a basic level, that's what football is still about.

If your big guys stop their big guys from getting to the quarterback, your chances of winning go way up. If your big guys can beat their big guys and do bad things to their quarterback, your chances of winning go way up. The inverse of these statements is also true.

I've stuck with this overwrought metaphor for so long because big guys are both the great strength and the great weakness of the Buffalo Bills.

The Buffalo Bills' defensive line may be the best in the business. Their front four of Mario Williams (6-6, 292), Kyle Williams (6-1, 303), Marcell Dareus (6-3, 331), and Jerry Hughes (6-2, 254) is a combined +72.1 in Pro Football Focus's ratings, and 45.7 of those rating points come from Kyle Williams and Dareus, the two defensive tackles.

All of them have positive ratings against both the pass and the run, and their combined rating would be much higher were it not for a whopping -8.8 contributed by Hughes in the form of penalties. They have a combined 36.5 sacks. They can beat you with speed (Hughes), power (Dareus and Kyle Williams), or just freakish athleticism (Mario Williams). They're truly a force to be reckoned with.

The opposite is true of the Bills' offensive line. The offensive big guys have struggled this year in western New York, although they are still gigantic, even by offensive line standards. From left to right, the starters are Cordy Glenn (6-6, 345), Cyril Richardson (6-5, 343), Eric Wood (6-4, 310), Erik Pears (6-8, 316), and Seantrel Henderson (6-7, 310). 

And while their statures are impressive, their performance is not. Pro Football Focus only ranks Cordy Glenn as a positive performer this year, and his +6.1 is hardly anything to write home about. The unit's cumulative rating is a -63.9, or basically the near mirror image of the defensive line.

This is where the simplicity of football comes in. If the Packers can mitigate the strength of the Bills' excellent defensive line, they will almost certainly be able to score enough points to win. If the Packers can take advantage of the relative weakness of the Bills' offensive line, scoring points will be that much less important for the Packers' already potent offense, also increasing their chances at winning.

There's no rocket science here. There's no need to worry about whether the Packers' (once again) suspect defense can contain the likes of Sammy Watkins. Focusing on the storyline that the Packers have never won in Buffalo goes nowhere either, and neither does wondering about how well Kyle Orton has done against the Packers in the past.

This game is simply about our big guys beating their big guys, and I think they will.

Packers: 30 Bills: 21

Gary Zilavy