Bills brace to host Rodgers, high-scoring Packers

Bills brace to host Rodgers, high-scoring Packers

By John Wawrow, Associated Press | Posted - Dec. 11, 2014 at 4:12 p.m.


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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams managed to find a bright side in preparing to face Aaron Rodgers a week after playing Peyton Manning.

At least Williams and his defensive teammates won't be star-struck by the elite caliber of opposing quarterback on Sunday, when the Green Bay Packers (10-3) travel to play Buffalo (7-6).

"It's not going to be a situation where it's too big for us, or we'll be intimidated," Williams said, noting the Bills also play New England's Tom Brady twice a year. "Big challenge. But are we going to get caught up in the 'who's who' deal? I don't think so."

Despite a 24-17 loss at Denver, the Bills contained Manning by limiting him to a season-low 173 yards passing, while ending his consecutive-game touchdown passes streak at 51.

Rodgers and the Packers, however, might pose an even bigger challenge for a defense that ranks in the NFL's top 10 in nearly every measurable category, and has played a key role in keeping the Bills in the AFC playoff hunt into December.

Unlike Manning, Rodgers is a threat to run. With three interceptions, and none in his past five starts, he is the league's best this season at protecting the ball.

Then there's the matter of Rodgers being part of an offense that features three players — receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, and running back Eddie Lacy — who have each already topped 995 yards from scrimmage (rushing and receiving), and scored at least 10 touchdowns.

"No disrespect to Peyton Manning, a Hall of Famer," safety Aaron Williams said. "But I feel, right now, Aaron Rodgers is probably the best quarterback in the league. Numbers don't lie."

The Packers have won five straight and nine of 10. They're on the cusp of clinching their sixth consecutive playoff berth, and earn their fourth 11-win season in seven years since Rodgers took over.

The Bills might be an unfamiliar opponent, but Rodgers sees various familiarities to their defense, which is headed by former Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz.

"Obviously, the personnel is different, but you see some of the same things they were doing in Detroit," said Rodgers, who went 7-1 against the Schwartz-coached Lions. "He's a very talented coach and always has some schemes that put pressure on the offense."

Here are some things to watch out for in both team's final nonconference game of the season:

PLAYOFF PICTURE: The Packers have an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth with a win over Buffalo and the Dallas Cowboys (9-4) losing to Philadelphia; and then wait until the Week 15 schedule is competed to determine if they have clinched the strength of victory tiebreaking edge over Dallas.

The Bills need to win to avoid from being all but mathematically eliminated from contention. They rank 11th in the AFC standings, and have lost the tie-breaking edge after defeats to San Diego (8-5), Houston (7-6) and Denver.

INCONSISTENT DEFENSE: The Packers are downplaying concerns raised by their defense, which surrendered 30 points, 304 yards and 17 first downs in the second half of a 43-37 win over Atlanta on Monday night.

The secondary was burned by Julio Jones, who had 11 catches for 259 yards and a touchdown.

"It was not clean in the second half," coach Mike McCarthy said. "At the end of the day, good teams find ways to win, and the offense picked up for the defense."

INCONSISTENT OFFENSE: Bills running back Fred Jackson says it's on the offense to start producing to take the pressure off the defense, especially against a high-scoring opponent such as Green Bay.

"Playing against a guy in Aaron Rodgers, he's going to put up points. We have to be able to do the same," Jackson said.

The offense let the defense down against the Broncos. Buffalo failed to score a point off three turnovers forced by its defense, and managed just three points, 237 yards offense and 12 first downs through three quarters.

SENT PACKING: The Packers are 0-5 at Orchard Park, including a 24-10 loss in their most recent visit in 2006. Rodgers, who was backing up Brett Favre, linebacker A.J. Hawk and cornerback Jarrett Bush are the only remaining Packers who were active for that game.

"I'm not concerned about it," Rodgers said. "It'd be great to be a part of the first win in Buffalo, I guess."

STARKS HOMECOMING: Packers running back James Starks is from Niagara Falls, New York, and set numerous school rushing records during a four-year college career at Buffalo.

The Packers' 2010 sixth-round draft pick had a season-best 75 yards rushing, and also scored against Atlanta.

"He's really in the groove right now and I thought he played his best game as a Green Bay Packer last week," McCarthy said.

___

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP\_NFL

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John Wawrow

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