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Buffalo Bills vs. Las Vegas Raiders prediction and keys to the game at Highmark Stadium

ORCHARD PARK - One would have to believe the worst thing that could have happened to the Las Vegas Raiders last week was the Buffalo Bills losing in the fashion they did to the New York Jets.

Josh McDaniels, the Raiders head coach who for so many years tormented the Bills when he was Tom Brady’s offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, will bring his 1-0 team into a potential hornet’s nest at Highmark Stadium Sunday as the 0-1 Bills figure to be in an ornery mood. At least they better be after their Monday night debacle.

“We don't get too high, don't get too low,” safety Micah Hyde said. “We understand that we kind of gave that game away. You can't really do that in the NFL, you gotta learn from it, you gotta move on, and we're excited about that. We are guaranteed to have another 16 games this year and, so we're not going to trip over one.”

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Las Vegas - a team that might be better than some people give it credit for - went on the road in Week 1 and beat division rival Denver with a late touchdown, but this will be an entirely different test as the Bills’ offense - when Josh Allen isn’t throwing the ball to the defense - is far superior to anything the Broncos trot out.

Undeniably, for a mid-September Week 2 game, it’s a big one for Buffalo. The schedule is brutal, particularly in the second half of the season, and the Bills have already punted away a game that was simply inexplicable once Aaron Rodgers exited after his fourth snap. The Bills can’t afford to start 0-2 in an AFC East that might be the best division in football.

Here’s my preview of the game followed by my prediction:

Buffalo Bills on offense

Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby is one of the NFL's best at generating pressure.
Raiders edge rusher Maxx Crosby is one of the NFL's best at generating pressure.

All eyes will be on Allen as he tries to move past his horrible four-turnover meltdown. The good news for him is he isn’t playing the Jets who very clearly have his number the way no other team does.

Whereas the Jets are good to great at all three levels on defense, the Raiders have one outstanding player in edge rusher Maxx Crosby who can be a game-wrecker, and some nice complimentary pieces including LB Divine Diablo, CB Marcus Peters and Allen’s old teammate at Wyoming, SS Marcus Epps.

The Bills will have favorable matchups across the board and we could see the full breadth of the offense unleashed, again, provided Allen doesn’t go rogue. At this stage of his career Peters is a CB who will make the occasional great play, but will give up plenty, while on the other side, the Raiders are breaking in rookie CB Jakorian Bennett, a speedy fourth-round pick who struggled a bit in coverage last week.

Diggs should be able to cook, Gabe Davis should be able to bounce back from a non-productive night in New York, and I also think there will be opportunities to get the ball downfield to WR Deonte Harty and tight ends Dawson Knox and Dalton Kincaid, all of whom were limited to short, low-wattage passes in Week 1 by the Jets.

On the ground, the Bills’ offensive line should be able to create some space against the Raiders’ front seven, and it will be up to James Cook to take advantage. He had a pretty ho-hum first game as RB1 and needs to be more threatening as both a runner and receiver. The one area of concern will be RT Spencer Brown having to go against Crosby. The Bills will have to help Brown with chip blocks from Knox and Kincaid to keep Crosby from blowing up plays.

More: What channel is the Bills game on? How to watch Buffalo Bills vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Buffalo Bills on defense

Davante Adams hasn't skipped a beat since leaving Green Bay for Las Vegas.
Davante Adams hasn't skipped a beat since leaving Green Bay for Las Vegas.

WR Jakobi Meyers was the key player for Las Vegas’ offense last week as he caught nine passes for 81 yards and both TDs. But he suffered a concussion in the closing minutes and he is already ruled out. This means slot receiver Hunter Renfroe, who was invisible in that game, will get a bigger chunk of the game plan, though the primary threat is obviously Davante Adams.

Adams is one of the best in the business and he’ll be a handful no matter what side he lines up on. The Bills’ secondary did a very nice job overall on Garrett Wilson last week, but Adams has the advantage of much more experience, plus a better QB throwing the ball in Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo doesn’t get much respect, but the guy is 41-17 as a starter in his career. He doesn’t blow you away with his play, but he’s efficient and smart, and he has plenty of experience in McDaniels’ offense from their days together in New England when he was Brady’s backup.

I would expect the Raiders to try to play the quick passing game with Adams and Renfroe in an effort to neutralize a Bills’ pass rush which was impactful last week, and then take a shot here or there with Adams down the field.

What the Raiders will try to establish first, though, is the run game with Josh Jacobs, the reigning NFL rushing champion. Last week FB Jakob Johnson was on the field for 16 snaps as a run blocker and the Raiders will continue to do that. Jacobs admitted that his offseason holdout affected his performance in the opener when he averaged just 2.5 yards per carry, the lowest of his career. But as he gets back into a groove, he could be a problem, especially against a Bills defense that allowed several big runs to New York’s Breece Hall.

Sal’s prediction: Bills 31, Raiders 17

This feels like, and needs to be, a get-right game for the Bills as they have clear-cut advantages on offense against the Raiders defense. I expect offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey to set Allen up for a hot start, if for no other reason to start washing away the acrid taste of what happened in New York.

That might mean some quick action passes to set up the downfield game, and I think Allen will respond favorably. As long as he doesn’t get stupid with the ball, the Bills should be able to get going early and maintain that pace throughout the day and avoid the dreaded 0-2 start.

Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, 406 teams have started 0-2 and just 57 finished with a winning record, 39 rallied to make the playoffs, four reached the Super Bowl and only the 1993 Cowboys, 2001 Patriots and 2007 Giants won the championship. So yeah, 0-2 is not good.

Bills vs. Raiders: News and notes

Josh Jacobs led the NFL in rushing yards in 2022.
Josh Jacobs led the NFL in rushing yards in 2022.

▶ Since the start of 2020, the Bills have the largest average margin of victory following a loss at 10.9 points. They are 9-3 after a loss in that span.

Leonard Floyd’s 1.5-sack debut for the Bills continued a trend for him the last three-plus seasons. He now has 30.5 sacks since the start of 2020 which ranks 10th in the NFL.

▶ Since the start of 2020, counting the postseason, the Bills’ .800 winning percentage at home is the best in the NFL. The Chiefs are next at .788 and the Packers are third at .750.

▶ The Raiders have one of the best kickers in the NFL in Daniel Carlson as he owns the top four spots in the Raiders’ record book for single-season field goal percentage. Since entering the league in 2018, he has a success rate of 88.3% which is second-best in the NFL, he’s 24 of 29 from the 50 and beyond (82.9%) which is best in the league, and he is fifth in the NFL in points scored with 602.

▶ Las Vegas’ primary return man, Deandre Carter, has the second-best punt return average since 2018 at 9.8 yards (among those with at least 100 returns), trailing only ex-Bill Ray-Ray McCloud (9.9).

▶ Since he entered the NFL in 2019, Crosby’s 66 tackles for lost yardage are second-most behind only T.J. Watt (67).

▶ In the NFL’s annual Week 1 roster breakdown, the Bills’ initial 53-man roster had 13 players under 200 pounds, tied for second-most with the Ravens and Broncos, behind only the Dolphins with 15. The Bills also came in as the fourth-oldest team at 26.57 years of age, though these numbers are very close from top to bottom. The average age for the 32 teams is 26.08.

2023 Buffalo Bills schedule

  • Mon. Sept . 11, at Jets, L 16-22 (OT)

  • Sun., Sept. 17, vs. Raiders, 1 p.m.

  • Sun. Sept. 24, at Commanders, 1 p.m.

  • Sun. Oct. 1, vs. Dolphins, 1 p.m.

  • Sun. Oct. 8, vs. Jaguars, London, 9:30 a.m.

  • Sun. Oct. 15, vs. Giants, 8:20 p.m.

  • Sun. Oct. 22, at Patriots, 1 p.m.

  • Thur. Oct. 26, vs. Buccaneers, 8:20 p.m.

  • Sun. Nov. 5, at Bengals, 8:20 p.m.

  • Mon. Nov. 13, vs. Broncos, 8:15 p.m.

  • Sun. Nov. 19, vs. Jets, 4:25 p.m.

  • Sun. Nov. 26, at Eagles, 4:25 p.m.

  • Sun. Dec. 3, Bye week

  • Sun. Dec. 10, at Chiefs, 4:25 p.m.

  • Sun. Dec. 17, vs. Cowboys, 4:25 p.m.

  • Sat. Dec. 23, at Chargers, 8 p.m.

  • Sun. Dec. 31, vs. Patriots, 1 p.m.

  • Sun. Jan. 7, at Dolphins, TBD

Sal Maiorana can be reached at maiorana@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana and on Threads @salmaiorana1. To subscribe to Sal's newsletter, Bills Blast, which will come out every Friday during training camp, please follow this link: https://profile.democratandchronicle.com/newsletters/bills-blast

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Bills vs Raiders predictions and keys to game to Buffalo home opener