1. Washington quarterback John Beck
A backup to the turnover machine that is Rex Grossman at the start of the season, the journeyman was given the start in the Washington Redskins’ game last week against Carolina, which the Panthers won 33-20. Beck, who is more mobile than Grossman, didn’t play that bad in leading a team ravaged by injuries. Toronto football fans will be interested to know that Beck battled Cleo Lemon, the former Toronto Argonauts quarterback, for the backup job with the Miami Dolphins a few years ago.
2. Bye week effect
The Buffalo Bills enter Sunday’s game not having played since Oct. 16, when they lost 27-24 to the New York Giants. Last weekend was a bye-week for the 4-2 Bills, who have had plenty of time to ponder what went wrong in East Rutherford. While the break is nice to heal bumps and bruises, it can also affect a team’s sharpness. That could explain why NFL teams coming off byes this year are an unimpressive 3-9.
3. Red light district
A lot has gone right for the Bills offence this season, as Buffalo ranks third in the NFL in scoring (31.3 points per game); second in yards on first-down plays (7.06); and fourth in rushing yards per game (141). Perhaps most impressive is Buffalo’s nose for the end zone once it gets within 20 yards. The Bills have converted 16 of 21 drives inside of the red zone, a 76.2 efficiency rating, which leads the NFL.
4. Action Jackson
The Redskins defence has struggled to shut down the run in recent weeks, which is good news for a Bills team that features one of the NFL’s most productive backs: Fred Jackson. Jackson is ranked No. 1 in the league in yards from scrimmage (880) and is sixth overall with 601 rushing yards. Washington linebackers Rocky McIntosh and London Fletcher will be counted on to slow Jackson.
5. Home-field (dis)advantage
Buffalo has not won a regular-season game in the Rogers Centre, with a dubious 0-3 record in the first three years of the Bills Toronto Series. But Sunday is the first time Buffalo has come into the game with a winning record. And the players, who have decried the lack of home-field atmosphere as compared to rollicking Ralph Wilson Stadium, hope that will make a difference. A pregame tailgate party outside the Toronto stadium will hopefully put the fans in the right frame of mind.