Inside The Bills

Special teams edge tilts heavily toward Bills

Posted by Chris Brown on December 21, 2014 – 2:30 pm

More often than not the Bills have won the special teams battle in their games this season. On paper Sunday’s game might present the most lopsided matchup of special teams for Buffalo this year.

Oakland ranks last in the league in opponent average drive start at better than an opponent’s own 33-yard line. For their offense the situation is no better. Their average drive start on offense ranks ranks last in the league as well at less than their own 24-yard line.

Part of that has little to do with special teams. Oakland has the sixth-most giveaways this season with a total of 27. That combined with just 11 takeaways gives the Raiders the worst turnover differential in the NFL at minus-16. Bills head coach Doug Marrone addressed the Raiders’ special teams in his weekly Coffee with the Coach segment presented by Tim Horton’s on Buffalobills.com.

“A lot of it is with the turnovers,” said Bills head coach Doug Marrone of Oakland’s field position issues. “That’s the first thing that you look at. The second part is the opportunities. They have 30 more punts than we have this year. When you give teams in the NFL that many opportunities someone is going to take advantage of it.”

And take advantage they have. Opponents are averaging almost 12 yards a return on Oakland punts making the Raiders the second-worst punt coverage unit in football. It explains why the Raiders have given up nine punt returns of 20 yards or more, which is the most in the NFL this season.

Raider opponents also have the highest collective kick return average in the league at a fat 31.9 average per return. A little more than 94 percent of the time Oakland opponents return a kickoff for more than 20 yards, more than 25 percent about the league average.

This despite the fact that the Raiders have the seventh-best touchback percentage in the league (62.2%) with veteran kicker Sebastian Janikowski.

Perhaps most surprising is the unit is coached by former Bills special teams coach Bobby April, who had some of the best special teams units in football during his time coaching in Buffalo (2004-2009).

Suffice to say that Buffalo return man Marcus Thigpen is likely to have his share of opportunities today.


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