September 24, 2010
Week 3: Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots -14 (42')
By: Tim Schaffer
What to watch for…
- The Bills have named Ryan Fitzpatrick the starting QB, replacing the ineffective Trent Edwards. Fitzpatrick was 5-4 as the starter last year, with 1,422 yards passing, 9TDs, 10 INT and a 69.7 passer rating.
- Last season, Lee Evans and Terrell Owens both seemed to prefer Fitzpatrick to Edwards. Evans said as much this week: “Fitz just has that different demeanor about him than Trent does. I think we have a very good rapport. We know who each other are and it’s just about making plays and having the opportunity to make plays." Evans continued: “He’ll freelance a little bit more. He’s not afraid to get in the huddle and trust what he’s seeing or tell somebody to do something else.” Look for the offense to get Evans more involved this week, especially matched up against NE's young CB tandem of Darius Butler and Devin McCourty. Evans was held without a reception last week for only the second time in his career.
- Edwards is obviously taking much of the blame for the offensive woes, but there is plenty to go around. The team ranks last in offensive yards/game, passing yards/game and points/game. The line has allowed 7 sacks already, tied for third worst in the league.
- Reports indicate that Roscoe Parrish will replace Steve Johnson as the #2 WR. Parrish has good quickness and is a decent slot receiver; his lack of size will likely hinder him on the outside.
- Buffalo OG Andy Levitre (shoulder) is expected to play. Chan Gailey has already ruled LB Paul Posluszny (knee) out for Sunday's game.
- NE RB Kevin Faulk was placed on IR Wednesday and will miss the rest of the season. Faulk is NE's go-to 3rd down back: He is their best receiver out of the backfield and their best back at picking up the blitz. It might not show up this week, but NE will miss him going forward. They do not have much depth remaining at RB following the trade of Laurence Maroney.
- The Bills will need to generate pressure on QB Tom Brady (preferably up the middle, to prevent him from stepping up in the pocket) to help neutralize NE's passing game. With a weakened ground game, look for NE to rely even more on Randy Moss, Wes Welker and up-and-coming TE Daniel Hernandez. The Bills were picked apart last week by Aaron Rodgers as they were unable to hurry the GB QB. The Bills have 3 sacks in two games this season.
- New England won both head-to-head matchups last year by a combined 8 points. NE won 25-24 in Week 1 on two Tom Brady TD passes in the final 2:06. The Pats won an ugly game in Buffalo in Week 15, 17-10, as Brady threw for a season-low 115 yards. Buffalo committed 11 penalties for 124 yards in the game.
- New England has won 18 of the past 19 head-to-head matchups, including 13 straight. The Pats are 22-8-1 ATS off of a SU loss. However, they are 1-10 as a home favorite >10'.
- This series has gone 'Under' 19 of the past 26 matchups. The teams have combined for >42.5 points (current posted total) only 3 of the past 10 matchups (twice during NE's undefeated 2007 season).
September 10, 2010
Week 1: Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills +3
By: Tim Schaffer
What to watch for…
- Buffalo's first regular season game with new Head Coach Chan Gailey calling the plays. Look for a much more diverse offense than last year's model. Based on the preseason (granted, a small sample size) Gailey seems willing to let QB Trent Edwards air it out, as evidenced by a couple of deep completions to Lee Evans--something that was absent last season. It will be a question of whether Buffalo's tackles--Demetrius Bell, still rounding into game shape following offseason knee surgery, and Raider refugee Cornell Green--will allow Edwards the time to throw. According to reports, Green has not looked very good in training camp. Bell has only 8 career starts, and his play was uneven at best last season. Miami's defense was 5th in the NFL last season with 44 sacks, so the Buffalo offensive line will face a stern test right away.
- Edwards & Evans will be looking to exploit the Miami secondary, which had a rocky preseason. Miami demoted 2nd year CB Sean Smith in favor of former 1st rounder Jason Allen. The Fins also placed Will Allen on IR this week, which will hurt their secondary depth this season. The Bills are thin at WR--they will be starting 3rd year man Steve Johnson (12 career catches) opposite Evans. Buffalo also lacks a pass-catching TE, although the TE will probably be kept in to help in pass protection.
- Miami's defensive line will be without NT Jason Ferguson, who is serving an 8-game suspension. The run defense struggled without Ferguson last season, who is capable of commanding double teams and freeing up linebackers to make tackles and rush the passer. Miami will shift Randy Starks to the middle while rookie Jared Odrick takes Starks' spot at DE. ILB Channing Crowder did not practice on Wednesday, and his status for Sunday is uncertain.
- The Bills signed former Miami TE David Martin earlier this week (Martin was cut by Miami last weekend). Not only did this fill a need for Buffalo's offense (down to 2 back-up TE's due to injuries) but may have allowed them some inside info on the Miami playbook. It is also worth noting that new defensive coordinator George Edwards spent the past 5 seasons coaching Miami's linebackers. Edwards should be very familiar with the Miami personnel on both sides of the ball.
- Will Buffalo be able to slow down Miami's rushing attack? Buffalo struggled versus the run last year (several LB injuries contributed), and will be unveiling a new 3-4 defense that lacks a prototypical NT. Marcus Stroud will handle NT duties as the defense begins its conversion from Dick Jauron's 4-3/Tampa 2. It will be interesting to see how sharp the defense is with the front 7 handling different roles--will they maintain their assignments? Or do they not have the personnel to make the 3-4 work?
- Miami: 3-12-2 L17 games in September, 7-1 vs AFC East, 9-4 U L13 road games. Miami hasn't won at Buffalo since 2003.
- Buffalo: 5-1 home vs Miami, 8-3-1 L12 H2H, 3-10 L13 home games, 8-3 U L11 home games.
August 7, 2010
Bills Blog #1
By: Tim Schaffer
2009 Season in Review
vs >.500 opponents: 3-7
In games decided by 7 points or less: 2-5
vs. AFC East: 2-4
Scoring: 16.1 pts/gm (28th in NFL)
First Downs: 233 (32nd)
Scoring: 20.4 pts/gm (16th)
First Downs Allowed: 310 (22nd)
The Buffalo Bills' 2009 season was doomed before it even began. Buffalo traded Pro Bowl LT Jason Peters in March and decided to replace him with journeyman Langston Walker. The Walker experiment was short-lived however, as he was unceremoniously cut 8 days before the regular season opener vs New England. Offensive coordinator Turk Schonert, who was attempting to install a no-huddle offense, was also shown the door after prior to the regular season opener. Former QB Alex Van Pelt (no previous NFL OC experience) was handed the reins. His lack of experience was shared by the starting offensive line, which featured 5 starters each playing new positions. The line never had a chance to develop any cohesiveness, as Buffalo saw 8 different players start on the OL during the season as part of 11 different line combinations (both NFL highs). Four OL finished the season on IR (T Brad Butler, G Eric Wood, T Demetrius Bell and G Kendall Simmons) as the team lost 105 games to injury, most in the league.
The makeshift OL certainly did not help the team's quarterbacks, who were sacked 46 times. The Bills started three QBs last season: Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm. The three-headed monster combined for a composite QB rating of 71.7 with a 17/19 TD:INT ratio. The team's yards/attempt (ypa) was a dreadful 5.2, good for 27th in the NFL. Terrell Owens led the team with 829 receiving yards. WR Lee Evans contributed 612 yards, the lowest output of his career.
The lone bright spot on the offense was RB Fred Jackson, who rushed for 1062 yards without the benefit of a competent passing game. The rushing offense as a whole was solid, averaging 4.4 yards/carry (ypc; 9th in the league), although the Bills were only able to generate 6 rushing TDs. The lack of rush TDs was symptomatic of another huge problem for the team: red zone offense. Buffalo's offense scored a TD only 32% of their trips inside the 20, good for worst in the NFL (and 4th worst in the past 10 seasons).
Perhaps it was the lack of experience & depth on the OL, perhaps it was Van Pelt's lack of coordinating experience and the shift from the no huddle offense on the eve of the season, but the Bills owned possibly the least diverse attack in the league. There was little pre-snap motion, a dearth of personnel groupings and an overall lack of imagination. The team made little effort to move TO or Evans around in the formation or get them the ball in open space, which contributed to their ineptitude in the red zone and on third down.
The 2009 Bills' defense was a study in contrasts. The rush defense ranked 30th in the NFL, allowing 4.7 ypc (2,501 yards allowed). Four times the defense allowed more than 200 yards rushing in a game, with a season high of 318 allowed to the Jets. Meanwhile, the pass defense allowed less than 3000 yards passing on the season (2nd in NFL). Granted teams probably threw less on the Bills because they were too busy racking up yards on the ground, but the team only allowed 5.4 ypa, good for 2nd in the NFL and tallied 28 interceptions, again good for 2nd in the league. The secondary was led by rookie Pro Bowler Jairus Byrd, with 9 picks and 11 passes defensed. The performance of the defensive backfield is even more impressive when you consider that the team lost starting CB Leodis McKelvin to a broken leg in the third game of the season. Free agent signee Drayton Florence did a solid job filling in for McKelvin at right corner.
Opposing offenses were more than willing to take advantage of a smallish Buffalo front 7 with their running game. The Bills lacked size and depth at defensive tackle, with Marcus Stroud being the only DT to tip the scales at more than 300 lbs. DEs Chris Kelsay and Aaron Schobel (team high 10 sacks) are built more as quick, rushing ends than run-stuffers (Schobel was released earlier this week, further weakening the team's defensive line depth). It will be interesting to see how new defensive coordinator George Edwards schemes around this lack of size with the shift to a 3-4 defense. More on that later…
Up next: The 2010 Offseason and Training Camp