After a very close game against New England (a team that has had the Bills number for the last couple of years) the Bills have more to look forward to this season.
The Challenges of Playing at Miami in September
This week they head into Miami, where the Bills complete the toughest first two games of any NFL team so far this year. The Bills love to “squish the fish”, but Ralph Wilson’s warriors have a big challenge at hand. Playing in Miami’s high heat during September certainly does not work in Buffalo’s favor, and being on the road has seemed to be a problem for most recent Bills teams.
Difficult Decisions With The Bills Young Defense
The biggest question for the Bills this week will be whether the defense can repeat their inspiring performance from last week’s heart breaking loss. Sadly, the “D” won’t have the same personnel as last week. Troy Vincent suffered a hamstring injury that initially seemed like it would have kept him out for about four weeks, but Head Coach Dick Jauron decided to put Vincent on the injured reserve, ending his season. Takeo Spikes has missed practice all this week also with a hamstring injury and very well might not play.
If Spikes does not play, the Bills would either let Mario Haggan take Spikes’ place or move Angelo Crowell back to the strong side and let Keith Ellison or Josh Stamer play the weak side. With the other three linebackers all unproven, the Bills really need Takeo on the field. Also Crowell, one of last year’s most pleasant surprises, made some mistakes against the Patriots. Crowell was completely fooled on the touchdown to RB Kevin Faulk, and he also lost track of TE Ben Watson on a big play over the middle.
With a hurting line backing corps, the Bills need a big game out of the “D” line. Miami has a weak middle of their offensive line, including overweight, ineffective Bennie Anderson, who failed miserably on the Bills line last year. Free agent signing Larry Tripplett and rookie Kyle Williams need to have big games. Ronnie Brown is touted as a future big time running back, but he’s still unproven. However the Bills did let up 183 yards on the ground to the Pats last week. The run D really needs to step up. Look for Fletcher, Schobel, and Tripplett to have big games.
After losing Troy Vincent on the second drive of last weeks game, the secondary still played an incredible game, holding Tom Brady to 11-23 passing with only 163 yards. Nate Clements didn’t seem to make a tackle on a receiver all game, which is always a good sign for a “cover” corner back. First round pick, Donte Whittner also got his first NFL interception, which he would have scored on if it were not for a “phantom” block in the back penalty.
Starting next to Whittner as the Free Safety in place for Vincent will be 4th round pick Ko Simpson. Simpson has impressed coaches all through training camp and practice and played well last Sunday. With two rookie safeties, there could be a few mistakes made over the middle but these two definitely have the speed and athleticism to make up for them. Also with Pro-Bowlers Nate Clements, Terrence McGee, and London Fletcher helping them out, do not look for the secondary to miss a beat. Especially with the performance of fading Daunte Culpepper last week.
The Bills Offense Has To Improve To Win Big AFC East Road Games
The offense also needs to play like they did before the failed 4th down conversion vs. the Patriots. After that play, the Bills did not pick up another 1st down all game. J.P. Losman did look pretty impressive though. Excluding the unfortunate, game-turning safety, Losman looked comfortable in the pocket completing 15 of 23 passes to seven different receivers. He improved in preseason, winning the job over veteran Kelly Holcomb and free agent, Craig Nall. Since Losman has only won one regular season game in his nine career starts, don’t look for him to carry the team, but he could be a good producer, who can make a play or two when we need it. With Miami’s starting corner back Travis Daniels doubtful and after losing Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison in back to back years, look for the Bills to challenge Miami’s secondary.
For Losman to be in position to be a winner, Willis McGahee has to return to the form of his first year starting. Willis, along with the rest of the offense, slowed down in the second half last week, finishing with only 70 rushing yards on 20 carries. It still seems like the offensive line isn’t helping McGahee out as much as he might want, but he must be dominant for the Bills to succeed this week. Miami’s Defense is getting old and Willis has loved running in Miami in the past, so he could have a big game.
No Bills receiver had a really big game last week. Josh Reed was the leader with three catches for 40 yards. With all the speed the Bills have in their receiving core with Lee Evans, Peerless Price, Roscoe Parrish, and Andre Davis, it was surprising to see that the longest catch was only for 20 yards last week. Lee Evans needs to establish himself as a true number one receiver, so he should get more looks this week especially down field. To open up the running game the Bills will need to stretch the field, and they certainly have the receivers to do so.
After coming of a terrible offensive performance vs. the Steelers and with an aging defense, Miami can’t over look the charging Buffalo Bills this weekend. If Takeo plays most of the game the Bills have a great shot at the upset. If not, the Bills will have a tough time, but you never know which rookies could step up.
Finally, for all of you watching the game for fantasy points and parlays, I like the Bills to cover the 7-point spread and over 37. The best starts this week for your team are Willis McGahee, the Bills’ defense, Ronnie Brown, and Randy McMichael.