By Daniel James – Buffalo Bills Writer
Having been a Buffalo Bills fan for over 15 years, it’s an unusual feeling to wake up and look forward to the next game, but this team is one that’s really got me excited! Coming into week 3 with a 2-0 record with back-to-back away wins at Metlife Stadium against the two ”New York” teams, well.. New York in name and not geographically, as any Bills fan will take great pleasure in telling you. What’s more, we face the lacklustre 0-2 Bengals for our home season-opener.
All off-season the Bills have been making all the right moves, and gradually carving out a team with great free-agency additions, and another active draft class of talent. Ensuring that the main focus of the off-season was to improve the abysmal offence from last year, which ranked 30th in points scored. They were able to do this with free agent players like John Brown, Cole Beasley, Mitch Morse, and the stout Frank Gore, as a few notable mentions. Furthermore they added a couple of Tight Ends, and the exciting Devin Singletary from the draft. In sticking with Brian Daboll the offensive coordinator of last season there’s continuity for Josh ‘Stallion’ Allen to build on during his second season in the NFL.
Where they excelled last year was on defence, ranking 1st overall in yards allowed, and 2nd in passing yards allowed, they have strengthened in adding depth. With their first pick of the draft they added Ed Oliver, defensive end from Houston, hoping he’ll be the piece to help with their pass rush which was one of the weaker parts of the defence. If he proves to be the difference they’ve needed then this will further cement them as one of the most fearful defences in the league.
Through the first two games, it wasn’t by any means easy. The Bills barely swept aside the Jets after a very strong performance from both defenses, and it was down to the Jets poor kicking and a costly injury to their linebacker CJ Mosley, that allowed the Bills back into the game and to take away the Win. It’s a shame for the Jets to have lost so many key pieces in this game, as they looked dangerous, at least on defence.
Week 2 saw the Bills take on a New York team from New Jersey, the Giants. Their first outing was a struggle against the Cowboys, who put on a showcase performance in the importance of a good offensive line. The Giants with their depleted receiving corps, were going to have to lean, even more so on the incredibly talented Saquon Barkley. Their first drive highlighted this, as four of the first five plays were run plays for Barkley, and the fifth being a play-action.
Barkley took it on himself to tear up the field with 55 yards with his first four carries culminating in a touchdown. Reaffirming the Bills necessity to plug the holes, they woke up to the stark reality of being run over by Barkley, allowing only a further 79 yards rushing. On the flip side of the ball, the Bills showed flashes of the exhilarating Devin Singletary allowing him six carries, with which he put up 57 yards for a 9.5 yards per carry. Ultimately the Bills showing what they are capable on both sides of the ball.
The first home game for the Bills will come this weekend against the Bengals, and the fans are excited, with some ticket prices going for as much as $5,000! (That’s not a typo, five thousand dollars). The hype is real and of course this also means there will be a warm welcome for Andy ‘the Red Rifle’ Dalton, who this year thus far, has thrown for the second-most passing yards.
It was down to Andy Dalton’s touchdown pass against the Ravens two years ago, that allowed the Bills a root to a Wildcard game, finally breaking the deadlock of 17 years without a post-season game. For the Bills to emulate that feat this year, this is a game they could do with winning, before they play the ever-formidable New England Patriots in week four. However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here as the Bengals have some good pieces and their performance in week 1 against the Seahawks proved this. It wasn’t an easy victory for the Seahawks, as the Bengals pushed them all the way with the game being decided by a single point.
The Bengals have arguably one of the most prominent defensive fronts in the NFL, with Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap both being the focal points of the line. Nevertheless, it’s Zac Taylor’s new offensive schemes that are drawing the most positive reviews, as Dalton, in his 9th year, had himself a career-high in passing yards (418) and completions (35) in their season opener.
In spite of AJ Green being out injured, they still have some very good skill players on offence, with Boyd and Ross filling the void between them excellently. They will be a difficult test for the Bills defense, with them not having had to face a pass-heavy offense as of yet. Then there’s Mixon that has been touted as such a talented running back, though we’re yet to see signs of his much-talked about talent this year putting up a mere 1.59 yards per carry so far. It could be down to his ankle injury, but either way, it’s a difficult defence to improve those rushing numbers against. It’s the Bengals other running back that poses the biggest threat. Giovanni Bernard, who despite having a poor outing against the stalwart 49ers, has proven over the years that he’s a very capable runner.
For the Bills to make it a perfect 3-0 start to the season, I believe it will be with the reliance and sure hands of Frank Gore, the ageless wonder. This of course, is after seeing how many rushing yards the 49ers were able to put up against the Bengals, all 259 yards no less.
The concern is with the hamstring injury Singletary endured as a non-contact injury, I feel they’ll be cautious and give TJ Yeldon a bigger share than he’s received in a Bill’s uniform so far. Yeldon has been a low-key addition for the Bills but he sneakily has been able to put up nearly 3,200 yards from scrimmage in the 4 years he’s been in the league, which is rather remarkable.
This is not to say that John Brown, Cole Beasley and co. will be overlooked to help put numbers on the board. John Brown looks like all the years of preseason hype has been legitimized in his outings for the Bills.
Buffalo is looking at utilizing Brown as more than a deep threat, giving him medium and short passes too. It’s also good to see Cole Beasley taking on the sort of Wes Welker/Julian Edelman role, that they’ve both held for Tom Brady in New England, by providing the same sort of safety blanket for Josh Allen.
Prediction: I foresee the Bills etching out a 27-16 victory.
Let’s go Buffalo.
Feature Photo – NFLFansDesigns/Tom Wade