The Bills have had only seven offensive drives this season netting greater than 35 yards. The results of these seven drives have been two touchdowns, a punt, a loss on downs, a fumble, a field goal, and a missed field goal. One of those "drives" was the solo first down play to Eric Moulds following the "Moorman run" in the Pats game on the heels of yet another stalled drive.
The Bills' red zone efficiency is 2-of-8 or 25%, their goal-to-go efficiency is 2-of-4 or 50%. Their offense has only scored three offensive touchdowns to date. One was set up inside the red zone by a defensive turnover and made on a throw vs. a weak pass D on a defensive lapse. The second was only in garbage time vs. a prevent D, again, with lax coverage on one play and a tipped ball on the touchdown producing play. The third was set up by Moorman's ironically played out botched punt play resulting in the key play on the drive.
Simply put, this Bills offense seems incapable of generating any consistency in their offense let alone being able to punch the ball into the end zone when given the chance in the red zone. This Bills defense, again, dating back to last season, seems to play well as long as the opponent is either one-dimensional or offensively challenged in some other way, but seems to play miserably when facing anything even approaching a well-rounded offense.
They also have terminal QB issues. As if they did not have enough issues regarding the offensive line when healthy, now two of the top three linemen are injured. Jennings figures to play on Sunday but with Teague more likely needing to sit out. The Bills would then enter the game with a lineman playing center for the first time, presumably Ross Tucker. How this doesn't push matters from bad to worse is inconceivable.
Defensively, their two most experienced, although perhaps not their most physically talented or capable defensive backs anymore due to their ages, now will ride the pine in NY. Lawyer Milloy continues to recuperate from a broken arm and Troy Vincent joins him this week as well with a knee issue. Nevertheless, if the Bills had staffed their roster well, particularly on the offensive line, then these issues may not have a terminal impact. That has not been the case however and therefore fans can lower their expectations even further for this game as a result.
Key Players and Matchups:
Bledsoe vs. himself: I continue to say this, and some seem to believe that it is an attempt at humor. In part it is, but more so in the wording. The reality of the situation is that Bledsoe simply cannot seem to get out of his own way. Forget about Sam Wyche's promises of getting the "true Bledsoe", you know, the one that plays like Montana and Esiason, to emerge. Heck, if Bledsoe could simply play like Neil O'Donnell then fans would be ecstatic. But the truth of the matter is that other than an occasional deep ball set up by excellent pocket-time, and by-the-way on passes that most other QBs in this league can also easily make, Bledsoe has few skills or talents otherwise, whether tangible or intangible, at this point of his career.
As well, it cannot be stated often enough that simple big plays on deep balls are nothing to predicate an offense on. If the 55-yarder to Evans promptly followed by yet another red zone failure does not hammer this home, then nothing will. If anything the twelve year vet QB has regressed, not progressed, from last season to this one. Again however, due to poor planning and a denial of an easily recognizable reality, the team pinned even more of its future hopes and progress to Bledsoe's lapel. It is now costing this team in spades!
The Jet defensive front 7 vs. the Bills patchwork OL: The other thing that is costing the Bills in spades is their negligence in building the offensive line. The Jets usually play Bledsoe and the Bills tough. This game should be no different especially given the circumstances that the Bills enter the game with. As well, fully expect Edwards and new rookie defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson, from the Ravens, to blitz more frequently than New England did in Buffalo. The crowd noise in the Meadowlands will aid in this cause as well as Jets fans assist in pushing their team to 4-0 to keep pace with division rival New England.
The Bills front-7 vs. the Jets OL and Curtis Martin: At 31 Martin is no spring chicken, but he is more than capable of exploiting the gaps produced outside the tackles as the Bills rush around the corners if the Bills are not careful. The Bills front-7 should be able to contain the Jet rushing game fairly well. Much of this may depend upon how badly Pennington exploits a weakened Bills secondary however. If the Bills need to bolster their secondary, this will diminish the resources that they are able to devote to stopping Martin. Pennington also has significant mobility.
Pennington and his posse vs. the Bills defensive backs: With Clements being the only experienced and proven defensive back in this game, it remains to be seen what kind of success Pennington has using his "total is greater than the sum of the parts" wide receivers.
Eric Moulds vs. veteran CB Donnie Abraham: Without Moulds' input the Bills have no passing game worth mentioning. Moulds has nearly 50% of the yardage by Bills WRs, has 20 receptions to the other WRs 15, and has all of the TDs produced in the passing game overall. All whopping three that is. In fact, he has all three touchdowns total for the team overall. So it stands to reason that if Moulds does not have a big day, at least relatively speaking, that the Bills will not do anything. He should also draw considerable interest from the safeties.
What to Expect:
Expect the Bills overrated defense to once again allow above average points to a team that is second in the league in average points scored. Expect the Bills' offense to contribute to Jet scoring. Expect the Bills offense to not score more than the 10-points per game that it has generated to date now in three prior games and in a hostile environment and after only one week of preparation following a week where the talk was big but the results were small.
Expect plenty of penalties, particularly at key times. Don't expect any of the Bills marquee players to have a top-notch game. Expect sour red zone offensive play. Expect Drew Bledsoe to play more like a three year vet in his first season of starting than like a 12-year veteran QB who has started each and every season of his career. Expect Bledsoe to once again have the "deer in the headlights" look rather than that of other better QBs in the league where their eyes are continually scanning the field for all possible options and at least relatively aware of the pressure that's around them as they spot obvious potential mismatches before the ball is even snapped, not once the defender is three yards into the offensive backfield. Expect seven or more sacks if the Jets blitz throughout the game. Expect Henry to run well but again, being unable to carry the entire offense on his back.
Have I missed anything…
Oh wait, I have missed something. Expect punter Brian Moorman to be the offensive MVP of the game. Pardon me!
Once again, my summary remains very similar to past weeks.
Once again the biggest matchup will be the Jet defensive line vs. the Bills offensive line. The only way the Bills win this week is if they can establish this legendary "power rushing game."
The outcome of this game once again may very well come down to Bills rookie offensive coordinator Tom Clements and his Steeler roots vs. very seasoned and accomplished Jet defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson from Baltimore last season.
If the game comes down to Bledsoe needing to make the big plays, just as in 2002, the edge will shift to the Jets easily. The more that Bledsoe drops back to pass and has the ball in his fingers, the worse for the Bills. The Bills should once again attempt to establish this power running game and hopefully can build on the momentum that they gained in this area vs. the Patriots. It is well past time for asking the tough questions of management and coaching. It is also well past time for some performance.
Bottom line: Poor coaching, discipline manifested in dumb penalties, poor pass blocking, poor overall line play, the inability of the Bills to move the ball consistently, the inability of the Bills to generate a pass rush other than when using five, six, or seven man blitzes, Bledsoe's "foot planting" issues among other issues, poor kicking are enough to doom a game. Once again, they collectively provide an virtually insurmountable hurdle in winning this game. At some point however, the Bills figure to win a game simply on the merits of a bad game by the opponent if nothing else.
Prediction: Jets 27, Bills 13.
The Bills' offense has not topped the 10 point mark yet and the defense, going back to last season now, has only proven an inability to stop such teams as the Jets, currently second in the league in team scoring. There is no reason to think that anything is going to alter itself this week.
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