It sure has been a rocky start for the Buffalo Bills.
A 25-24 heartbreaker to the New England Patriots opening week crushed the collective spirit of the team and fans. Then, a solid rebound against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2 re-inflated it.
The Bills went into Week Three with a renewed confidence and a clicking offense, quietly making an upset a real possibility. The defense did its part, shutting down the New Orleans Saints' high-flying offense. Problem was, Buffalo couldn’t get any points from its own. Trent Edwards reverted back to Captain Checkdown and T.O. had his catch streak of 185 games broken.
Red alert. T.O. is starting to whistle around the ears. Another week like last and he’ll blow his top.
This week, the Bills limp south to Miami. Already placing multiple players on injured reserve, Buffalo needs its young guns to step up. Fast. Possibly the most significant injury is to starting cornerback Leodis McKelvin, who broke his leg last week against New Orleans. McKelvin looked poised to have a breakout sophomore season as the true starter in the Bills’ defensive backfield. Incumbent Jabari Greer was deemed expendable with McKelvin’s quick assimilation to the pro game.
Those who criticized Buffalo’s front office in the offseason for spending money on veteran corner Drayton Florence are now being silenced. Between Florence and Reggie Corner, the Bills defense may be able to fill in for McKelvin’s loss. Rookie Jairus Byrd will most likely fill in for Donte Whitner at strong safety with Whitner not playing because of a thumb injury. Buffalo has been hurt on defense since starting middle linebacker Paul Posluszny went down with a broken arm in Week 1 against the Patriots. Injuries have ravaged this team at every turn.
This week against Miami, Buffalo needs to repeat its well-rounded Week Two performance. Trent Edwards must, must take shots downfield to T.O. and Lee Evans. A pass longer than 18 yards would be nice – he didn’t go longer than that all day against the Saints. Going deep will open up the middle, where Josh Reed, Roscoe Parrish and Shawn Nelson can be utilized.
While the team has been hit hard by injuries, Buffalo does get another weapon back on Sunday in Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch’s three-game suspension has lapsed and he’s poised to “Beast Mode” opposing defenses. Lynch will most likely start slow this week, as Fred Jackson has been the offense’s MVP so far this season. Jackson, a former Division III athlete, has worked his tail off to make it to the big league. And now he’s proving that he deserves to stay.
It could be difficult to run on Miami’s stingy 3-4 defense which ranks third in run defense (66 yards per game).
Still, contrary to the famous Jimmy Buffett hit “Fins”, the only direction these 0-3 Fins are going is straight down. As bad as things are in Buffalo, it may be worse at Landshark Stadium.
The team’s leader Chad Pennington went down last week with a shoulder injury and is out for the season. The Dolphins traded for Kansas City’s Tyler Thigpen, a mobile run/pass threat. Look for the young Chad Henne to start, though. The team has been high on the Michigan product since drafting him in the second round a couple years ago.
Miami will certainly look to pound its ground game after seeingthe damage Pierre Thomas inflicted in only one half. Ronnie Brown and the “Wildcat” have looked good so far this season. The Bills did a good job of limiting the Wildcat last season and containing it will be the key to a win this week. The defense will be able to shut down Henne and the passing attack, but the linebackers and defensive line must contain Brown and Ricky Williams. They’ve keyed the NFL’s third-best rushing attack (161 yards per game).
This week and next, the Bills face teams that are a combined 0-6. The chance to rebound is there. If the running game stays strong with the return of Lynch, Edwards takes shots downfield and the defense stifles the Wildcat, expect to see the Bills at 3-2 going into Week Six.
Spencer’s Prediction: Bills 31, Dolphins 10