The first two weeks have come and gone for the Buffalo Bills, and what a start to the season it has been. A heartbreaking loss to the New England Patriots, and a stunning comeback victory against the Carolina Panthers has started the 2013 season in crazy fashion.
This Sunday, the Bills travel to New Jersey, hoping to win their first divisional game of the season.
Both the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets are 1-1 coming into Sunday’s game. Both teams have lost to the New England Patriots by the smallest of margins. Both team’s victories have come in the final seconds. New York won its home opener against Tampa Bay 18-17, as Nick Folk connected on a 48 yard field goal with 2 seconds left. Last weekend, EJ Manuel led Buffalo back in the final seconds to beat Carolina 24-23. A touchdown to Stevie Johnson with 2 seconds left set off a wild celebration at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and across Western New York.
Both teams are starting rookie quarterbacks to begin the season. EJ Manuel has been the story line so far for Buffalo. His poise and composure has been very noticeable. Geno Smith is leading a revitalized Jets offense, but had a rough outing last Thursday night against the Patriots. Smith had an opportunity to win a close game against the Pats, but three interceptions sealed New York’s fate.
This will be Mike Pettine’s first game against the team that employed him for four years. Pettine was defensive coordinator for head coach Rex Ryan’s Jets from 2009-2012. The two coaches share a similar philosophy on defensive, with an attacking style and hard to read formations.
In a sense, the Bills and the Jets are mirror images. Both have the same record, similar defenses, rookie quarterbacks, and are rebuilding. Both teams are looking to knock off the mighty Patriots from atop the AFC East. If you study the rosters, you see Buffalo rebuilding in somewhat of a different style than the Jets. Buffalo is building with speed on both sides of the ball. The Jets have focused more on their line, especially on defense. Their defensive front might be the best in football.
Last year, CJ Spiller had a huge game at the Met, rushing for 169 yards and a touchdown. However, Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions, including one for an easy touchdown, which allowed the Jets to win easily, 48-28. Last year’s game truly showed the problems Buffalo had on both sides of the ball. A very simplified defense was easy for opposing teams to read, and a quarterback who lacked a strong arm couldn’t avoid the big mistake in games.
That one game last year may have led to the massive overhaul we saw the Bills organization perform over the off season. The Bills committed to a new defensive scheme, team speed, and a leadership change at quarterback. Are these changes enough for the Bills to compete with their division foe? We all will find out this Sunday at 4:00pm.
Leodis McKelvin has seven pass breakups this season. That is second in the league. The cornerback continues to step up while Stephon Gilmore recovers from a broken wrist.
Fred Jackson was the featured back during the Bills game winning drive on Sunday against Carolina, for good reason. Jackson not only caught a couple balls for large gains while stopping the clock, he also dropped a pass to avoid precious seconds from ticking of the clock. His leadership on the field was very evident during the final drive.
While EJ Manuel took most of the spotlight last week, another rookie deserves recognition. Kiko Alonso has been playing excellent football as the new middle linebacker for Buffalo. Alonso has 19 tackles in two games, a sack, and had his first interception last week against Cam Newton. The rookie is leading a #ReCharged Bills unit on defense.
Also lost in Manuel’s performance last week was the fact replacement kicker Dan Carpenter played a huge role in the victory over Carolina. Carpenter hit kicks of 55, 20, and 48 yards plus the game winning extra point. Not a bad day, especially since he missed his first kick.
It will be interesting to see if the Bills try to get CJ Spiller the ball more on the outside edges this week against a very strong Jets defensive front seven. The Bills haven’t showed much of a screen game yet. We might see more screens this week along with a continued emphasis on misdirection.
The fastest offensive attack in the NFL belongs to the Buffalo Bills. At 21.8 seconds per play, the Bills are keeping fans at the edge of their seats. (Thanks to ESPN for that stat)