Buffalo Bills vs Kansas City Chiefs: 4 Keys to the Game for the Bills
If the Bills were smart, they would quickly forget the thrashing they took on opening weekend, but getting a loss like that out of your head is no easy task—even for a professional athlete.
The Bills will also have to rebound from losing two of their starters on offense versus the Jets. Fred Jackson and David Nelson were both lost in the first half of the opener. Jackson luckily escaped from a nasty hit by LaRon Landry without a tear in his knee, but Nelson was lost for the year with an ACL injury.
Young players C.J. Spiller and T.J. Graham will be called on to fill the roles left by those two players. The Bills will need their guys to grow up fast if the offense is going to succeed moving forward into the season.
An 0-2 start to the season would quickly deflate any momentum the team had going in and would seriously dent any thoughts the team had about making their first playoff run in 13 years.
Fitzpatrick Needs to Rebound in a Big Way
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
The struggles of Fitzpatrick have been talked about a lot this week. There wasn't much to like about his first outing of 2012, which continued exactly where his dismal ending to the 2011 season left off. He joined the Week 1 three-interception club with five other quarterbacks, which was a major contributing force behind the Bills' embarrassing 48-28 loss.
The two garbage-time touchdowns that Fitzpatrick threw raised his QB rating a bit, but they didn't change the way Bills fans felt about their quarterback going forward.
Fitzpatrick will need to be a lot sharper against the Chiefs to avoid the boos hailing down from the Bills faithful.
Kansas City Pro Bowl cornerback Brandon Flowers was initially looking like he would be doubtful to play, but according to the blog "Arrowhead Pride," he practiced fully for the first time since July. Flowers being sidelined would have opened up the throwing lanes for Fitzpatrick and the suddenly undermanned Bills receiving corps.
Fitzpatrick's success will be based on his decision making going forward. If he continues to force the ball where a play isn't available, the team will continue to turn the ball over and in turn lose football games. If Fitzpatrick can make better decisions with the football, the team will rise around him, and maybe they will meet some of the success bestowed upon them in 2012.
C.J. Spiller Will Need a Repeat Performance of Last Week
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Spiller leads the NFL in rushing after Week 1, which isn't too bad considering the guy wasn't even the starting running back for the Bills entering the season.
The third-year back has come a long way from a guy that danced his way to negative yardage one too many times in his rookie season. His breakaway speed makes him a threat to go the distance on any play, but his vision and patience are the two qualities Spiller has improved the most. They are also the two qualities that will determine whether he can make the next step towards becoming a top running back in the NFL.
This week, Spiller faces an extremely athletic defense that proved to be stout against the run against the Falcons last weekend. Michael Turner, albeit a shell of his former self, only managed 32 yards on 11 carries against the front seven of Kansas City.
Spiller should expect to be met at the line of scrimmage with consistency on Sunday, but if he can break a few long runs like he did against the Jets, the Bills passing game will be more likely to open up.
The former Clemson back will also need to be prevalent in the passing game, both as a blocker and a receiver. Spiller is Buffalo's most accomplished receiving back, but his blocking doesn't rival that of his injured teammate Jackson. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston both have the ability to get to the quarterback off the edge, so Spiller will need to prove strong as a blocker.
The High-Priced Pass Rush Has to Show Up
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
No need to re-hash how much the Bills spent on their pass rush this offseason. Regardless of how much they spent, the pass rush wasn't any better than the miserable one they fielded a season ago.
Mario Williams had the opportunity for a big Buffalo premiere matching up against the weak link of the New York Jets offensive line in right tackle Austin Howard. Williams was quiet all day, held to a solo tackle and never threatening to get to Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.
To make his bad day worse, Williams criticized the officials following the game for not noticing that Howard had allegedly punched him in the face multiple times. The initial reaction by the media and fans alike was that Williams was crying foul after not playing up to expectations. NBC football analyst and well-documented Patriots homer Rodney Harrison had some choice words for Williams, which the defensive end later brushed off.
Williams and other addition Mark Anderson will have a tougher task this week as they square off against a tandem of talented bookends in Branden Albert and Eric Winston. If the the Bills want to get to Matt Cassel in Week 2, the inside presence of Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams will need to penetrate the weaker part of the Chiefs offensive line up the middle.
Dareus was a question mark following the tragic death of his brother in a Birmingham, Alabama shooting earlier this week, but he was back at practice on Thursday afternoon.
The Young Corners Need to Grow Up Fast
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
First-round pick Stephon Gilmore and former Texas Longhorn Aaron Williams combine to be the youngest starting corners in the AFC East. They looked the part against the Jets, consistently getting torched by a Jets offense that looked miserable in the preseason.
Gilmore was bested by fellow rookie Stephen Hill for two touchdowns, and Williams has continued to look lost in a game setting since being named the starter opposite Gilmore during training camp.
The two young corners will need to step up their game with the Chiefs coming to town.
Gilmore will have the tough task of matching up against Dwayne Bowe, although Bowe is still trying to regain his footing after a preseason holdout. Gilmore is a physical corner that can match Bowe step for step, but he'll have to make sure that he doesn't bite the fake, which burned him against the Jets.
Williams will likely be spending his time split between covering Steve Breaston and Jon Baldwin. Baldwin was held without a catch last week, but his imposing physicality makes him a tough assignment for Williams.
If the Bills pass rush can get pressure on Cassel this Sunday, then the cornerbacks will have more opportunity to create takeaways. However, it is a give and take; if the corners can't eliminate the quick passing attack, the defensive front will have no opportunity to get to the quarterback.
Both units will need to see steady improvement for Buffalo to have a chance in their second game.