The past several years have been largely disappointing for two once-proud franchises in the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins, but it appears as though things are finally looking up. The Bills and Redskins are set to clash on Saturday in what should be the most important game of the preseason for both teams.
Buffalo hasn't made the playoffs in this century; however, there is finally some reason for optimism. With a new coaching staff headed by Doug Marrone, a new general manager in the form of Doug Whaley and a new quarterback in rookie EJ Manuel, the Bills may finally be on the right track.
Washington, on the other hand, already took a giant leap forward last season as it won the NFC East and made the playoffs behind the arm and legs of quarterback Robert Griffin III. While RG3 is currently injured, which means he will miss Saturday's game, every indication is that he'll be back in time for the regular season.
Manuel is also injured for the Bills as a knee procedure will keep him out for the remainder of the preseason, so both teams will have a decidedly different look on Saturday.
Even so, there are plenty of promising young players to get excited about on both sides of the ball for the Bills and 'Skins. The third preseason game is generally viewed as a dress rehearsal, and while a few players expected to play leading roles won't be involved, it will be an intriguing matchup nonetheless.
Here is a complete breakdown of everything you need to know when the Bills travel to Landover, Md. to take on the Redskins on Saturday.
Where: FedExField in Landover, Md.
When: Saturday, Aug. 24 at 4:30 p.m. ET
Watch: NFL Network
Betting Line (via Bovada): Redskins (-3.5)
Bills Injuries (via CBS Sports)
Out: QB EJ Manuel (knee), WR Kevin Elliott (knee)
Questionable: WR T.J. Graham (hamstring), CB Leodis McKelvin (groin)
Probable: WR Stevie Johnson (hamstring)
Redskins Injuries (via CBS Sports)
Out: QB Robert Griffin III (knee)
Doubtful: DT Barry Cofield (hand)
Questionable: QB Kirk Cousins (foot), WR Donte Stallworth (hamstring), WR Leonard Hankerson (knee), WR Aldrick Robinson (thigh), RB Chris Thompson (shoulder), RB Keiland Williams (knee)
Bills Player to Watch: Kevin Kolb
Who will start at quarterback for the Bills in Week 1 of the regular season?
Through two preseason games it seemed as though Bills veteran quarterback Kevin Kolb didn't stand a chance in Buffalo's quarterback battle. Manuel had come through with a pair of impressive efforts, while Kolb missed the first game due to injury and was very vanilla in the second game as he threw for 111 yards and an interception. Due to Manuel's knee injury, however, Kolb has suddenly been blessed with new life moving forward.
Even so, there is no guarantee that Kolb will be the Bills' starting quarterback when they open the regular season at home against the New England Patriots. Manuel won't play in another preseason game, but if his recovery is quick, he could return in time to compete with Kolb for the starting job leading up to the regular season. With that in mind, Kolb absolutely must close the preseason in strong fashion as Marrone can't yet be sure if he can trust Kolb under center. Manuel has been better for many reasons during the preseason, but one of the biggest relates to how long it takes them to release the football, according to Pro Football Focus.
One of the differences between Kevin Kolb and EJ Manuel? Kolb taking 2.9 seconds before attempting pass, Manuel at 2.2— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) August 18, 2013
Manuel has been getting rid of the ball quickly and making great decisions, which makes life easier for his offensive line. Kolb, on the other hand, tends to wait too long for things to develop. He also struggles to run Marrone's up-tempo offense as there is noticeably less time remaining on the play clock when he runs a play than when Manuel runs a play.
Despite all of that, Kolb has the upper hand due to the fact that he's healthy. If he turns in a strong performance against Washington, it will go a long way toward solidifying him as the initial starter.
Redskins Player to Watch: Roy Helu
With RG3 out once again for Saturday's game, the Redskins won't be the same team we're likely to see during the regular season. With that said, plenty of players will have a chance to prove themselves to Mike Shanahan and the rest of the coaching staff. One of those players is backup running back Roy Helu.
After a surprisingly strong rookie campaign, Helu was expected to be Washington's go-to back last season, but Helu played in just three games as Alfred Morris took the job and ran with it. Morris will retain the starting job, but Helu could have an expanded role.
Helu has been extremely impressive through Washington's first two preseason games as he rushed for 57 yards while averaging 4.4 yards per carry during their first contest, and followed that up with a 30-yard touchdown run on his only carry against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. Adam Levitan of Rotoworld has been especially impressed by Helu thus far, and he considers him a key player from a fantasy perspective, particularly for those who own Morris.
Roy Helu through two preseason games (36 snaps): 14 rushes, 87 yards (6.21 YPC). One catch for 14 yards. MUST handcuff for Alf owners.— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) August 20, 2013
Helu could be very valuable to the Redskins in real life as well. Even if Morris has another monster season and doesn't get injured, it's inevitable that Helu will be a bigger part of the offense. He rushed for 640 yards two seasons ago, but more importantly, he reeled in 49 passes for 379 yards.
The one hole in Morris' game is that he doesn't excel in the passing game, so Helu is probably going to be on the field in all obvious passing downs. Since he figures to play quite a bit on Saturday, it will be interesting to see how he fares with an expanded role.
Since Griffin is out for certain, and backup quarterback Kirk Cousins is a major question mark for the Redskins as well, Washington is going to be a very different team on Saturday. Much-maligned quarterback Rex Grossman will likely get the start, and he'll be spelled by Pat White.
For the Bills, Kolb will play at least a half with undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel finishing things off. While neither quarterback situation looks great, the Bills have to be given the advantage.
Who will win this game?
Also, the Redskins are dealing with a bunch of injuries at the wide receiver position with Donte Stallworth, Aldrick Robinson and Leonard Hankerson all in question. That means some of their younger, less-experienced wideouts will get long looks. Buffalo, on the other hand, will welcome No. 1 receiver Stevie Johnson into the lineup after he missed the team's first two preseason contests due to injury.
The Redskins will be a better overall team than the Bills during the regular season in all likelihood, but that won't be measurable in this game with so many key players compromised by injury. Due to the fact that Buffalo seems to be the healthier team, and Kolb is fighting for a starting job, the Bills will come away with a 17-14 win.
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