The Buffalo Bills hit the road for their week two contest when they face the Green Bay Packers this Sunday. The Packers are coming off an opening win against the Philadelphia Eagles and are led by their star quarterback Aaron Rogers.
The Bills are coming off another dismal showing by their offense and hope to rebound this week. The Bills managed only nine first downs against Miami, which tied their season low for first downs for any game in 2009. Does that mean that they have bottomed out already? Time will tell.
Hopefully, this is a sight we will not see very often Sunday, a Packers defender staring down at the Bills quarterback, laid out on the ground.
Sat down and watched the Dolphins game again on NFL Rewind, and have to say that Cornell Green might be good for a series here and there, but as a regular starter, I don't think so. I would hope that the Bills will give serious thought to putting in Kriag Urbik or Jamon Meredith in at right tackle. It appears that Demetrius Bell is getting closer each week to being able to go the full load, and that will help. He made some mistakes Sunday, but not nearly as many as Cornell Green did.
The Bills will have to be concerned with Clay Matthews. Matthews started out with a strong game against the Eagles with two sacks, and giving Kevin Kolb a concussion. The Bills may have to keep a back in the backfield for four wide receiver sets, just to make sure they have someone that can pick up Matthews on a blitz. Edwards can't afford to have another concussion at this stage.
The Bills secondary will have their hands full in trying to defend against Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jermichael Finley. Not only do they have to keep the Packers out of the end zone, they have to come up with their own share of big plays and creating turnovers to keep the Bills in the game.
Last week against Philadelphia, Aaron Rogers threw for 188 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Bills defense did not record a single turnover last week, so you can imagine that the coaching staff is stressing that this week in practice.
If the Bills can produce enough heat on Aaron Rogers, that will help in making hurried throws and some possible turnovers. If they can't find a way to get to him, he will pick the Bills secondary apart.
The Bills will be without Paul Posluszny this Sunday due to the knee injury he suffered against Miami. This is becoming a ritual, a Paul Posluszny injury in the first month of the season, isn't it?
He will undoubtedly be replaced by a combination of other linebackers since back up Kawika Mitchell has already been placed on season ending I.R. list. The potential replacements for Poz are Akin Ayodele, Keith Ellison and Arthur Moats. Antonio Coleman was inactive last week, and had missed practice due to his own injury, so no word yet if he is healthy enough to play or not.
Moving over to the outside linebackers, Chris Kelsay showed that he has some issues in transitioning from defensive end to outside linebacker. Several times he needed to contain the end of the line and could not do the job against the Miami running backs. Reggie Torbor missed playing against his old team due to his injury, so he may or may not be ready for the Packers. Chris Ellis and Aaron Maybin will fill in for him again if Torbor is not ready to go.
This group needs to be healthy enough to get to Aaron Rogers if the Bills are going to have any chance.
Here is the rundown on Green Bay's defensive line woes:
Johnny Jolly was suspended for the first four games of the NFL season.
Justin Harrell suffered a torn ACL in the opener and is now on season ending IR.
Cullen Jenkins broke his hand in the opener and played with a big club hand the rest of the game.
Mike Neal missed week one game due to injury and no word yet if he is ready to play this Sunday.
In addition, long time Packer Aaron Kampman left the team for Jacksonville in the off-season.
The defensive secondary is the weakest link on the Packers. They were burned by Kurt Warner in the playoffs for 379 yards passing and five touchdowns. Those figures are hard to imagine when you realize that the Packers secondary boasts NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Charles Woodsen.
But the Packers cornerbacks could be nicknamed "Old Man Rivers", as Charles Woodsen turns 34 next month and Al Harris is already 35. That is pretty old in NFL standards. Then there is the issue of a rookie starting at safety in Morgan Burnett. Think the Bills will be testing him?
The Packers offense is scary because they have production across the board and a tough QB to lead them.
How good is the Packers offense? Consider the following:
In 2009 Aaron Rogers passed for almost 4500 yards. He had a TD to turnover ratio of 30 to 7. That is obscenely good. How tough is Rogers? He took 50 sacks in the 2009 season and never missed a start.
The Packers had two wide receivers that caught passes good for at least 1,000 yards last year in Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. Ryan Grant rushed for over 1200 yards. Tight End Jermichael Finley is close to All-Pro status and will be a huge matchup problem for the Bills.
This one could get ugly for the Bills defense.
Ryan Grant, the Packers leading rusher in 2009, suffered a season ending ankle injury in the opener against the Eagles. This will be a blow to Green Bay, and means that the Bills will probably be seeing a steady diet of Aaron Rogers throwing to the left, to the right, and in the middle.
Taking the place of Grant is Brandon Jackson, with fullback John Kuhn as the short yardage specialist and Dimitri Nance just added to the roster off of the Atlanta Falcons practice squad to replace Grant. Of interest to Bills fans, is that ex-University of Buffalo star back James Starks is currently on the PUP list, so won't be ready to play until at least week seven.
Given all of the weapons at Rogers' disposal, the injury to Grant means that the Bills defense can't relax at all.
I am expecting a better showing from the Bills offense this week, even though they are playing on the road. I think C.J. Spiller will come out of the Miami game having learned a valuable lesson about patience. Trent Edwards will probably have Chan Gailey up in his grill about happy feet in the pocket and so we will see what lessons the two of them learned.
For the Bills to have any chance at all, they have to be willing to go deep against the Packers secondary, and that means throwing it deep more than three or four times a game. If they see eight or nine men up in the box to stuff the run, then throw it deep and take your chances.
Expect to see more wildcat offense with Spiller and Fred Jackson at the helm. Expect to see more rushing attempts this week, as the Bills abandoned the running game last week.
Expect to see the trio of Bills backs to receive their share of rushes again this Sunday. I suspect that the running back by committee approach will continue for the foreseeable future until Chan Gailey has truly evaluated how he feels about all of his running backs.
The biggest obstacle in that evaluation process was the preseason injuries to both Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. Since this is Gailey's first year with the Bills, he is still learning about what the strengths and limitations are of both players. Combine that with Spiller's limited experience overall to the NFL game, and you have the makings for a very fluid situation from week to week.
The Bills need to be more balanced on offense and less predictable. Read in various comments following the Dolphins game that it appeared the Dolphins knew where the Bills were going with the ball. What is strange about that is that the Bills were the team that had signed a number of ex-Dolphins players, not the other way around.
While the Bills continue to prepare for Sunday, we need to realize that this will only be there second game playing under the new 3-4 defensive alignment. The Packers on the other hand, have been playing the 3-4 and have basically got it down pat. It would be wise for the Bills defense to see how they do it.
How good is the Packers defense? Even though they got torched by Kurt Warner and Brett Favre last year due to their secondary woes, they posted the highest number of turnovers in the NFL last year. Not only is their defense a turnover machine, but they ranked as number two in the entire NFL for yards allowed. Being stingy and aggressive at taking away the ball are two traits any defense would be proud to be called.
When you realize that the Packers led the NFL in fewest turnovers committed last year, and take all of the other points in to consideration, you realize that this Sunday will be a good test to see where this edition of the Bills team stands in trying to gauge how far away is this team from truly contending. Is it possible that the Packers are overlooking the Bills? That remains to be seen.
The Packers will undoubtedly be looking to fill the airwaves with lots of Aaron Rogers passes to Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and to Jermichael Finley. That is playing in to the Bills strength - their defensive secondary. No slouches at creating turnovers either, the Bills secondary has to create some turnovers to give the offense field position and to change the momentum of the game. The loss of Ryan Grant could be big blow to the Pack, as if teams are not going to respect the running game of Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn, they might pin back their ears and rush Rogers all season long.
For the Bills, they will have to revisit their blocking schemes and try to run the ball more behind their interior lineman, as the outside running game looked futile last Sunday. Expect to see the Bills running more inside Sunday and see if all the injuries on the defensive line are impacting the Packers ability to stop the run. That may not be evident in the first half, but more when the line is tired in the second half.
Trent Edwards has to stay in the pocket and recognize when it is time to throw the ball deep. He has to demonstrate that he has learned some lessons from prior years and from last week specifically. Otherwise, it may not be out of the question that we see Ryan Fitzpatrick at some point in the second half.
There is no doubt the Bills are facing an uphill battle this Sunday. But as we all know, on any given Sunday....... Am looking forward to watching the Bills compete and see what happens.