This coming Sunday, the Jacksonville Jaguars will travel to face the Buffalo Bills in a Week Five contest that could result in the Bills finally winning their first game of the 2010 season. In 2009, this contest was labeled as the two teams most likely to be moved to Los Angeles. That talk has quieted down this year, but it will be interesting to see how many Bills fans show up after the embarrassing Jets game.
The Jaguars seem to be just as schizophrenic a team as the Bills are, as you never know which Jaguars team will show up on any given Sunday, and the same can be said for the Bills.
The Jaguars opened up with a win at home against Denver and then used a 59 yard field goal on the final play of the game last week by Josh Scobee to upset the Indianapolis Colts at home. In between, the Jaguars were blown out by San Diego 38-13 on the road and lost at home to Philadelphia 28-3.
Following the loss to the Eagles, head coach Jack Del RIo called out starting QB David Garrard for the poor passing game. Conveniently enough, the Bills decided to release their starting QB and team captain Trent Edwards, so the Jaguars beat the Jets in claiming Edwards. Now entrenched as the backup QB in Jacksonville, Edwards will be inserted if Garrard has another hiccup.
For the Bills, they are looking for a win to settle the team down. There has been too much chaos on the roster and an uneven level of performance and effort under head coach Chan Gailey so far in the young season. The Bills competed hard against Miami and New England. In two other games, they looked dreadful by playing one good quarter at Green Bay and then only having two drives of any kind of success vs the New York Jets last weekend.
Following yesterday's trade of Marshawn Lynch to the Seattle Seahawks, the Bills will have to dig deep to pull out a win this Sunday. Let's take a look at how this game shapes up.
David Garrard and Ryan Fitzpatrick are two mobile quarterbacks. Garrard hurt the Colts last weekend by running in for a score, while Fitzpatrick turned out to be the Bills leading rusher. Both defenses will have to account for the quarterback this week and find a way to contain their scrambling tendencies.
For Fitzpatrick, it will be interesting to see if he continues to take on defenders by delivering a blow to them like he did against the Jets last weekend, or will he start sliding down like most NFL quarterbacks? I am sure that Chan Gailey has encouraged him to protect himself, but Fitzpatrick has not shied away from physical contact.
If either quarterback gets banged up in this game, you are looking at Trent Edwards or Brian Brohm entering the contest. Would be very curious to see how the Bills fans react to Edwards entering the game wearing a Jaguars uniform.
The Bills porous run defense will be tested again this week, as they face another talented running back in Maurice Jones-Drew, who is currently ranked at number eight in the NFL with 322 yards in four games. The Jaguars rushing attack is ranked at number 10, while the Bills run defense is ranked dead last, giving up a huge 174 yards a game.
The Bills may very well want to load up the box to stop Jones-Drew and force David Garrard to throw the ball. The Jaguars passing attack is ranked at No. 24, so over-committing to stopping the run may be the best way for George Edwards to improve the defense this week.
The Bills defense has seen some starters missing games, but outside of Kawika Mitchell, no major defensive key player has been placed on IR list yet. This time last year saw a number of Bills already gone for the year, so the defense has benefited from that.
That is not to say the team is perfectly healthy however. Last week Marcus Stroud, Terrence McGee, and Andra Davis all missed the Jets game due to injuries. McGee will be out due to knee issues, while there is no word yet if either Davis or Stroud will be back for the Jaguars contest.
Regarding the Bills defense, Donte Whitner is No. 12 in the NFL with 35 tackles, while Dwan Edwards is No. 34 with 26 tackles. Jacksonville does not have anybody in the top 40 in tackles.
Following the trade of Marshawn Lynch to Seattle yesterday, it is now assumed that Fred Jackson will go back to becoming the featured running back in the Bills offense. Had there been any more under-utilized player on the Bills roster through the first four games than Fred Jackson?
C.J. Spiller will be seeing more action as well due to Lynch's trade, but Jackson figures to be the main beneficiary of the deal. He has lost his kickoff return role to C.J. Spiller so it would be a welcome sight to see Jackson get 20 touches a game again.
So far this season, Fred has managed only 20 carries in four games. He has averaged 4.4 yards per carry, which is fine, but the Bills have basically forgotten about him this year. He does have two catches for no yards, and has been the primary player to run the Wildcat offense, the few times that the Bills have gone to it.
C.J. Spiller should also see greater playing time in the offense, whether it is at running back or split out wide as a receiver. He has only been relegated to a handful of snaps in the past few games, but that all changed with the Lynch trade.
Sharing some stats to see how the two teams compare with each other so far this season:
The Jaguars have eight sacks, while the Bills have four.
The Jaguars have four interceptions, while the Bills have none.
The Jaguars have forced five fumbles, while the Bills have forced three.
The Jaguars offense has created 74 first downs, while the Bills have 54.
The Jaguars convert 44 percent of their third downs, while the Bills convert 26 percent.
The Jaguars have committed seven turnovers, and taken it away seven times for net gain of zero.
The Bills have committed six turnovers and taken it away once, for a net loss of five.
As you go up and down this list, it appears that the edge on paper goes to Jacksonville.
So, how can the Bills win this Sunday?
For the Bills to claim their first win of the season, I think the game will boil down to the following:
1) Ryan Fitzpatrick will have to avoid throwing any interceptions. He has got to be accurate with his passes this week.
2) The Bills will have to force David Garrard to beat them with his arm, not with his legs. They can do this by bringing extra defenders up in the box to shut down Maurice Jones-Drew and daring David Garrard to throw the ball down the field.
3) The Bills have to attempt at least 20 rushes in the game, preferably more. Give Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller plenty of touches. C.J. can't break off a long run unless he actually is given a chance to touch the ball. The Bills have been too inconsistent in their approach to running the ball. Even if they fall behind early, they need to run the ball at least 20 times to establish play fakes and try to let the offensive line do their job and beat up the Jaguars defense.
A win this week would do wonders for the Bills morale. They have their bye week in week six, so they would have two weeks to get their injured defensive personnel back, and to integrate tight end Shawn Nelson back in to the offense, as his suspension has just ended.
By the time the Bills face the Baltimore Ravens in week seven, the trade deadline will have come and gone, so at least we will all know if any other Bills players are being dealt away for draft picks. Here is to four quarters of good football and some balls bouncing the Bills way this coming Sunday.