Hawks at Bills: Offensive ineptitude will be the Bills' undoing

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Hawks at Bills: Offensive ineptitude will be the Bills' undoing
Previewing Seattle vs. Buffalo:
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Up until a few weeks ago, I was convinced Seattle was going to lose its opener with the Buffalo Bills. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck wasn’t practicing or playing in any preseason games, all of the Seahawks’ wide receivers were getting injured and lets face it; Seattle just doesn’t play well on the east coast in games that start at 10 a.m. Why? I got no answer. It’s just a bit of a trend I’ve noticed over the last few seasons.
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Hasselbeck claims to be at 100 percent strength though and while the Seahawks receiving corps is still injured, the young guys (Jordan Kent, Logan Payne, Courtney Taylor, etc.) have all showed remarkable abilities throughout the entire preseason. The game is still on the east coast at 10 a.m., but I’ve changed my mind. And not just to be a blind homer. Plain and simple, Seattle should win this game. And I think they will.
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Last season, the Bills scored a total of just 252 points. To put that number into perspective, only two teams (San Francisco and Kansas City) scored fewer. Even teams like Miami, Baltimore, Oakland and Atlanta scored more than that. J.P. Losman, who started the season as the quarterback for the Bills, was benched in favor of Trent Edwards. But the offense didn’t seem to improve. The Bills finished 30th in the NFL in yards gained (277.1 per game), and had just 20 non-special team touchdowns – a franchise low for a 16-game season. If there was a bright spot to the Bills’ offense last year, it was running back Marshawn Lynch. Lynch rushed for 1,115 yards and scored seven touchdowns. He finished fifth in the AFC with 85.8 yards rushing per game – and that was despite missing three games because of a sprained ankle.
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But even with Lynch performing well, the rest of the team struggled. Is there any reason to think things will be better this year? Maybe, but probably not. The Bills have a new offensive coordinator in Turk Schonert and feel that will help. The Bills also have high hopes for wide receiver James Hardy, who they drafted in the second round. But left tackle Jason Peters continues to hold out. While one would think the only way to go for the Bills' offense is up, I think asking it to be amazing in the first game of the season is a bit much.
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Maybe if Buffalo was going up against one of the NFL’s more-horrendous defenses, I would give them a break. But Seattle has one of the NFL’s best defenses. Seattle returns all 11 starters from last season, including linebackers Julian Peterson and Lofa Tatupu, cornerback Marcus Trufant (who finished last season with seven interceptions), and defensive end Patrick Kerney (who led the NFC in sacks). Outside linebacker Leroy Hill, who has made a name for himself with superb playoff performances, is widely speculated to be one of the most underrated linebackers in the NFL. If all that isn’t enough, the Seahawks used their first-round draft pick on USC standout defensive end Lawrence Jackson. This defense is not just good – it could be the best in the entire NFL. I can say that with confidence because of the injury to San Diego’s Shawne Merriman.
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So, while the Bills offense might improve, doing well against a defense like Seattle’s is tough to predict.
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But, maybe the Bills defense can keep the score relatively low and give the offense a chance to win the game.
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Last season the Bills allowed a total of 354 points (8th in the AFC) on defense. Not amazing, but not horrible. That defense looks to be even better this year with the additions of three-time Pro Bowl selection tackle Marcus Stroud, and linebacker Kawika Mitchell. Defensive end Chris Kelsay claims to have higher expectations of the Bills’ defense this year than he’s ever had before.
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I don’t know what kind of gameplan the Bills are going to have against Seattle’s offense. Without Bobby Engram and Deion Branch, you would think the Bills would gear up to stop the rush. They might feel like if they can stop Julius Jones and Maurice Morris, they win. I think they would be wrong in such an assumption though because the Seahawks’ offense is a system offense. The West Coast Offense is more dependent on who is quarterbacking and less dependent on who is receiving. You can almost plug anyone into the receiving corps and as long as the quarterback makes good decisions, it will be successful. I know experience is still crucial, but I think that the overall talent of the Seahawks' young receivers offsets any sort of problems they may face with inexperience.
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Because it’s the first game of the season, there is bound to be rust. Since Hasselbeck hasn’t played in any games since the first series against Minnesota in the preseason opener, you might expect him to be rusty. I doubt it will take him long to get it together though.
Buffalo will play an inspired first half and keep it relatively close. But the offense will struggle, and in the second half, the Hawks will pull away.
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Seattle 27, Buffalo 10
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