Buffalo Bills vs Oakland Raiders: Week 2 Preview and Keys to the Game

Dan Van Wie@@DanVanWieContributor IIISeptember 13, 2011

Buffalo Bills vs Oakland Raiders: Week 2 Preview and Keys to the Game

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    This Sunday, September 18, the Buffalo Bills will host the Oakland Raiders in a Week 2 matchup of two teams that were able to come out of the season opener with victories on the road. The Bills won at Kansas City 41-7, while the Raiders won at Denver, 23-20, in Monday Night Football. For whichever team can emerge victorious in this contest, starting out with a 2-0 record is motivation enough.

    This game is the home opener for the Bills 2011 schedule, and the game has already been sold out, so there will be 80,000-plus Bills fans ready to enjoy the new Bills uniforms, the new field surface and the new Bills team. There may be a few Raiders fans in attendance as well.

    The 2011 season is obviously very new, but based on the SSS (small sample size) it is noteworthy that some members of both teams got off to great starts and will be the focus for opponents' game plans. We will take a detailed look at the anticipated key matchups for this contest.

Early Line and Recent History of Bills vs Raiders

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    Surprisingly, the Bills and Raiders have only played each other just one time in the past five seasons. That lone game happened in 2008, when the Bills were at home and beat the Raiders 24-23 in a tight contest. You might as well throw that game out the window in terms of relevance, as the rosters for both teams have basically turned over since 2008.

    The stars of that game were players like Trent Edwards, JaMarcus Russell, Marshawn Lynch and Josh Reed. None of the four still appear on the same roster now.

    For those that care, the Bills were listed as a three point favorite for this game. The over/under line was set at 41 points.

    One interesting note about how difficult it is to play when you have to fly from one coast to the other, was uncovered by Bills Lead Analyst Chris Brown at BuffaloBills.com. He came up with this letter gem: The Raiders are 2-7 over the past three seasons (2008-2010) when playing in the Eastern time zone.

Bills Health for Raiders Game

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    As of now, it has already been determined that wide receiver Marcus Easley, corner Terrence McGee and linebacker Arthur Moats will be held out of this contest. Moats and McGee have leg injuries that they are dealing with, while Easley has an illness that is preventing him from playing.

    Shawne Merriman injured his shoulder in the Chiefs game, but he is expected to return to practice on Wednesday and should be healthy enough to play on Sunday.

    There is no word yet on Torell Troup, who sat out the Chiefs game when his back tightened up last week.

    As far as the active roster goes, the Bills that were inactive for last Sunday were CB Justin Rogers, OT Sam Young, OG Colin Brown and TE Lee Smith.

    Since McGee is expected to miss the game, the Bills will probably activate Rogers for the Raiders game, as his speed will be needed, especially against the Raiders fast receivers.

Raiders Health for Bills Game

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    As of the time this went to publication, the only noteworthy injury from the Monday Night Football game was the hamstring injury to starting wide receiver Jacoby Ford. The injury occurred in the third quarter, and Ford did not come back to play. With the short practice week, there may not be enough time for Ford to heal in time for the Bills game on Sunday.

    The Raiders inactive list from last night included: OG Bruce Campbell, WR Louis Murphy, TE Kevin Boss, S Micahel Mitchel, WR Derek Hagan, TE David Ausberry and LB Bruce Davis.

    If there are any other injuries of significance to report, we will update his slide later in the week.

Bills and Raiders Players with Great Start to 2011 Season

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    Both teams had some players that really excelled in the season opener. We will list them here:

    For Buffalo: After the first week, Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is ranked as the number one NFL quarterback, as his QB Passer Rating of 133 is better than what Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers and Cam Newton did in Week 1. Fitzpatrick threw four touchdown passes in his 17 completions, combined with no interceptions elevated his rating to lead the league.

    Bills tight end Scott Chandler is tied for the NFL lead in touchdown receptions with two scoring catches last week in Kansas City.

    Bills running back Fred Jackson is ranked fifth in the NFL with 112 yards after Week 1.

    For Oakland: Running back Darren McFadden emerged as the NFL rushing leader after Week 1. He gained 150 yards in 22 carries, which comes out to a very healthy average of 6.8 yards per rush. The Bills were able to contain Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs last week, but McFadden is a much stronger runner, so the Bills run defense will have another strong test this week.

    Raiders nose tackle Richard Seymour is tied for second place in the NFL with two sacks after the first week.

    Finally, we have Sebastian Janikowski, who kicked a 63-yard field goal in the rain at the high altitude in Denver last night. The field goal came on the final play of the first half, and Janikowski is now tied for the longest field goal in NFL history, along with Tom Dempsey and Jason Elam.

Where the Offenses Rank (2011 and 2010)

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    Due to the small sample size, we can't put too much stock yet in where each team is ranked in terms of offense and defense. We will list the current ranking after Week 1, along with where each team placed in 2010.

    Bills offense in 2011: ranks 15 with 364 yards. The pass offense is 22 with 201 yards, while the rush offense is number five with 163 yards. The Bills are No. 2 in scoring with 41 points.

    Bills offense in 2010: ranked 25 with 304 yards per game. Pass offense was 24 with 197 yards per game. Rush offense was 18 with 107 yards per game. In 2010, Bills averaged 17.7 points a game, which was 28.

    Raiders offense in 2011: ranks 26 with 289 yards. The pass offense is 31 with 99 yards. Rush offense is No. 2 with 190 yards. The Raiders rank 18 with 23 points scored in 2011.

    Raiders offense in 2010: ranked 10 with 354 yards. Passing offense was 23 with 198 yards per game. Rush offense was No. 2 with 155 yards per game. The Raiders scored average of 25.6 points a game, which was sixth best in the league.

Where the Defenses Rank (2011 and 2010)

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    Bills defense ranking in 2011: Overall, ranks third with 213 yards allowed. Pass defense is third with 105 yards allowed, and the rush defense is 21 with 108 yards allowed. The Bills allowed seven points last Sunday, which means they are tied for first place with Baltimore and Houston.

    Bills defense ranking in 2010: Overall, ranked 25, allowing 304 yards per game. Pass defense was No. 3 with 192 yards per game, and rush defense was last with 169.6 yards per game. The Bills allowed 26.6 points per game in 2010, which was 28 in the NFL.

    Raiders defense ranking in 2011: Overall, ranks 10 with 310 yards allowed. The pass defense is 20 with 272 yards allowed, while the rush defense is number one with only 38 yards allowed. The Raiders allowed 20 points, which means they are tied for 12 rank.

    Raiders defense ranking in 2010: Overall, rank 11 with 322 yards allowed per game. Pass defense was No. 2 with 189 yards per game, and the rush defense was 29 with 145 yards per game. The Raiders allowed 23.2 points per game in 2010, which was 20 in the NFL.

    The defenses were quite similar in 2010, as both of them were ranked in the top three in the league against the pass, while both were in the bottom four against the run. The biggest distinction was in the pass rush category, as the Raiders were tied for second in the NFL last year with 47 sacks. Their defensive line had 39 of them, which is huge. The Bills had 27 sacks, ranking 27 in the league.

Key Personnel Changes for Both Teams

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    Since 2010, the Bills have lost WR Lee Evans, LB Paul Posluszny, S Donte Whitner, TE Shawn Nelson, C Geoff Hangartner, CB Reggie Corner, DE Marcus Stroud, LB Antonio Coleman, LB Keith Ellison and LB Kawika Mitchell.

    In 2011, the Bills added or re-signed the following players: QB/WR Brad Smith, QB Tyler Thigpen, LB Nick Barnett, LB Kirk Morrison, T Sam Young, TE Lee Smith, CB Drayton Florence, S George Wilson, LB Shawne Merriman, 

    The entire Bills 2011 NFL Draft class made the roster, with the exception of NT/OL Michael Jasper. The rookies are DE Marcell Dareus, CB Aaron Williams, LB Kelvin Sheppard, S Da'Norris Searcy, T Chris Hairston, RB Johnny White, LB Chris White and CB Justin Rogers.

    Since 2010, the Raiders have lost CB Nnamdi Asomugha, TE Zach Miller, T Robert Gallery, Head Coach Tom Cable and QB Bruce Gradkowski.

    For 2011, the Raiders have added or re-signed the following key players: TE Kevin Boss, LB Kamerion Wimbley, DB Michael Huff and T Stephon Heyer.

    The Raiders key 2011 draft picks were: OL Stefen Wisniewski, CB DeMarcus Van Dyke, T Joe Barksdale and CB Chimdi Chekwa. They also took QB Terrelle Pryor in the supplemental draft.

When the Bills Have the Ball

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    The Buffalo Bills offensive line really stepped up in Week 1 and did a very commendable job in limiting the Kansas City Chiefs to only one sack. They will really have their work cut out for them against the Raiders because their defensive line is among the best in the NFL. The Raiders only needed to turn their four-man defensive line against the Denver Broncos last night and were able to get more than enough pressure on QB Kyle Orton.

    So, keeping their linemen off of Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the ability to pick up any blitzes will be one of the game keys for Sunday. If Fitzpatrick is afforded time to throw, the Raiders are still trying to find adequate coverage to replace All-Pro corner Nnamdi Asomugha, who left as a free agent for the Philadelphia Eagles. The Raiders secondary was guilty of a number of penalties, but that is nothing new for Oakland.

    The Bills know that Oakland is going to run the ball, so it will be important for the Bills to have a strong running game as well. It is not like the Raiders run defense in 2010 was anything special. They were ranked 29 in the NFL last year and were only allowing 24 less yards per game than the Bills defense did. The Raiders run defense did look better on Monday Night, however, as they only allowed the Broncos 38 yards.

    The Bills will continue to utilize Brad Smith, and his scrambling abilities might become a key factor in trying to counter the strength of the Raiders pass rush. The Bills may need to keep more players in to help out with the pass rush, so watch for how that is playing out in the first half.

When the Raiders Have the Ball

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    If you happened to watch the Raiders game on Monday Night Football, you would have come away being impressed with running back Darren McFadden. McFadden broke tackles and ran with power and confidence. He had one run that resulted in a 47-yard gain, so he must be contained as much as the Bills possibly can. He is obviously a much different type of back to contain that Jamaal Charles was, so the Bills will need to be ready to gang-tackle McFadden as often as possible.

    From a passing standpoint, the Raiders did not have a strong passing attack in Week 1, but with the way McFadden was running with the ball, they really didn't need one. Jason Campbell was 13-22 for 105 yards and one touchdown. The Raiders leading receiver was Darrius Heyward-Bay with four catches for 44 yards. The Raiders used Heyward-Bay to stretch the field.

    The Raiders were very high on WR Denarius Moore during the preseason, but Moore failed to come up with a reception against the Broncos. The Bills have had their share of players that did great in preseason, only to falter in the regular season. We won't pass judgement on Moore yet, as the season is still young.

    One other player we need to mention is fullback Marcel Reece, who looked good catching the ball out of the backfield. He is the type of player you can easily forget about, but he will hurt you if you don't pay attention.

    If Jacoby Ford can't return from his hamstring injury, the Bills will need to stack the box in an attempt to curb McFadden and take their chances that they can defend Heyward-Bay.

Other Observations

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    Some things never change. The Raiders had the most penalties in 2010, as they were flagged 148 times last year, which was the highest single-season total in the NFL since 1998. If you think that is a lot, look at the pace they are on this year. Last night, they got hit with 15 penalties for 131 yards. They are now on pace for almost 100 more than last year, which is 240 flags. The Broncos were handed six extra first downs due to penalties last night. The Bills will gladly take the same number if presented with them.

    The Raiders are playing under Hue Jackson, who was the offensive coordinator to begin 2010 and is now the head coach. He is obviously OK with the Raiders playing an aggressive, intimidating style of ball, but he forgot to coach them on how to be disciplined about it. There were so many penalties on the offensive line last night that I thought the Raiders hired Cornell Green to be their offensive line coach.

    In contrast, the Bills had five penalties for 30 yards against the Chiefs. They will have to play composed ball, yet will get some high energy from the Bills sold-out crowd. It is doubtful that either team displayed much of their playbook in Week 1, since there was a limited time to install plays during the shorter preseason. Expect to see some more new wrinkles introduced this week by both teams.

    The Raiders special teams did look somewhat susceptible to long returns, as they gave up a 90-yard punt return touchdown to Eric Decker of the Broncos. The Bills have a stable of strong special team return men, so they will be studying the tape to see where they can exploit any holes.

    If the defenses are able to contain both offenses, then this should be a struggle for good field position, because this game will have two of the stronger punters in the game. Brian Moorman for the Bills was routinely knocking out 60-plus yard punts, while Shane Legler actually had a 77-yard punt in the thin air in Denver. Expect plenty of touchbacks on both punts and kickoffs this Sunday.

    EDIT NOTE: Bills announced today that they placed WR Marcus Easley on IR due to illness. They re-signed free agent WR Ruvell Martin to replace him on the roster, passing over Namaan Roosevelt. Also Bills added CB Terrence Wheatley to the practice squad, and released QB Levi Brown. Wheatley was the 62nd overall draft pick of the New England Patriots in 2008. He played at Colorado.

Final Thoughts and Prediction

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    I am expecting this to be a close, hard-fought contest, just like the time these two teams met in 2008. The one big factor that we didn't talk about yet is preparation time. It is a big deal that the Bills are getting the Raiders right after a Monday Night Football game.

    As a result, the Raiders have one full day less to practice and prepare. They have 36 hours less to heal over whatever injuries they suffered from week one. They have less film time to study, and less time to put in new plays, or game plan. They also lose time by flying cross-country, and we already sighted their record of playing games in the East Coast.

    Both defenses are attempting to make a statement that their run defenses are nowhere near as bad as they showed they were in 2010. Both teams took a positive step in that regard with their play in Week 1. Both teams took care of the ball in Week 1, as each winner only had one turnover, while they were able to generate three turnovers each.

    Looking forward to seeing a big crowd on hand Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium, with the fans ready to lend full support to the Bills, making it very difficult for the Raiders to hear anything when they have the ball.

    We nailed the Week 1 prediction, so now it is time to see if we can make it 2-0. I expect to see a tight game, and the Bills will edge the Raiders 24-23. I see Janikowski being a factor with the field goals, but the Bills will do a better job of converting their opportunities in the red zone to pull out the win.

    NOTE to our readers: I have been searching for an answer to this question with no luck to date. I want to know what is the winning percentage of teams coming off of a game on Monday Night Football, when they have to travel the following week. If you know the answer, please let us know in the comments section. Thank you.