Buffalo Bills Week 2 Primer

The Buffalo Bills host the Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday in what will be the biggest home opener in Western New York in years.  It will be an emotionally charged day in Orchard Park as the Bills face their biggest rival, the Miami Dolphins.  Both teams are coming off of big opening weeks wins.  The Dolphins defeated the New England Patriots in Miami by a score of 33-20 and the Bills defeated the Chicago Bears at Soldier’s Field in overtime by a score of 23-20.  A win on Sunday will be huge for either team as they will jump ahead of the division with a 2-0 record.  The Dolphins had perhaps a more impressive victory last week but the Bills will be the ones with the home field advantage on Sundays.  Here is a look at what to watch for in this Week 2 match-up:

Bills QB E.J. Manuel

Bills QB E.J. Manuel

When the Bills have the ball:  The Bills slowed it down last week opposite the high-powered Bears offense but look for a quicker pace on Sunday.  The Dolphins suffered several key injuries in week 1 on defense and the Bills will try to exploit that by keeping the Dolphins on their toes.  The Patriots had some success against the Dolphins on the edges last week so look for the Bills to get creative with Sammy Watkins.  They’ll also try to pound the ball with the running backs to try and control the clock.  The Bills’ offensive line held their own last week against Chicago but will have a tough task with Cameron Wake and company on Sunday.  E.J. Manuel bucked his rookie year trend by passing for a 7.9 yards per pass average in week 1, over a yard better than the 6.4 yard average that he had during his rookie season.  Look for Manuel to take more shots down field with Watkins, Robert Woods, Mike Williams and Marquise Goodwin.  If the Bills can protect Manuel they should be able to find success on offense against a depleted a Dolphins defense.

When the Dolphins have the ball:  The Dolphins got a big game out of former Broncos’ running back Knowshon Moreno on opening day.  They tired the Patriots’ defense out last week in the Miami heat and humidity but they won’t have the same opportunity this weekend in the cozy September Western New York atmosphere.  They’ll need to come up with a different game plan in Buffalo.  They are going to have to protect Ryan Tannehill like they did last week.  The Dolphins’ O-Line looked great against New England but will be facing 3 Pro Bowlers in Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus on Sunday.  If Tannehill is under heavy pressure all day it will force him into mistakes and give the Bills opportunities to score points off of turnovers.  Tannehill does not have a stellar track record away from Sun Life Stadium so if he wants to show that last Sunday wasn’t a red herring he’s going to have to show up big eventually in a tough road environment.  Sunday will be a perfect opportunity to do just that.  We’ll see if he can get it done on Sunday.

X-Factor for the Bills:  QB E.J. Manuel – Manuel could probably go one of three ways on Sunday.  He can exploit the injuries on the Miami defense and ride the emotional highs to a big time performance, he can lay an absolute egg and hurt the Bills’ chances of winning or he can be an effective game manager and do just enough that the defense and running game can take over the game.  He hasn’t had too many of the first type of games but if there ever was an opportunity for one in his young career it will be this Sunday. It could be the perfect storm for Manuel to have a break out game.  However if the Dolphins come to play on offense game manager Manuel will probably serve the Bills best.  How the game plays out early will dictate how many chances that they let Manuel take.  If the Dolphins struggle on offense early and the Bills’ defense can force some turnovers then Manuel may take some early shots to try and get in a rhythm.  If Manuel can get his confidence up early he can make a huge impact for the Bills and both this game and beyond.

Dolphins DE Cameron Wake

Dolphins DE Cameron Wake

X-Factor for the Dolphins:  DE Cameron Wake – Wake can literally take over a game – just ask Tom Brady.  Wake was in Brady’s back pocket all day long last Sunday and severely hampered Brady’s production late in the game.  Expect Wake to spend most of the game at left defensive end opposite Bills’ rookie right tackle Seantrel Henderson.  It’s a match-up that Wake can exploit and is a much better draw than Henderson’s counterpart, the severely underrated Cordy Glenn.  If Wake can get in Manuel’s back pocket all day like he did to Brady he could single-handedly force Manuel to lay the aforementioned egg.  If Wake is neutralized by the Bills’ offensive line then it could be a long game for an injured Miami defense.  Wake is that star of that defense and needs to set the pace.

Final Thoughts:  It’s going to be very tough for the Dolphins to take the Buffalo crowd out of the game.  It has all of the makings of an epic crowd this a Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The RD lot was already full on Saturday afternoon.  Ryan Tannehill will have to battle the crowd noise along with a stout Buffalo front line.  Both teams have a good amount of momentum heading into the game but this is just too good a set-up for a happy ending of the Bills’ story book week.  Maybe Ryan Tannehill puts it together but I don’t think it happens this week.  The Bills ride a week of momentum with a complete team victory and get to 2-0.

Final Score Prediction:  Buffalo Bills 31, Miami Dolphins 23

My AFC East First Half All-Pro Defense

Yesterday was the offense, today is the defense.  Same format, 1 starter for each position (in a 3-4 defense) and 1 back-up on the 2nd team.

Defensive Ends

  • 1st team – Andre Carter, New England Patriots (32 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 1 FF) – Carter was a great acquisition for the Pats and thus far has outshined big names such as Haynseworth and Ellis.  Carter’s 4.5 sacks is tied for tops among defensive ends in the division.
  • 1st team – Dwan Edwards, Buffalo Bills (34 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 1 PD) – Edwards, the former Raven, has been a solid force among the Bills new 3-4 D-Line since they signed him back in 2010.  He leads all AFC East DEs in tackles and is a good mentor for young players like Marcell Dareus and Alex Carrington
  • 2nd team – Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets (20 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 PD) – Wilkerson has fought off injury to become an effective 3-4 end for the Jets.  His 3 TFL are among the best for AFC East DEs.
  • 2nd team – Mark Anderson, New England Patriots (10 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 1 PD) – Anderson might not have had as many tackles as the rest of the guys on the list but he is tied with teammate Andre Carter with 4.5 sacks.

Defensive Tackles

  • 1st team – Vince Wilfork, New England Patriots (23 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 PD, 2 INTs, 1 FF) – Wilfork has been one of the most versatile defenders in football thanks to his two surprise INTs this year.  It doesn’t matter whatever else is going on around him, big Vince is always a force in the middle for the New England defense.
  • 2nd team – Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills (24 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 PD, 1 FF) – Dareus is the first and only rookie named to my All-AFC East team.  He leads all AFCE DTs in sacks with 3.5 and is the Bills best defender against the run on the front line.

Outside Linebackers

  • 1st team – Cameron Wake, Miami Dolphins (20 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 PD) – People might forget that Wake is still a beast due to him playing on the Dolphins below par defense but Wake is the sack leader for the entire AFC East.  Makes you wonder what he was doing in Canada all those years.
  • 1st team – Calvin Pace, New York Jets (35 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 TFL, 1 PD, 1 INT, 2 FF) – Pace does it all for the Jets defense on the outside.  He gets sacks, defends the pass well and is as good as anyone against the run.  He’s the most versatile outside linebacker in the AFC East.
  • 2nd team – Rob Ninkovich, New England Patriots (37 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 PD, 1 FF) – Ninkovich has been a solid starter for the Pats this season with a team LB high for tackles and sacks.  Was rewarded with a contract extension.
  • 2nd team – Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots (33 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 FR) – Despite being injured for parts of the first half of the season Mayo is still a tackle machine for the Pats, even after kicking to the outside this season.

Inside Linebackers

  • 1st team – David Harris, New York Jets (42 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 PD, 2 INTs) – Harris might be the best middle linebacker in the game right now.  Equally strong against the pass and the run, Harris can plug up a hole or cover a tight end if need be.
  • 1st team – Nick Barnett, Buffalo Bills (67 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 3 PD, 2 INTs, 1 FF) – Barnett has been the exact type of versatile linebacker that the Bills envisioned when they signed him to replace the underachieving Paul Posluzny.  One of the few playmakers in the Bills front seven.
  • 2nd team – Bart Scott, New York Jets (39 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 FF) – The loud talking, hard-hitting Scott has been himself this year, yapping up a storm and racking up tackles.
  • 2nd team – Kevin Burnett, Miami Dolphins (46 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5 TFL, 1 PD) – The former Charger Burnett beats out Brandon Spikes for the last ILB spot due to his play behind the line of scrimmage.

Cornerbacks

  • 1st team – Darrelle Revis, New York Jets (24 tackles, 12 PD, 4 INTs) – This easiest no-brainer on the board.  The numbers are unreal…12 passes defended through 8 games?  4 INTs already and he is hardly thrown to.  Hands down the best Cornerback in the NFL right now and one of the best ever.
  • 1st team – Kyle Arrington, New England Patriots (43 tackles, 1 TFL, 7 PD, 5 INTs) – Arrington has been inconsistent, as has been pretty much every CB in the division besides Revis, but his ball-hawking skills have served him well as he leads all AFCE players in INTs.
  • 2nd team – Antonio Cromartie, New York Jets (23 tackles, 7 PD, 3 INTs, 1 FF) – Cromartie is one of those infuriating players who struggles at times despite having all the talent in the world.  When he’s on, he’s on.
  • 2nd team – Leodis McKelvin, Buffalo Bills (28 tackles, 6 PD, 1 INT, 1 FR) – McKelvin has been the strongest of a talented but inconsistent group of Bills cornerbacks in the early going.

Strong Safeties

  • 1st team – George Wilson, Buffalo Bills (71 tackles, 2 TFL, 6 PDs, 4 INTs, 1 FF) – The former undrafted wide receiver has been playing at an unbelievably high level this season.  Like teammate Fred Jackson, an example of what happens when hard work and lots of heart pays off.
  • 2nd team – Yeremiah Bell, Miami Dolphins (64 tackles, 1 sack, 1 PD, 1 FR) – Bell has been one of the few bright spots on the Miami defense.  He’s their most consistent guy in the defensive backfield.

Free Safeties

  • 1st team – Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills (56 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 5 PD, 2 INTs, 1 FF, 1 FR) – Byrd has shaken off a sophomore slump to become one of the most complete safeties in the entire league.  Byrd, who struggled against the run in his rookie season, has become a force in the Bills run defense and is getting a reputation for being a big hitter.
  • 2nd team – Patrick Chung, New England Patriots (55 tackles, 1 sack, 4 PD, 1 INT) – There is no sophomore slump for Chung who has been the most consistent defender in the Pats defensive backfield.

Punters

  • 1st team – Brandon Fields, Miami Dolphins (48.6 avg., 40.7 net, 17 IN20, 70 long) – Fields may have been getting a lot of work in the first half of the season but at least he is making it count.  He has the highest net, the longest punt, and the most pins inside the 20 in the division.
  • 2nd team – Brian Moorman, Buffalo Bills (49.5 avg., 38.5 net, 9 IN20, 66 long) – This was a dog fight with Zoltan Mesko but Moorman has Mesko in everything but the net avg. so the Bills vet gets the nod.

Twitter @ErikVenskus