Estimated reading time: 7 minute(s)
I want to start off by saying that my heart goes out to Kevin Everett and his family. Nobody should have to go through what he is going through. It is a terrible tragedy and hopefully something that the team can rally behind. That being said, all the injury coverage has made Bills vs Steelers coverage hard to come by, so I am going to try to stick to the football. Kevin our prayers are with you.
Week one did not go as planned for the Buffalo Bills. Not only did they play poorly in many aspects of the game, but they also suffered 4 major injuries. Besides the well publicized injury to 2nd Tight End Kevin Everett, the Bills lost Ko Simpson for the season at Free Safety, Coy Wire is out indefinitely at backup linebacker and Jason Webster is out potentially for the whole season at Corner Back. Its never good when a team suffers that many serious injuries, but it could have been worse.
Ko Simpson is really the only significant loss in the group and his loss was lessened by the outstanding play of Jim Leonard in his stead. Leonard finished the first game with a team leading 13 tackles and an Interception. You can’t ask for much more than that. If Leonard can continue with that type of play, the Bills will have no trouble weathering Simpson’s injury. Simpson being out for the season will be more damaging next season as the team was hoping to see some magic between Donte Whitner and Ko Simpson develop this year. Maybe Whitner and Leonard will be the tandem the Bills are looking for instead? It remains to be seen.
Coy Wire is an emotional player that brings a lot to the table especially on special teams. It will hurt the team not having him on the field, but he will likely be back later in the season depending on the severity of his knee sprain. Wire was already filling in for Keith Ellison who may be back before Wire. The Bills appear to have decided to play undrafted free agent John DiGiorgio on the weak side in his place. With DiGiorgio, Posluszny and Crowell, the Bills have a fast and fairly talented linebacking corps. They are inexperienced except for Crowell however so they will probably make some mistakes as the season progresses. Posluszny had a great first game as a starter, picking up 9 tackles. He made some mistakes too, but Poz seems like the kind of player that doesn’t make the same mistake twice. He will just get better and better as the year progresses and he started off pretty strong.
Jason Webster looked a lot better in practice than he did in preseason games or in week 1. His injury forces the Bills to start Ashton Youboty. Youboty was drafted in 2006 to replace Nate Clements. He didn’t play much last year due to the death of his mother. His development is a little behind, but he will probably improve a lot more rapidly by seeing more playing time. He is bound to make mistakes, but Webster wasn’t exactly getting the job done, so I don’t see any fall off here. There could end up being significant improvement depending on how Youboty does. Youboty gets a bit of a break in that he will mostly be covering Santonio Holmes on Sunday when they face the Steelers. Holmes is a solid receiver, but he is also a former teammate of Youboty’s from Ohio State. Youboty is very familiar with Holmes and it will make his assignment a bit easier than it would be otherwise. I’m not saying Youboty will shut down Holmes, but he ought to be able to do respectably against a player he knows so well.
Going into week 2, the rest of the Bills need to step up their play. Week 1 was a sloppy performance, but it was sloppy for Denver too. Bills fans shouldn’t give up on their team based on week 1. First of all, J.P. Losman had a bad game. This doesn’t mean he regressed. It means he had a bad game. Thats all. If you actually go back and look at the film, Losman didn’t make that many mistakes. The weather was wet which seems to effect Losman more than it should. Despite that, Losman completed 67% of his passes. That means he was on target. He wasn’t throwing up lame ducks, the Denver cornerbacks (easily the best in the league) shut down the Bills’ receivers. Losman took what he could get, which wasn’t much. The ugly interception was the result of Denver grabbing the facemask of the intended receiver and getting away with it. Losman was not “crisp”, which seems to be his goal, but he wasn’t as bad as the numbers indicate. In week 1 all teams are still getting the wrinkles out, and the Broncos were able to get a jump on a Bills offense that needed a little more time together.
The Bills offensive line showed a lot of promise although they were inconsistent. At times they did a great job protecting Losman, especially in the first series. They also blocked for Marshawn Lynch well on several occassions. But there were also times when they looked confused and allowed the pass rush to come right through or did not get any blocks in for Lynch. These times will become less and less frequent as the season goes on and the Bills revamped line has more time to get comfortable playing together. The sooner the better, but it will probably be a few weeks before they are really in sync.
Marshawn Lynch looked outstanding in his debut. He came right out and had 3 back to back solid gainers in the first series. His only major error came on that first series when he blew a block that caused the 14 yard loss on the sack. Bills fans have got to be really excited about this kid. especially considering how unreliable the blocking was in this game. If the line can play just a little better this week than they did in week 1, Lynch will be well over 100 yards. My biggest complaint regarding Lynch was that the coaches only gave him 19 carries. After reviewing tape, it should be obvious that he will get nearly every carry in week 2. He looked that good. He also made at least 6 plays that were of the sort that we never saw from Willis McGahee. The 23 yard TD where he broke tackles and dragged a defender into the end zone would not have happened with Willis carrying the rock. Also the 4th and 1 play where Lynch got the first down with sheer will and determination was not typical of McGahee.
The Steelers are heavily favored over the Bills mostly because Losman had a terrible week 1 and Roethlisberger had a great week 1. But look at the opponents. Denver made a push for the playoffs last year and is expected to make a push this year as well. Cleveland went 4-12 last season and has been selected by many to come in dead last in the NFL this season. They are so bad that they fired their starting quarterback after week 1. Roethlisberger threw more interceptions last season than any other quarterback in the league. If the Bills can bring pressure on the quarterback with Schobel and Kelsay, they can count on some turnovers coming their way. Is Big Ben back? Maybe. Pounding on the worst team in the league isn’t enough to convince me. Lets look a little deeper at Big Ben’s performance last week. Yes he had 4 passing TD’s but they were all short passes in the red zone. Overall he had 161 yards in the air. Nothing to get excited about. His completion percentage was 52% (compared to Losman’s 67%).
No it wasn’t Roethlisberger that won the game for them, it was their backs. The Steelers had 206 yards rushing. This looks like their Super Bowl formula. Rush the ball and only have Roethlisbereger pass when he has to. It worked against the worst team in the league. The Bills are a lot better than they looked in week 1, even with the defensive injuries. The Bills will still struggle against the run, but need to slow it up just enough to force the Steelers to the air. Roethlisberger is not what the Bills should be afraid of. Willie Parker is the player that can kill the Bills. If Losman can play well and get the offense rolling (which he should be able to do against a more forgiving Steelers secondary) the Bills have a chance in this game. The Bills defense needs to keep the Steelers out of the end zone and take field goals as they did in week 1. If they can do this, the Bills will be able to pull out an upset. It is critical that the Bills get an early lead. They have a slight advantage in that the world still hasn’t seen the Bills offense functioning as it was designed. A few surprises get the Bills a much needed confidence boosting win in honor of their fallen comrade. Bills 21 Steelers 17. (either way you should pick the Bills against a 10 point spread, thats way too large for this early in the season)
Season record so far:
1-0 versus the spread