By BBD Writer: Eric Samulski
It’s safe to say that the 2012 NFL season didn’t get off to the start that many Bills fans believed it would. After being thoroughly beaten by the NY Jets in the opener, the Bills head home to Ralph Wilson Stadium to take on the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday. What once was a fired up and motivated crowd is now undoubtedly on the verge of a full-fledged freak out. If the Bills lay another egg and open the season 0-2 expect the Ralph to get heated in a way that it hasn’t for many years. Bills fans generally don’t like teams getting their hopes up and failing to deliver; it’s left too many scars in the past.
In order for the Bills to keep the faithful, well, faithful they’re going to need to find positive answers to a few key questions.
Question One: Can the coaching staff rebound and make adjustments?
Many aspects of a football game are decided by the players on the field, but there are moments where success, and blame, seems to spread over everybody who’s come in contact with the team. That’s certainly the case after last week’s game. Chan Gailey and his coaches were outcoached in every aspect of the game and failed to alter their gameplan in order to combat what the Jets were doing. Most specifically, Dave Wannstedt’s defense was continuously torched through the air, but the scheme seemed to change little as the game went on. The Jets receivers were still given huge cushions and abusing corners in single coverage, while the defense never seemed to blitz and couldn’t get any pressure on Sanchez. The coaches had a week to gameplan for the Chiefs, so one can only hope that there were some answers in that week of work.
Question Two: Can Spiller carry the offense?
With Fred Jackson out, Stevie Johnson not at 100%, and Ryan Fitzpatrick as inconsistent as ever, the success of the offense could very well fall squarely on the shoulders of CJ Spiller. The former first-round pick excelled in his starting opportunities last season and ran over and through the Jets in the opener. The Bills can’t afford anything less from him. He needs to continue to be an asset in the running game as well as a featured receiver out of the backfield. If he can keep the Chiefs defense honest then the Bills might be able to have some semblance of a passing game and move the ball down the field. If he gets bottled up there’s almost no chance this team will win.
Question Three: Can the Bills get after the quarterback?
After spending much offseason salary cap on pass-rushers Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, the Bills barely even breathed on Mark Sanchez in the first game. Williams complained of being disrupted by illegal blocking tactics (I didn’t see, so I can’t speak to the validity), but the stats still show zero tackles for a loss from the pair of defensive ends. Whatever the circumstances might have been, the Bills absolutely cannot go another game without a sack. The pass rush needs to respond forcefully. If somebody is putting their hands in your face illegally then run through them. With all the money spent on a pass rush, it needs to be a force week in and week out.
Question Four: Can the defense contain the Chiefs rushing attack?
If there’s one thing you can count on in this game it’s that the Chiefs are going to run the ball. Brian Daboll offenses always run. Heck, he made the Dolphins the 6th overall rushing attack last season. With Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis he has speed and power options to wear down the Bills. However, as bad as the defense looked last week, the run defense was surprisingly stout. Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus seemed to push the pocket consistently, hitting the Jets rushers at the line of scrimmage on numerous occasions. If the Bills can bottle up the Chiefs rushing attack, they’re going to take them out of their comfort zone and turn the momentum in their favor.
Question Five: With another rookie starting, can they continue to keep up?
The injury to David Nelson has forced TJ Graham into significant playing time and another rookie into a crucial spot for the Bills. During the week one game, Cordy Glenn acquitted himself fairly well. He played a solid left tackle, while not really being exposed to many situations in which he was asked to contain a dominant pass rusher on his own. This week he might see a heavy dose of Tamba Hali and will really be challenged.
On the other hand, Stephon Gilmore seemed to play passively and was beaten numerous times by the Jets receivers, even raw Stephen Hill. He was supposed to come right in and play for the get go, while Graham was thought to be mentally and physically behind where Gailey wanted him to be, hence his status as an inactive last week. Yet, he has elite speed, which can’t be taught. The Bills are going to need all three rookies to really provide some value if they’re going to have any hope of competing this season.
Question Six: How ready is Terrence McGee?
Numerous times last week the Bills rotated Terrence McGee with starting left cornerback Aaron Williams. Gailey insists that it’s not an indication of Williams’ poor play but a desire to get McGee on the field. Regardless of coach speak, the Bills secondary was atrocious last week and they desperately need players to start making plays. If McGee proves to be healthy and effective, he can spot Williams on the outside or even spell Leodis McKelvin in the slot. The Chiefs have a mediocre quarterback in Cassel and only one real receiving threat in Bowe, so this is a task that the secondary should be up to.
Question Seven: Which Fitzpatrick will show up?
This was the number one question last week, and we all know what the answer was. Fitz needs to respond with a strong performance this week. Everything that could have gone wrong last week did, so it’s not even really one thing that needs to be fixed. He needs to remove the last game from his memory and attack a secondary that was lit up by Matt Ryan last weekend. If Brandon Flowers (questionable) misses the game, it makes the Chiefs thin secondary even more suspect and ripe for picking apart.
Prediction: Bills 23 Chiefs 17
I’m still a believer. Or I’m still a sucker; I guess this week will decide. I think the Bills showed enough run defense last week to lead me to believe they can at least keep the Chiefs from dominating the game on the ground. With Cassel forced to go to the air, I think the Bills have enough pride to make sure their secondary doesn’t get blown apart again. The Chiefs, however, have enough injuries in their secondary that I think the Bills can move the ball through the air. Finally, I think CJ Spiller is a special enough talent to slice through a Chiefs defense that is not up to the Jets level in terms of containing the running game. There will still be some mistakes in here, but I think this club has a lot of character and won’t allow themselves to get beaten after last week’s performance.