The Bills kick-off their 2009 campaign tonight at 7pm against the always formidable New England Patriots. For one team, it is the year of a new superstar. For another, this season is all about the return of one.
The Patriots couldn’t be happier to have QB Tom Brady back under center. Two years removed from a 2007 season which saw Brady break the NFL single-season record for passing TDs at 50, he now looks to regain that form after a devastating knee injury which sidelined him for the entire 2008 season. Giselle’s uglier half (not too much offense meant Tom), looked strong this preseason, but is not yet 100 percent. There is no question that on some of his throws Brady’s weight-shift looked off as he tried to protect that reconstructed knee. That having been said, this is still Tom Brady we are talking about and he still has Randy Moss.
The Buffalo Bills have had an off-season/preseason that can be categorized as nothing short of tumultuous. After a third-consecutive 7-9 season there were many changes made in Buffalo. For many, the biggest surprise was the addition of a new and very visible face in Terrell Owens. For me, however, the biggest surprise came in the news that we would continue to see a familiar face for yet another year. That face, of course, belongs to head coach Dick Jauron. Across the league there is no coach who is under closer scrutiny from his players, fans and front office.
The Bills continued to see changes this off-season with the departure of pro-bowl LT Jason Peters – the one truly quality player on Buffalo’s now infamous, annually sub-par offensive line. Failing to break the mold, this year’s line is one of the youngest in the league and is utterly riddled with question marks. Despite a Patriots defense that is considerably different from a year ago, now without Bruschi, Seymour, Harrison, and Vrabel, look for young Pats like Jerod Mayo to challenge the Bills early in tonight’s game.
The key thing for Buffalo to remember is that it is all about them. The Bills know that the Patriots are a Super Bowl caliber team, as does the rest of the league. Frankly, for as much pressure as there is on the coaching staff this season, the Bills need to perform without abandon. The team is full of young players with loads of talent, but will they be weighed down mentally? To me, that question trumps all the others: Will this team be the Lions of last season? Can Edwards finally establish himself, and especially behind an inexperienced front line? Will the no huddle cause problems for opposing defenses or fatigue Buffalo’s own defense with short offensive possessions. And of course, what will happen with T.O.? If the Bills come out tonight with confidence and the “nothing-to-lose” attitude that we saw from them a year ago than tonight’s game will be a step in the right direction.
The last two times Brady faced the Bills in ’07, New England outscored Buffalo 94-17. The Patriots have won the last eleven meetings and though no NFL team has ever won 12 straight against one opponent, the Bills will have to pull off a major upset to avoid that fate tonight.