It’s a team game and all that, but who are the five most important players for Buffalo in the coming week’s game? Each week we’ll take a look in a feature called Five Key Players.
Buffalo’s magical ride through the 2011 season took a sharp turn back to reality as the Bengals handed the Bills their first loss of the season last week. Now a talented and desperate Eagles team comes to town this Sunday.. Who will need to step up to ensure Buffalo gets back on the winning track? but he
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – If last week showed anything, it’s that the Bills probably can’t win when Fitz isn’t playing well. It’s not that he was terrible Sunday, but if he’s not somewhere between good and great this team is going to struggle. This week – barring a miracle or Michael Vick concussion – the Eagles are going to score points. The Bills have to be able to convert some third downs through the air and get up and down the field. If Fitz isn’t accurate enough, it isn’t going to happen.
C Eric Wood, LG Andy Levitre, and RG Chad Rinehart – I’ll lump this interior line trio together. The Eagles have a lot of great defensive players and can do a lot of damage, but there is a glaring weakness – since the Eagles tend to spread their defenders very wide to generate their fierce pass rush, the middle of the defense is vulnerable to the run. Vulnerable enough that the Eagles rank 30th in the league in rushing defense, giving up 139.5 yards a game. The interior of the Bills line needs to take advantage of this to create big holes for Fred Jackson to run through Sunday. If the Bills can’t run the ball against Philly, they’re dead. The combination of the Eagle pass rush and Philly’s strong secondary will make for a long day for Fitz.
RB Fred Jackson – I think there’s a simple strategy for offensive success Sunday – give it to Action Fred Jackson early and often. The 2011 season has been a masterpiece so far for Jackson. He’s been elite in every phase of the game. If the Bills don’t get too pass happy Sunday, Jackson could dominate this game. Of course, he’ll have to keep up his insane level of play so far.
SS Bryan Scott, SS George Wilson, and FS Jairus Byrd – Another trio I’ll lump together. I don’t envy the task ahead of this group Sunday. The Eagles can hurt a defense in a lot of ways. Their rushing attack can be dominant, and Vick of course presents his own set of challenges, not the least of which is his ability to flick the ball 60 yards downfield easily to DeSean Jackson or others. Scott, Wilson, and Byrd are going to need to help out against the run while not getting beat deep. It’d also be nice if they could keep making the big plays Scott and Wilson have turned in the past few weeks.
LT Chris Hairston – We talked about this at length yesterday, but there’s a lot riding on the shoulders of the big rookie. Not only is he making his first NFL start, but he’ll have to protect his quarterback’s blind side from the league’s top sack artist in Philly DE Jason Babin. Can he hold up? If not, it’s going to be a very long day for the Bills.