Hey Bills Fans – we’re down here in the “Big Easy” this week, and today’s game for the Buffalo Bills against the New Orleans Saints will be anything but that. The Bills will have their hands full today trying to stop New Orleans’s multi-headed rushing and receiving attacks, all the while putting the game on the shoulders of their newly-minted quarterback, Thad Lewis. One particular stat that might make Bills fans more uneasy than a hurricane drink on Bourbon St – the Saints are averaging 41.5 points the past four seasons in the game after their bye week. Drew Brees is playing like his 2009-self, and the return of Sean Payton has revitalized the team – and the city – similarly to the bounce after Hurricane Katrina. Needless to say, Doug Marrone & co. will have their hands full today. With that in mind, here’s what Buffalo Bills fans can expect in the game against the Saints:
This will be the Buffalo Bills’ biggest test this year. Hands down. Yes I know that the unbeaten Chiefs are coming to town next weekend. But playing down here in the Mercedes Benz Superdome will be the biggest game for the Bills this year. A loss reaffirms the nation’s belief: this is a young team that can’t win in the big game, the ‘same ole’ Bills’. A win today does more than turn each and every writer and fan’s pessimistic head, it jolts the entire organization and city. Yes, this game is that big. Expect the team to pull out all the stops, on all three phases of play. Marrone would like nothing more than to come back and beat his old head coach and mentor, and will try anything possible to do it.
Mario Williams will either put up or shut up today. As big of a test as this game is for the entire Bills team, it is Mario Williams’ biggest game as a Bill and probably his career. If he can be a difference maker, it will add to his already record-setting season but also put his name into consideration for one of the best defensive players of the 2013 season. If he has a game similarly to the one against the New York Jets in week 1 of last year, it will not only be a major setback for his season but as a player as well. Expect Mario to become Super Mario once again today.
Thad Lewis has his hands full, but also his options. Stevie Johnson is coming off a 6-catch, hard-fought performance against Miami last weekend, but only because he was targeted so much by Lewis. Expect the Saints to bring the heat today against the Bills, but Thad should realize he does have some good talent around him. Besides Johnson, look for receivers like Robert Woods and TJ Graham to see more action today, and the ever-reliable Scott Chandler when all else fails. Even with CJ out today, Fred Jackson has shown for the last 8 years that he can put the team on his back and do whatever necessary to win. That Lewis should respect the Defense, but step up and use the guys around him.
Who to look for: Robert Woods. I expect today will be Wood’s breakout game. With not much film on the exceptionally-mature rookie, Woods has yet to have the type of game he was drafted for. Largely overshadowed by the presence of veterans Stevie Johnson, TJ Graham and Scott Chandler, Woods will get his opportunity today. Rob Ryan’s rejuvenated Defense will look to stack the box with its 3-4 play (especially after watching his twin brother’s act against the Bills), meaning 1-on-1 coverage potentially for Woods and fellow rookie Marquis Goodwin. Both will have to play beyond their years today, but look for Woods to have season-highs in targets and catches by 4:30pm EST.