Welcome to Week 11 Bills fans, and another round of the intense rivalry with the New York Jets. The Bills, for all intent and purposes, are out of the playoffs for the 14th straight year, and will be revising their role as the perennial “spoiler”. With 6 weeks remaining in the 2013 season, Buffalo has little but pride to play for at this point (if you don’t consider teams actually play for draft picks), but these last games should remind us which players play for the love and which do not. Meaningless games may seem useless to most, more of a formality at this point, but they do help separate the leaders from the followers and those that wish to see contract extensions or increases for the following years. Good teams do not give up even when their season is more or less over, and I expect the Bills not to give up their fight either. With that in mind, here is what I expect in today’s game.
EJ Manuel will be improved from last week. Manuel had his worst game as a Bill last week, throwing for under 100 yds before garbage time. However, I do not think neither Coach Doug Marrone, Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, or Manuel himself will allow for an encore performance today. It is certain that Rex Ryan and his defense will come to town looking for a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, but Manuel should be improved from not only last week but his first outing against the Jets. Comfort in scheme, awareness, and home-field should help the young rookie, and look for him to bounce back from his “zombie” game last week.
Today will be the biggest test the Offensive line for the rest of the season. By all accounts, the Jets’ front 4 and linebacking corps will be the toughest the Bills face for the remainder of the season. This will be a “put up or shut up” game for the Bills’ O-line. If the rushing performance is as lackluster as it was week 3 in New York, it will another long day. This will be a job-on-the-line game for players named Urbik, Pears, and Legursky. Don’t let the numbers fool you either: although Buffalo’s rushing offense is ranked 7th in the league, it has not been as dominant or intimating (especially at the goal line) as in years past.
Buffalo’s secondary will again be tested regularly. If you think back to week 3, not only did the Bills front 7 allow for Pro Bowl performances by no-name Jets running backs, Geno Smith also put on a clinic with Buffalo’s defensive backfield. I don’t think it will be nearly as bad as in the Meadowlands, but if Mario Williams does not step up once again in his rollercoaster season, it may be another long day for Bills fans.
The Bills Fans will be tested today. More than any of the players or coaches, today is a test for Bills fans. Although the team certainly entered the year as another rebuilding season with a new Coach, GM, QB and large chunk of the offensive unit, this was also supposed to be an improving year. Splitting the series would be a good way to showcase this improvement, and having a quarterback make smart decisions and that does not turn the ball over would also be a large step up. If the Bills as a team play today like they did against Pittsburgh, it will test the fans’ willingness to turn on their TV sets or drive out to Ralph Wilson stadium for the remainder of the year.
See if the Bills can ground the New York Jets in today’s showdown. Buy your Bills tickets here!