Sep 30, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (22) gets tackled by Buffalo Bills free safety Jairus Byrd (31) and cornerback Stephon Gilmore (27) during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Patriots beat the Bills 52-28. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
As the Buffalo Bills look to kick off their 2013 NFL Season against the New England Patriots, hopes, expectations, and anxiety are all riding high. The Bills, who underwent a complete coaching makeover, as well as the total replacement of the quarterback position, are looking to start anew on their journey to greatness. The Patriots, with some of the all-too-familiar names such as Brady, Belichick, Wilfork, and Gronk (while Gronk will be out this week), head back to the field with their annual “Super Bowl or bust” attitude. But what can Bills fans look to expect in Week 1 against a team that has made them a poster child for ineptitude for far too long? Here are some reasonable goals and expectations to look for in our first contest of the season:
- The Bills will run the ball. All day. – Given EJ Manuel’s recent recovery from a minor knee injury, I wouldn’t expect him to be performing many five or seven-step drops in this first game. With Nathaniel Hackett’s up-tempo, West Coast-style offense, and given the fact that the Bills have not one but two starting RBs, look for the ground game to see heavy duty. I wouldn’t be surprised if C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson combined for more than 30 carries tomorrow. Oh, and by the way, a certain guy name Manuel can run too. Expect the running game to be used as a precursor to play action and the deep ball, something not seen in Buffalo since before the internet.
- Brady will be Brady. – As fans of the Patriots (and Tom Brady himself) have seen over the years, it doesn’t really matter to who he is throwing to. Brady will make 3rd-string high school WRs look like Pro Bowl candidates. If the Bills want to have a chance to win this game, the defensive line up front must get pressure on Brady and clog holes faster than a wet rag in the sink. Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine will have to draw up some exotic looks and novel blitz packages to confuse him. This will be especially important given the weakness in the Bills’ secondary, with the top two DBs (Stephon Gilmore and Jarius Byrd) out for the game.
- Buffalo has the element of surprise. – This will be the first NFL game for more than just Manuel. Robert Woods, Kiko Alonso, Marquise Goodwin will all see considerable amounts of playing time, and the Patriots have little to no intelligence on them. Look for head coach Doug Marrone to exploit this and use it to his advantage. This may be the only time that they will be able to catch teams off guard with their new players, coaches, and schemes, and who better to do that to them than their biggest division rival.
- It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be crazy. This is not your father’s football team. – From everything we have seen and written about here on Buffalowdown.com, we know one thing is for sure: this will be a game like no other. The Ralph is sold-out and will be the loudest it has been in a long time. As anyone who has ever played in or visited the stadium know, when you have 75K screaming fans yelling at their alcohol-laced lips, there is no harder place to play and nowhere else you’d rather be (thanks Marv). The Buffalo Bills that take the field on Sunday will not look anything like what we have seen over the last 10 years; the offense will be faster, the defense more aggressive, and there will be players that were in elementary school since the last trip to the playoffs making plays. This is a young, exciting, and high-potential team, with the pieces in place to begin building the closest thing to a dynasty that we will see in modern-day football. Yet with all of this youth and energy will come exactly what inexperience harbors: penalties, turnovers, mental mistakes and missed opportunities. However I see this team different than previous years, the Bills that would be leading against a Dallas or New England only to relinquish it in the final seconds, the Bills that would throw an ill-timed interception or drop a TD pass. This team will learn from those mistakes much quicker and bounce back faster, and should hopefully produce more victories in a shorter amount of time.
Like all of you Bills fans, we’ll be cheering for a huge upset and a great start to the 2013 NFL season. Going into the game with the motto “hoping for the best but expecting the worst” would not be too bad of a strategy, with the knowledge that in time, this team will begin to produce great results.