Before we do get into this, my thoughts and prayers go out to everybody in the city of Buffalo affected by that horrific snow storm that dumped feet almost 8 feet in areas in and around the Buffalo area, as well as damaging homes and taking lives. Even though I’m not from Buffalo, we’re all apart of the same Bills family.
Alright, now to the game and the reason the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets are playing this week is because the NFL moved the game to Ford Field in Detroit for a Monday night kickoff at 7:00 p.m. The Bills look to be out of the playoffs, but if they’re going to make any push this season, it will have to start with taking care of business at “home” against the Jets. Here are the three keys:
1) Homefield Advantage
Well, let’s start with the obvious. This game is not going to be played in Buffalo, so will the 12th Man of Ralph Wilson Stadium be able to travel? The free tickets are an incentive, but to take a couple days off from work and drive to Detroit will not be an easy task for any Bills fans to do. Bills fans have been disappointed going to Orchard Park this season, with the Bills going 2-3 at the Ralph. This game may be listed as a home one in the NFL’s mind and on the schedules, but let’s face it. It’s a neutral site game. And it will be the first such game in the team’s history in the regular season. As all Bills fans will painfully remember, the last time Buffalo played in a neutral site game was their final of four Super Bowls in a row, losing to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVIII. With probably a more even crowd than normal, crowd noise should not be an issue for either team and both defenses will still be wreaking havoc in each backfield as this matchup pits two of the league’s better defenses.
2) Can the Bills offensive line protect Kyle Orton?
A question that did not seem to be a problem in the early goings of this season has now become a dire situation in Buffalo. What has happened to this offensive line? On the rushing side, the Bills are 24th in the league in average yards per carry (3.9) and 25th in rushing attempts per game (24.8). To the actual key itself, and the passing aspect of this line isn’t much better. Orton has been sacked 20 times in his six starts this season, which is an average of 3.33 per game. Manuel was only sacked six times in his four starts. Credit some of that to the elusiveness and athleticism of Manuel, but this offensive line has looked much worse as the season has gone on. At 5-5, the Bills are in a dire need of a win and getting things back on the right track. For that to happen, Buffalo will have to get their offensive line back up to protect Orton, because believe it or not, it looks like he’s going to be here for at least another season.
3) Will we ever see a rushing attack this season?
Bad offensive line? Sure. Injuries? There have been those too. But the last time a Bills running back ran for 100 yards in a game was Week 17 last season in that rainy game in New England when CJ Spiller ran for 105. This was supposed to be something that this offense was to lean on all season to help take some of the load and the pressure off of Orton and it has not been happening. Now, they are facing the third-best rushing defense in the league. That is not going to help them, but it would help Orton and the offensive line to keep the Jets ferocious defensive line off-balance and so that they can put up more points than Dan Carpenter field goals.
I do not think the Jets will turn the ball over six times again, nor do I think either offense will be able to get going. I’ve got the Bills in a defensive slugfest, and this time I think that prediction will be correct.