Bills vs. Raiders: Week 2 Preview
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • September 15, 2011 @ 11:31am
If there’s an NFL team with a more dysfunctional higher administration than the Buffalo Bills over the past 15 years, it’s the Oakland Raiders. The constant ineptitude and head-scratching moves of former head coach and current owner/GM Al Davis still hold back a team on the verge of taking over the AFC West (let’s be honest—it’s there for the taking.)
Running back Darren McFadden, linebacker Rolando McClain, receiver/returner Jacoby Ford and rush linebacker Kam Wimbley are all Pro Bowl caliber players with game-breaking ability—and a “wow” factor, one thing that the Raiders’ stars of old, with the exception of Ronnie Lott—never had.
The Buffalo Bills, on the other hand, startled everyone—local media, the nation, themselves—with a 41-7 Week 1 thumping of Kansas City. The defense and special teams morphed into turnover-forcing machines, and a balanced offense led by Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson humiliated a once-stiff Chiefs’ defense. “Winning the turnover battle” is a phrase spouted all the time by head coaches and players alike, but it’s more than empty coach-speak.
Just as corralling Jamaal Charles was the focal point of the Bills’ game-plan in Week 1, a close eye will be paid to former Hog running back McFadden. One of the game’s most explosive backs, Run DMC is as effective of a receiver as he is an outside runner, and the Raiders thrive when using him in space. His backup, Michael Bush, complements the starter perfectly, providing a mauling presence on short-yardage situations and at the goal-line.
Ford, whose status is up in the air for Sunday, is equally dangerous, and it’s head coach Hue Jackson’s mission to get him the ball regularly this year. Keeping pace with Ford’s track-star speed will be a tall task for Drayton Florence, Leodis McKelvin and Aaron Williams—assuming the wideout suits up.
With the off-season departure of shutdown corner Nnamdi Asomugha to Philadelphia, the Raiders’ secondary is much more vulnerable. Wealthy Stanford Routt has shutdown ability but can’t tackle, and Michael Huff is equally allergic to bringing opponents to the ground. Ryan Fitzpatrick has a legitimate chance to match his Week 1 totals.
Prediction: Buffalo, 24-21
—- As a subscriber to Pro Football Focus’ player grading system, I was interested to see how Buffalo’s non-skill players graded out in Week 1. Here are the ideas I found:
+ The Bills split their receivers’ snaps as follows: Jones 63, Johnson 59, Parrish 38, Nelson 35.
+ Marcell Dareus, in his pro debut, played 31 snaps and graded out as a (-1.3). That’s not very good, and the bone-headed jump off-sides on fourth and four didn’t help his cause.
+ Jairus Byrd (+2.7), George Wilson (+2.1) and Bryan Scott (+1.2) made PFF’s top 15 safeties, with Byrd excelling in coverage and Wilson sturdy in run support. Remember when Donte Whitner played for the Bills? He was a (-.2) in 71 snaps with the Niners.
+ Jacksonville’s Paul Posluszny ranked as the NFL’s second-best inside linebacker in Week 1 with a (+5.1), earning positive grades in rushing the passer, stopping the run and—yes—pass coverage. He even had a pass defensed! What the heck?
+ Shawne Merriman rushed the passer on 22 of his 31 snaps and graded out poorly (-1.6) overall. The Chiefs’ Branden Albert is a little more feisty than J’Marcus Webb, the Bears’ revolving door when “Lights Out” busted out for 2.5 sacks in his preseason debut.
+ I know I said “non-skill” players below the additional notes section, but it’s worth mentioning that Fred Jackson was chosen as PFF’s top running back for Week 1, running over and around helpless K.C. defenders.