Another season, and another year of Buffalo Bills football is on tap. It's been an off-season with no shortage of twists and turns that led to both optimism and pessimism throughout.
But here we are now, just days away from the Bills first dance of the regular season: on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs. It should be fun to see the Bills in action for real the first time this season, and it's a fairly winnable game for Buffalo. Let's take a look at the key things to watch this Sunday.
1) Run, Jamaal, Run!
- A staple of each preview I wrote last season was mentioning a key for the Bills was to stop the run. Guess what, it's back -- at least for the first few weeks. Buffalo goes up against a team that not only gained 274 rushing yards against them last season, but also a team that led the entire league in running the ball. The play of Marcell Dareus in his first career game will determine if the Chiefs can win the battle at the line of scrimmage. Dareus, Williams and the additions of Merriman and Barnett will help mightily. But the Chiefs will be sure to get Charles both his yards and touches.
2) Get Fred and CJ Moving
- After talking to 610 AM radio host Josh Klingler from Kansas City, one thing is evident. If you want to be successful against the Chiefs, teams have to run at former third overall pick Tyson Jackson consistently. He's the weak point of the defense, and teams have taken advantage of him throughout his years in Kansas City. So with that said, establishing Fred Jackson early on in the game will help open things up for someone like C.J. Spiller and the rest of the Bills offense. If that doesn't happen and the Bills become too one-sided on offense, I don't trust Ryan Fitzpatrick to win this game on his own like elite quarterbacks do.
3) McKelvin Matchups
- A huge question mark heading in to the season rests on the shoulders of Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin. Don't get me wrong, he makes some great plays sometimes. The problem for me, and most everyone else, is that the good is too few and far between. The bad dominates his game, and it's something he's struggled with for a while now. Will this finally be the year he gets it? The Bills sure hope so, or else it's another busted first round pick that never lived up to the hype. I'll be interested to see who they pair McKelvin up against -- or if he even starts. If they put him on Dwayne Bowe... watch out. It could be a big day for Bowe and a long day for the secondary.
4) Brad Smith Unleashed
- This will be our first chance to see exactly what Head Coach Chan Gailey had in mind when he brought QB/WR/KR extraordinaire Brad Smith in to the fold. I may expect to see him utilized early, and then use him as a decoy throughout the game just to establish his presence. By no means is he going to rack up the statistics for this team, but he'll most likely have more than he did with the New York Jets. Smith is an enticing part of this Bills offensive attack that I'm looking forward to seeing.
5) Keeping Fitzpatrick Upright
- When the ball is kicked off for the regular season, the war along the line of scrimmage gets turned up a few notches from where it was throughout the preseason. It's imperative that the Bills keep Ryan Fitzpatrick upright by doing one of two things. First, they could do the more traditional option of blocking and giving him some time in the pocket. But with the overall lack of talent along the starting offensive line and the fire-breathing pass rusher Tamba Hali lining up opposite them, I think that may be less of an option. In order to keep Fitzpatrick up and firing, a lot of it is going to be quick-hitting throws and routes. But if the Chiefs creep up and take that away, it could be a long day for the red, white and blue.
- If Matt Cassel takes a good lick to his ribs, will he be able to continue? It's something to think about as the game goes on.
Prediction: Chiefs 20, Bills 17 Final Thoughts: I still get a charge of seeing the Bills in their new uniforms (although blue pants for the away uniforms would be even snazzier) and it will be nice to see them on display in a regular season setting. As far as the game is concerned, I do think the run defense will be a great deal better than it was last season. But keep in mind, the Bills are going up against one of the top rushers in the league. It all boils down to who wins the battle at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. I do think the Bills have a chance to win this game. It's a very beatable opponent.