Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) -- October 18, 2001.
Where were all of you on that fateful day?
I, for instance, was a snot-nosed sophomore at St. Francis High School fresh in to my 6-foot-4 frame trying to figure out how to not fall over whilst walking. I'm sure many of your lives have changed dramatically from that day as well.
And for the Buffalo Bills? Well, that was the last time a significant event happened.
That date -- forever etched in stone -- just so happens to be the last time the Bills have won a primetime game. A 13-10 barnburner that saw the winless Buffalo squad march down to Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville and come back with the victory that had evaded them through their first four games.
With another primetime game on the schedule, the Bills have an opportunity to put an end to that streak.
How might they fare against the 4-5 Miami Dolphins at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Thursday night? Let's take a look at five things to watch for, shall we?
- A popular sentiment amongst the table-bangers and loud voice enthusiasts that just so happen to double as Bills fans mostly are saying the same thing: C.J. Spiller needs to get the ball more. Averaging 7.3 yards per carry and quietly working his way towards 1,000 yards in a season where he's only a half-the-time running back, Spiller has shed the dreaded 'b' word some folks prematurely used for him, and become one of the most electric players in all the NFL. The only problem? Fred Jackson, a very talented back in his own right, stands in the way of Spiller breaking out. This will not be an issue for Spiller Thursday because of a concussion suffered by Jackson against New England. With Miami's defense struggling the way it has in each of the last two weeks, and with their vaunted streak of not allowing a 100-yard rusher for 22 straight games snapped against Tennessee, I think Spiller has the chance to break out with the whole league watching. If he does, I don't know how he gets kept away from the larger share of touches once Jackson comes back.
2) Tannehill Turnovers?
Spending a good chunk of my Wednesday watching some games from the Miami Dolphins this year, I came away with a few impressions of their rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill: 1) They don't like him to open it up all that often. 2) He has an acute sense of getting the ball out under duress. 3) Disguised coverages can bait him in to a bad throw. Put all three of these together, and what kind of defense might you concoct? For one, trying to do the same thing defenses did to the Bills last season. Creep up on the line of scrimmage, be physical with the wide receivers and take away all the short stuff, which is the bread and butter of their West Coast offense. It's not perfect and at times you will get burned, but Tannehill rarely takes cracks down the field unless his man is very, very open. Another thing the Bills might do, now that they have some blitz packages on tape from the past two weeks, is try and disguise their linebackers and safeties by bringing them up to the line and then drop them back upon the snap. Perhaps with a perception that pressure could be on the way, Tannehill's internal clock will start ticking a bit quicker to get the ball out which could lead to a mistake. If you don't take precautions, though, the Dolphins will nickel and dime you all the way down the field. If the Bills force the issue, there could be some turnovers to be had Thursday night.
3) Wake up, Cordy
- Cameron Wake, since switching down to a 4-3 defensive end, has been on an absolute tear in 2012. He's on pace for his highest sack total since entering the league and has just been a menace to deal with for head coaches, coordinators and offensive line coaches alike. Since returning from his ankle injury, rookie left tackle Cordy Glenn has struggled with a wide rush from time to time. There are still points where he engulfs his assignment and doesn't surrender an inch. But from the way that he had been playing before the injury, players have been able to take advantage of his ailment, his rust, or a combination of the two. Whatever the case may be, Glenn must be on top of his game or else Fitzpatrick could be going to the tuck-and-run a few more times than expected.
4) Marking Martin
- 77.8-percent. I'm willing to bet you don't know where I pulled that from. Alas, the beauty of a preview article. That percentage just so happens to be how many of Mario Williams' 4.5 sacks came against rookies this season. Mitchell Schwartz and Bobby Massie each weren't a match for the six-year savvy that Williams presented. Thursday night, Williams will once again be going against a rookie when lined up over the right tackle. Second-round pick Jonathan Martin has struggled out of the gate. With Williams playing with more of an edge over the past two weeks than he had been through the first seven, it would lead you to believe he'll have some opportunities to get after Tannehill.
5) Marcell & Kyle a latter day Luke & Butch?
- If you don't get the reference, I'm sorry. Early 90's wrestling is near and dear to my heart. If you do get the reference, you'll know this all ties in to Reggie Bush… somehow. The Miami running back struggled mightily in the team's 37-3 loss to Tennessee, registering only 21 yards on four carries, one reception for eight yards, and losing a fumble to boot. Considering the way he marched all over the Bills for 203 yards at Ralph Wilson Stadium last season, the members of that defensive line are hoping he's inside his own head leading up to the contest. If he does show any hesitation due to the fumble last week, defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus are coming off very strong performances against New England, and could certainly help solve Buffalo's woes against the run -- even if only on a temporary basis. Bush has a mere 138 yards over his past four games. His struggles could be just what the Bills need. Or then again, the Bills run defense could be just what the doctor ordered for Bush to get back on track.
OUT: CB Aaron Williams, DE Mark Anderson, HB Fred Jackson, DE Chris Kelsay
PROBABLE: OT Chris Hairston, WR Marcus Easley, DT Marcell Dareus, DT Spencer Johnson, DE Mario Williams, CB Leodis McKelvin, HB C.J. Spiller, DT Kyle Williams, C Eric Wood, G Andy Levitre, S Da'Norris Searcy, WR Brad Smith, CB Justin Rogers
QUESTIONABLE: TE Jeron Mastrud, WR Jabar Gaffney
PROBABLE: C Mike Pouncey, LB Koa Misi, DE Olivier Vernon, DT Tony McDaniel, WR Marlon Moore, LB Karlos Dansby, WR Brian Hartline, DT Paul Soliai
Prediction: Bills over Dolphins
- Yes, the Bills have lost five of their last six. No, the Bills have not won a primetime game since before the first Harry Potter movie was released to theaters. And no, the Bills did not beat Miami at all last season. However, the way these two teams match up leads me to believe the Bills could come away victorious in this contest. Miami is limping in, while the Bills were within one play from beating a Super Bowl contender. With C.J. Spiller featured prominently and a few of the offensive players on Miami's side struggling as of late, I think it could be a recipe for success for the Bills to snap their three-game losing streak.