Whitner, Bills must avoid slow start (Photo Source)
Buffalo Bills head coach Dick Jauron is about to start his third season on the job; it's pretty safe to assume that he'd like the start of his third season to come off a bit differently than his first two seasons did.
The Bills have suffered slow starts to the season in each of Jauron's first two seasons with the Bills (2006 and 2007), and those slow starts have been punctuated by excruciating losses on opening weekend. The Bills are 0-2 in Week 1 under Jauron, and those two losses were by a combined three points.
Marching into New England in Week 1 of 2006, the Bills - led by J.P. Losman - nearly pulled off an upset win on the road but ultimately dropped a two-point decision, 19-17, in Foxboro. Led again by Losman in 2007, the Bills dropped a 15-14 game to Denver on a last-second field goal by (now former) Broncos kicker Jason Elam.
Two losses, three points. It's hard to expect your team to go far when the initial feeling of your season is some form of "bitter disappointment".
Losman - who started both games - may be the culprit. Quarterback play has been mediocre at best on Buffalo's two opening days under Jauron. Take away a touchdown fumble return by London Fletcher in '06 and a punt return for a score by Roscoe Parrish in '07, and Buffalo's offense has scored only 17 points in those two losses. It was a safety by Losman that led to New England's win in '06, and Losman's 14/21, 97-yard, 1 INT performance last season left the door open for Elam's heroics as time expired. Losman's QB rating over those two games? A dismal 72.3.
Now, Losman is (hopefully... and just for luck, knock on wood) out of the picture for this game, as Trent Edwards will make his opening day debut for the Bills as they take on the Seattle Seahawks this coming Sunday. It's safe to say that Buffalo's defense can at least come close to replicating their opening day success against a Seahawks team that is banged up, especially at the wide receiver position. This team will only go as far as Edwards' consistency takes them, and he'll need to be rather un-Losman-like for the Bills to break their disturbing opening day trend.
Slow starts are never a good thing in the NFL, and perhaps for the first time in Jauron's tenure, the Bills have an opening week game that they should win. But for a team with playoff aspirations, "should" isn't enough. I think "must" covers it. Edwards must outperform Losman's track record by a considerable margin. Jauron must find a way to close out a close game in Week 1. The Bills must win this game. Without a Week 1 "W", this could turn into a long 2008 season for Buffalo.