Buffalo Bills (0-0) vs. Denver Broncos (0-0)
September 9, 2007 @ Ralph Wilson Stadium
1:00 PM ET, CBS
The Buffalo Bills open up their 2007 regular season schedule tomorrow afternoon when the Denver Broncos visit Orchard Park for the first time since 2005. After an off-season of rebuilding the offensive line and overhauling the defense, Buffalo's new personnel - including rookies Marshawn Lynch and Paul Posluszny - will get their first chance to play in front of a sold out crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
All week, we here at Buffalo Rumblings have been focusing on our talented opponent and how they are expected to attack the Bills in tomorrow's matchup. With those previews out of the way (and linked above), let's turn our attention to the Bills and what we can expect to see out of them as they try to sneak out a win over - let's be honest - a Broncos team that is a bit more talented and experienced at this point in time:
Offense - Stay Below Champ Denver's secondary is good. It could be scary good. It all starts with Champ Bailey, the best defensive back in the NFL. Add Dre' Bly, John Lynch and Domonique Foxworth and you begin to see the depth of this unit. Buffalo's best offensive threat - the deep ball - will likely be neutralized by the presence of Bailey and company, especially early in the game.
As a result, expect Buffalo to attack the soft underbelly of Denver's defense. With an extremely young defensive line (that is especially thin up the middle behind Sam Adams) and an overhauled linebacking corps, Denver's front seven is the weak point of the defense. That doesn't mean they're not talented - the vast majority of them are extremely athletic. Look for Buffalo to attack this group with misdirection runs, screen passes and underneath throws. This is ideal both in keeping balls away from Bailey and moving the chains in a methodical fashion. With Denver thin at corner behind their top three guys, underneath throws could really tear this defense apart tomorrow.
Players to Watch: RB Marshawn Lynch, WR Josh Reed, WR Roscoe Parrish
Defense - Remember Indy Think back to last year's Bills loss at Indianapolis, if you will. The then 3-5 Bills went into 8-0 Indianapolis and lost by one point, 17-16. They did a great job keeping Peyton Manning off the board that day. How? By eliminating the big play. Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne had mostly quiet days (Wayne did score), and Manning was forced to check down to Joseph Addai and Ben Utecht throughout the day. Some timely turnovers helped keep the Bills in that game until the bitter end.
Denver's offense is built similarly. The difference is that while Indy passes to set up the run, Denver will run to set up the pass. But I see it unfolding differently this week - with Buffalo hurting at defensive end, Denver may try to score early through the air and then establish Henry to control the game - with the lead - for the next three or so quarters. Thus, Buffalo will once again have to limit the big plays to stay in this thing early.
If the Bills are going to get pressure on Cutler, it will have to come via the blitz. But it may not be a good idea to blitz early on in the game, as Denver will be looking for the perfect opportunity to hit a big play in the first quarter. Expect Buffalo to sit back, keep plays in front of them and try to force a turnover or a stop before Denver gets on the scoreboard. Field goals are much better options than getting burned for long touchdowns.
Players to Watch: DE Aaron Schobel, LB Angelo Crowell, SS Donte Whitner
Game Outlook It is of the utmost importance for the Bills to do two things - keep Denver off the board for a drive or two, and score points in the first quarter. If the Bills can get an early lead, it will put Denver immediately in catch-up mode, adding that much pressure to Jay Cutler's shoulders. An early lead will also lead to a bit more Denver passing - and thus, more blitzing from the Bills. Pressure on Cutler is key - it will force the young quarterback (making his sixth NFL start) into mistakes. Mistakes could win this game for the Bills, even if they're giving up huge chunks of yards in the process.
Controlling the clock is also important. That doesn't necessarily mean running the football in a dominant fashion, it means sustaining drives. Big plays will probably be few and far between for Buffalo's offense on Sunday, but if they can pick up 3-4 first downs at a minimum on each drive, it will keep their defense fresh. Buffalo will need to score 20+ points to win this game, however, so plays will need to be made.
Fearless Prediction Time: Buffalo forces two Denver turnovers, at least one big play is made by Buffalo's superior special teams and the offense does enough to win. Final Score: Buffalo 23, Denver 20.
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