McKelvin has large shoes to fill Sunday (buffalobills.com)
The 2008 Buffalo Bills are 3-0. Not much has gone wrong to this point for the young up-and-coming team - Trent Edwards is showing glimpses of being the team's quarterback of the future; the team's defense is ranked fifth overall in the league; explosive special teams plays have had a big impact in two of the three wins. As of this moment, all is well in Buffalo.
The 2008 St. Louis Rams are 0-3. The team's quarterback and captain, Marc Bulger, has been benched - and may be refusing to play for his coach, Scott Linehan, in the future. Steven Jackson, the face of the franchise, is publicly questioning team moves. The team's defense ranks dead last in the league, surrendering 456.7 yards per game, and the team is losing games by an average score of 38-10.
So yes - despite declarations that the Bills aren't taking the still-talented Rams lightly, this is a game that the Bills should win, probably with ease. Nothing can be taken for granted in the NFL, however, especially when the team favored is on the road. We'll talk more about keys to victory (with Kurupt once again leading the charge); today, it's all about the matchups. Here are three key matchups that the Bills will need to exploit for victory on Sunday:
Lee Evans vs Ron Bartell and O.J. Atogwe
Despite the fact that Evans is averaging over 20 yards on his 12 receptions this season, the Bills haven't gotten Evans deep as often as they'd like to. If there's a game in which the Bills will be able to routinely make plays down the field, this one is it, as the Rams secondary has given up plenty of big gainers through their first three games. Making big plays down the field is a must-do for the Bills; the team has been content to control tempo with short throws underneath, but in the last two games, that approach has kept the Jaguars and Raiders in the game. The Bills need to get out to a quick and commanding lead early in this one, and the best way to do that is to get Evans involved early and deep. Evans is a step or two better than both Bartell and Atogwe, so the ability to get deep will be there.
Terrence McGee vs Donnie Avery
St. Louis' brash rookie wide receiver, who has guaranteed he'll be unveiling his touchdown dance this Sunday, will be the most dangerous Rams receiver to take the field on Sunday simply because he's faster than the man he'll be lining up with, Torry Holt. The Bills had a pretty easy go of it defending Javon Walker last week; Johnnie Lee Higgins was a different story. McGee, the starting defense's best pure tackler, will draw the assignment of covering Avery on Sunday, and with good reason - he's easily the most technically sound of Buffalo's corners and won't give up the big play. He also has the hitting ability to make the rookie wideout pay for his brash guarantee.
Leodis McKelvin vs Donnie Jones
Remember how Bills punter Brian Moorman got so good? He played on some awful Bills teams early in his career, punted enough to somehow elevate his status to "fan favorite", and honed his craft. St. Louis' Donnie Jones is currently doing the same thing - he leads the league with a whopping 51.9-yard punting average and is fifth in net average (42.2) on a league-high 20 punts. What's more, he won't have to punt to Roscoe Parrish this weekend - likely a load off of his mind. Jones has a big leg, which as Moorman has showcased can actually hurt a punt coverage unit. If Jones gets too much leg on a punt and out-kicks his coverage, the rookie McKelvin - returning punts for the first time in the NFL - has to find a way to make him pay.
Much more on this game tomorrow.