Stroud to make his Buffalo debut on Sunday (Photo Source)
The Buffalo Bills have had a busy - dare we say "distracting"? - week leading into their 2008 season opener, a home affair with the Seattle Seahawks. The news on the Jason Peters front was positive; the Pro Bowl tackle ended his holdout and will report to Orchard Park today. The news on Angelo Crowell wasn't so pleasant, as the team controversially placed the LB on IR, ending his 2008 season before it began.
Starting today, those two stories don't much matter, because the Bills have a game to play in a little over 24 hours. Now, our focus must turn entirely to Seattle. Buffalo will be playing this game without both Peters and Crowell, so the importance of those stories - specifically the Peters story - should wane until early next week.
Excitement for a Bills season opener hasn't been this rampant in years, even with the distraction. With playoff expectations (for better or worse) surrounding the Bills and a must-win situation right out of the gate, fans are realizing - and no one is worried about this - that they'll need to be on their A game if they're attending Sunday's opener.
John Morgan of Field Gulls has written an excellent article on some of the key matchups (from Seattle's viewpoint, obviously) in this game; meanwhile, our very own Kurupt has thrown out some keys to victory in a very good read as well. The NFL.com preview video is up. The game is, quite literally, on our doorstep. Get your adrenaline pumping, Bills fans, and while you're doing that, take a gander at what I'll be watching for during this game:
Trent Edwards: It's all on the quarterback. Edwards' offensive line is re-shuffled, and he's faced with the very tall task of picking apart a stingy Seahawks defense. He'll need to do what he's, apparently, best at doing tomorrow - process information quickly. Seattle is sure to throw a lot at Buffalo's line in the way of wrinkles to confuse the young Bills' offense; the team won't win if Edwards can't keep the team afloat and put some points on the board.
James Hardy/Josh Reed: Buffalo is going to need to play their usual game, albeit a bit differently; ball control will be supremely important tomorrow, as the Seahawks have the type of defense that makes opponents pay if they're fresh. As such, the Bills will need to consistently convert third downs offensively - making the contributions of players such as Josh Reed and James Hardy particularly important to offensive success.
The Pass Rush: Yes, the Bills made some important additions to their defense - specifically, that beast pictured at the top left of this post - but in order to be a truly playoff-caliber unit, Buffalo's pass rush will need to be far more efficient than it was in 2007. I'm not singling out the defensive ends, who've gotten a lot of flack here; I'm talking about the entire defense. Matt Hasselbeck orchestrates an excellent West Coast offense, but the timing of that attack can be thrown off with pressure.
Keith Ellison: Easily the weak link in Buffalo's starting defensive lineup, you can bet that Seattle will be attacking Ellison tomorrow, particularly in the run game. Ellison's responsibilities will be taken care of, but the Bills may have to play a safety down on the strong side to help Ellison stand up physically to what will be a lot of attention. Time will tell exactly how much Ellison's presence hamstrings what the Bills do defensively, but you can bet I'll be keeping an eye out for such developments.
Sense of Urgency: As I stated above (and also previously this week), this is, quite literally, a must-win game for the Bils. The Bills' coaches have been preaching the merits of a fast start to their team since March. I want to see a sense of urgency on the field; a sign that the team realizes how important it is to make sure that their fast start idea manifests itself on the field. We won't see a laid-back effort like we saw against Denver last year, but I'm looking for something much more aggressive tomorrow. Time will tell.
That's all for today, folks. Enjoy your Saturday, and be aware that the Open Game Thread for tomorrow's Bills/Seahawks game will go live at about 12:30 PM, a half-hour before kickoff. GO. BILLS.