With Monday night's heart breaker behind us, it's time to cheer for the Buffalo Bills as they make their Ralph Wilson Stadium regular season debut against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bills will be trying to bounce back from their 25-24 loss to the Patriots, while the Bucs are looking to rebound from the 34-21 smackdown Dallas laid on them. Both teams are searching for win number one. After the jump are the keys to the Bills' ending that search.
Get after Leftwich: Byron Leftwich is from the Drew Bledsoe school of quarterbacks: big, strong, huge arm, totally immobile. With a slow windup as part of his throwing motion, getting to Leftwich will completely alter his throws, which will hopefully lead to some turnovers. His inaccuracy will be apparent if his timing is thrown off by a good rush. The defense cannot let him sit back there and try to pick us apart. Tampa does have a solid offensive line, so getting to Leftwich might be easier said than done. I'd like to see more blitzing this week, especially more creative blitzes designed to actually, you know, get to the quarterback. Unlike last week, the Bucs don't have the same caliber receiving options for the Bills' defense to worry about. It's a good opportunity to go extra hard after the quarterback.
Force Leftwich to beat us: I don't know about many of you, but I'd feel much more comfortable with Leftwich and a mediocre group of receivers trying to beat us than I would if they were handing it to their solid trio of backs. With Cadillac Williams looking healthy, Derrick Ward providing a quality all-around threat and Earnest Graham as a tough short-yardage option, shutting the Tampa run game down will be priority number one. With starting center Jeff Faine out with a triceps injury, Kyle Williams' and Marcus Stroud's job will be a little easier.
Start strong: There's nothing worse than coming out flat in your home opener. Many Bills fans want this game to be a blowout. If that is to occur, a fast start would be welcome. Like the Bills, Tampa is built to play with a lead. If the Bills can get up early, that increasees the need for Leftwich to make plays, which should play right into what the Bills want to do. A strong start also keeps the fans into it and fired up.
Get Evans and Owens the ball: One of the league's best receiving duos combined for just 5 receptions and 71 yards against the Patriots. For the money these guys are earning, that just doesn't cut it. The Patriots effectively doubled both of them throughout the game, but offensive coordinator needs to find ways to get them the ball. Owens is one of the best receivers in the league going over the middle, catching the underneath passes and turning them into big plays; Alex Van Pelt needs to make sure this offense incorporates more of those passes this week (and the rest of the season). If the offense is able to get T.O. going, there could be more opportunities for Evans deep. With Tampa's inexperienced defensive backfield, outside of Ronde Barber, there will be opportunities for Trent Edwards to challenge the likes of Sabby Piscitelli and Elbert Mack. Tanard Jackson missing the game due to suspension is also a big plus for the Bills' offense. It's time to get Owens and Evans more involved; you don't pay these guys big contracts to be decoys.
Continue using plays that work: It sounds so simple, but the Bills really need to continue working screen passes and outside runs into their game plan. I expect they will. With an offensive line proving to be athletic enough to move around and lead block for Fred Jackson on the outside, these plays are already looking like strong points in our offense. Why fix something that's not broke?
Show a sense of urgency: One thing this team never seems to show us is a sense of urgency. Well, even though it's only Week 2, they need to pick up a win here. A loss means a two-game deficit in the AFC East already and a blown chance at picking up a victory in a game they should win. Dick Jauron has to have them ready to play and ready to take it to a team that quite frankly isn't as talented.
Make Special Teams special again: We all know that the Bills' special teams really struggled last week. Brian Moorman had a 37.5 net punting average, which was impacted by a couple of shanks. The Patriots averaged nearly 30 yards per kick return, while the Bills averaged less than 25. Leodis McKelvin fumbled, apparently. It just wasn't a good performance for Bobby April's units. But Tampa Bay didn't exactly have a good performance against Dallas, either. They had mediocre return and coverage units, and also allowed a blocked FG. Mike Nugent missed his only other FG attempt, finishing 0/2 on the day. The two teams ranked No. 27 and No. 28 in Special Teams DVOA last week. For the Bills, that's a major disappointment. Improvements across the board would really give them an edge this week, something this team should be counting on. I fully expect McKelvin to make amends for his mistake last week quite soon.
This week's keys to victory seem pretty simple... slow the Tampa run game, force Leftwich to win the game, get the receivers involved and play confident, strong football. That's always easier said than done, however. Feel free to add your keys to victory in the comments section. Go Bills!