The Buffalo Bills are 1-1. They've rebounded nicely from a crushing defeat in their season opener in defeating Tampa Bay 33-20 last Sunday. The "start" - for lack of a better term - of the season is over, and the Bills are at .500. Their next test is a big one, with the high-scoring, undefeated New Orleans Saints coming to an Orchard Park NFL stadium near you.
This here is our weekly obligatory interview with the blogger of our weekly opponent - and to say Saintsational and his brethren at Canal Street Chronicles are flying high after the Saints' hot start is an understatement. New Orleans is without question the one team that has flashed the most dominance in their first two games - and considering the history of the Saints franchise as a whole, a little optimistic enthusiasm is to be expected.
I sat down with "Saintsational" this week and exchanged five questions and five answers, as will happen every week this year. His answers to my questions are after the jump. Make sure to drop by CSC today for the reciprocating interview, and to drop a little Bills knowledge if you feel so inclined.
Is there any chance Drew Brees misses the flight to Buffalo? And on a more serious note, if the early weather forecast is right (are they ever?) - rain and wind - how does that affect the Saints' game plan offensively and Brees' game?
If Drew missed the Saints' charter flight to Buffalo this week, he could easily hop into a phone booth for a quick change, use his super-hero-like abilities and fly himself through the air to New York in a single bound, black and gold fleur-de-lis appliqued cape and all.
Seriously though, rain would suck. The Saints are a dome team, and they even do a lot of practicing inside. They've never been great in the elements. Naturally, you would think the Saints would try to keep the ball on the ground more than usual, but head coach Sean Payton has shown a stubbornness to try and get it done through the air, regardless. The Saints are lucky to be playing in Buffalo early rather than later this season, but bad weather could certainly be an equalizer.
Reggie Bush was the No. 2 overall pick, but the Saints' ground game has been more about Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell of late. What exactly is Bush's role in this offense?
You will continue to see Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas get a bulk of the standard running back carries. The key is not to put Reggie in that same category. His role does include a little bit of the standard running back stuff, but it also includes so much more than that. His mere presence on the roster forces opposing teams to game plan and spend a lot of time figuring out how to deal with him, leaving a lot of opportunity for the rest of the play makers on this offense.
It seems the coaching staff has resigned themselves to giving Bush a certain number of touches every game, but each of those touches comes in a variety of different forms. Every now and then he might take an inside hand off, but most of the time he's utilized on swings, screens and pitches. He'll even line up out wide. All of this on top of returning punts. Getting him into space so that he can use his athletic ability and speed to beat guys one on one is when he's most dangerous, and what the Saints try to focus on. If he's not getting the ball, he's being used as an ever-important but under-appreciated decoy. Without him, this offense might not be able to execute the way it does, even if Reggie never touches the ball.
The Saints are currently No. 21 in the NFL in total defense in Gregg Williams' first season as defensive coordinator. What have been the most notable changes defensively in New Orleans under Williams?
Turnovers. For sure. The Saints have always been losers in the turnover battle in years past, but that has completely changed. That can most likely be attributed to a complete change in philosophy and attitude. Williams has taught the defensive guys to "populate" and swarm around the player with the ball, always trying to knock it loose. And when a ball does hit the turf, they're taught to scoop and score. It's been very noticeable and very welcome.
One thing that was advertised with Williams that I still don't think we've really seen is pressure. When Gregg arrived this summer, his most famous quote was, "Knock 'em the $%#& out," but there's still a little left to be desired in that department.
If there is one weak area for the Saints, what is it, and how can Buffalo exploit it?
Long distance field goal kicking is probably the weakest area. Seriously. If the Bills can force John Carney to keep banging home 45-yarders, the Saints are screwed. But something tells me that wasn't the answer you were looking for.
The Saints' offense is number one in the league, so their weakest area has got to be on the other side of the ball. On defense, that would probably go to the outside linebacker position. It's not awful, but it ain't great, either. If the Bills could dink and dunk a lot of short stuff in the soft spots of the linebacking zone, then that might free up a deep strike when necessary. I'm just thinking out loud here.
The Saints have played a re-building Lions team and an Eagles team that is pretty good, even without Donovan McNabb. Where does this Bills game rank in terms of tough contests this early in the season?
It's unfortunate, but I think the Saints' first two wins this season have been somewhat discredited due to the perceived quality of their opponents. I certainly see the reasoning behind it, but great teams are expected to easily take care of weaker opponents, and that's just what the Saints have done so far. In fact, the Saints have done nothing yet to lead us to believe they aren't really that good.
Having said that, I definitely don't think the Bills should be overlooked, especially with the game being in Buffalo. However, I'd be lying if I said last week's defeat of the Eagles on their own turf doesn't have me believing the Saints can do the same in Buffalo.
OK, then. I can't wait for Sunday. :)