Just because the Buffalo Bills are only looking at their next opponent, that doesn't mean we can't jump the gun and see what's coming. Each week, we'll be looking at the next few opponents on the schedule to see what might be in store when they face off against the Bills. We call it our Pro Personnel Department series.
Week 4: Bills vs. Giants
Week 3: Giants (0-2) vs. Redskins (1-1), Thursday, 9/24, 8:25 p.m. ET
Week 2 review: For the second straight week, the Giants took a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter and gave up the game-winning score inside of the two-minute warning, this time to Atlanta. New York's offense was inconsistent, really having trouble when Odell Beckham, Jr. wasn't involved (which was most of the second half). Aside from a stretch at the end of the third quarter, the rushing offense was non-existent, as it seemed anybody they handed to was bottled up quickly. The defense performed fairly well, but were repeatedly gashed by Julio Jones and Jacob Tamme. Even with the result, it bears repeating that this is a team that should not be overlooked; the 0-2 record could very easily be 2-0.
What to watch for: Will they manage to keep Beckham involved in the offense? His final catch against the Falcons came with 12:56 to play in the third quarter, and he wasn't even targeted again until the final drive. New York managed only three first downs after that drive (one of which came off a fluky fumble recovery), and generally looked out-of-sync aside from a few good runs. The Washington defense has done a good job of limiting opposing wide receivers (in both of their games, the leading receiver for the opposition was a tight end), but they haven't seen anybody with Beckham's ability so far. If the Giants can get him going, and keep him involved, they should come away with their first win of 2015.
Player to watch: DE Robert Ayers. When the severity of Jason Pierre-Paul's injury came to light, Ayers more or less became the new starting defensive end for the 2015 season. Ayers had a strong performance against Atlanta, coming away with a sack and getting the better of Falcons tackle Jake Matthews several times. He's not yet at the point where it's necessary to game-plan around him, but if he plays as well as he did again, the Bills might need to think about rolling some protection his way.
Week 5: Bills at Titans
Week 3: Titans (1-1) vs. Colts (0-2), Sunday, 9/27, 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 2 Review: After a dominant opening win against Tampa Bay, the Titans came back to earth against Cleveland. The defensive line that was so strong against the Bucs was routinely controlled by a much better offensive line from the Browns. Tennessee's secondary, in particular, struggled to keep Cleveland's receivers in check. Marcus Mariota, after one of the greatest debuts in NFL history, really struggled early on to find his receivers, and even when he did they had a lot of difficulty holding on to his passes. He also turned the ball over for the first time, losing two fumbles and throwing an awful interception that was called back due to a penalty. It was really a complete 180 from Week 1 on all fronts.
What to watch for: How do the Titans deal with an opponent the Bills have already played? This is the first time we get to see how a future Bills opponent deals with a past Bills opponent, which should answer the question of whether or not the Bills are that good or the Colts are that bad. Andrew Luck, in particular, has had a pretty down year through two games. If he suddenly finds his footing against a Titans team that let Johnny Manziel have his best game as a pro up to this point (8-of-15, 172 yards, two scores), then Tennessee might be in for a long year.
Player to watch: RB Dexter McCluster. Primarily a return man, McCluster made a strong claim to the Titans' primary running back spot by rushing for 98 yards on only 10 carries, including a 44-yard run in the shadow of his own goal posts. He looked very sharp running the ball, a stark contrast to Bishop Sankey (42 yards on 12 carries). McCluster also added four catches for 26 yards, giving him a game-high 124 yards from scrimmage. Tennessee would be smart to have him become more involved in the offensive game plan moving forward, starting against a Colts defense that let LeSean McCoy go for 46 yards on three catches in Week 1.
Week 6: Bills vs. Bengals
Week 3: Bengals (2-0) at Ravens (0-2), Sunday, 9/27, 1:00 p.m. ET
Week 2 review: After two games, Cincinnati looks like a real contender in the AFC. They dismantled Oakland in Week 1, winning 33-13, and saw Oakland take a victory against their upcoming opponent in Week 2. They followed that up with a win over San Diego, holding the Philip Rivers-led offense to only 19 points. Andy Dalton is having his usual strong start to the season, throwing five touchdowns through two games without turning the ball over at all. Speaking of turnovers, the Geno Atkins-led defense has forced five, generally making life difficult for whoever lines up against them.
What to watch for: A common theme early in the season is gaining a grasp on which running backs are going to be the primary options in their teams' backfield, and the Bengals are no exception. Jeremy Hill was considered the primary option coming into the season, but two strong games from Giovani Bernard, coupled with two lost fumbles from Hill against the Chargers, could have opened the door for the former second-round pick to reclaim his spot atop the depth chart. Bernard tallied 123 yards against the Chargers compared to Hill's 39, and Bernard doubled Hill up on carries (20 to 10), so it's possible that Marvin Lewis has more or less already made the switch.
Player to Watch: TE Tyler Eifert. After two games, one could reasonably expect that A.J. Green would be Cincinnati's top receiver by a mile-and-a-half, but instead it's the young tight end Eifert, with 13 catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns. That's tops in all of the receiving categories for the Bengals. A good portion of that came in a dominant Week 1 performance against Oakland (9-104-2), but he followed it up strongly this past weekend. While he's not on the level of Rob Gronkowski, or even Jimmy Graham, another strong game could establish him as a bona fide second-tier option in the NFL's ever-increasing tight end crop.