With the Patriots opener at Buffalo fast-approaching, I took some time to lob questions back and forth with Bloguin's resident Bills blogger, Joe Pinzone. Joe runs a great Bills and Sabres site, Buffalo Wins. Below is his take on Sunday's game from the opposite side of the field.
#1 - What is the pulse of the Buffalo fanbase at the start of the Doug Marrone era?
Bills fans have always eaten up any sort of carrot that is dangled in front of them in terms of hope. That's why our slogan is Billllieve. Get it? That's what happens when you have been losing for 13 years straight and are desperate for change. I've lived through the hype of Bledsoe, T.O. and Mario to know that you have to be cautious with this stuff. However, people are excited about Marrone because it feels like a different hire than years past. The Bills last two coaches were retreads (Dick Jauron and Chan Gailey) who were lucky to get head coaching jobs at any level. No, that's not hyperbole. Them are the facts. Marrone is a guy who a few NFL teams wanted last year as he helped turn around Syracuse after being a national laughing stock for almost a decade. So, while there is always trepidation with fans believing in the Bills, this does have potential or a sexy unknown to it.
#2 - Is E.J. Manuel the real deal or likely to be yet another disappointing QB for the Bills?
That is the 2-million dollar question and I have zero idea. EJ had a decent preseason, but he only played in two games and most of his nice play occurred against 2nd teammers, so, it could be considered a wash with what he achieved during the fake preseason. Now, EJ does feel different than QBs from the past. Mainly because it took the Bills almost 30 years to use their first pick in the draft on a QB. They tried doing the QB thing ass backwards by drafting guys in the 3rd round or giving Fitzpatrick a crazy extension or getting damaged goods in Bledsoe. I think it is going to take some time for EJ. I wouldn't hold my breath in thinking he'll be like some of the rookie QBs from last year. From 2003-2010, no rookie QB had over 20tds. Just try and get 15-17TDs and be better by the end of the year is my goal.
#3 - What do the Bills need to do on Sunday to pull off the upset?
An act of God...Oh, you want some observations, right? Well, since the Bills beat the Pats in 2003, when the game is in Buffalo the average score is 33-13. You can guess who the winners are on that end? I think the Bills have to get a bunch of turnovers and play exceptionally well on special teams. We got great returners in McKelvin and rookie Marquise Goodwin. On offense, I think we can move the ball, but the Pats always seem to cause a ton of turnovers. In the last six games against NE the Bills have turned the ball over 24 times...YES, 24 TIMES?!?!?
Defensively...eh. The Bills CB situation is in direr straights right now. Leodis McKelvin is our #1 CB and while he's awesome on special teams, the guy was regulated to the 4th CB a year ago at this time. To put it mildly...He will be Tom's bitch on Sunday. The Bills defense is suppose to be an attacking style under Mike Pettine (Jets former DC), but with them being terrible at CB, how on earth can you blitz Brady and leave their DBs on 1-on-1 islands with your WRs? I don't care if it is Troy Brown in his 50s out there, Brady will eat the Bills' defense alive if that happens.
#4 - Does New England have anyone who can stop Stevie Johnson?
It will be interesting to see what sort of chemistry Stevie has with EJ. Problem is that the two of them didn't play together at all in the preseason due to injuries. So, they only had like maybe a one or two weeks worth of practices together. Stevie has been sharp against you guys, catching 29 passes for 329 yards and 3TDs in the his last 6 games. Those numbers are the 2nd most he's had against any NFL team. I think the key to stopping Stevie is Jamming him at the line of scrimmage and disrupting his routes. Most of his pass patterns happen to be 5-7 yard slants. He won't kill you with speed, but he will kill you on those Wes Welker like patterns.
#5 - What is your prediction for the Bills this season?
4 wins. Yes, this is a pretty crappy number, but realistically this isn't a good football team. I just think they have too many new parts to their game with a rookie QB, coach and offensive coordinator. Factor in their secondary being a tire fire and how the team has so many unproven parts, and you have a recipe for a disaster. The Bills are one of the youngest teams in the NFL and when Stevie Johnson is your 4th longest tenured player, it should tell you something about how much transition is going on here. I've said this before, if EJ Manuel shows flashes of being legit, that's what you have to take in order for a 4-12 season to be a success. Pretty much what Carolina did during Cam Newton's rookie year would suffice.