Finally, folks, we're here, with the regular season about to get underway and the Bears' first opponent being the Buffalo Bills. In case you missed it, last night, our SBN affiliate that covers the Bills, Buffalo Rumblings, invited me on their Google Hangout called Buffalo Rumblings Live to talk Bears. It was a blast, and you can find it here. And maybe look at my living room.
Anyway, let's get right into it.
Last Year: 6-10, finished last in the AFC East.
This Year: Hey, they're tied for first in the AFC East! ... So's everybody else.
When Last We Met: The last time the Bears and Bills faced off in the regular season was as part of the Bills' marketing in Canada, as the Bears flew north of the border to beat the Bills 22-19. Jay Cutler threw for 188 yards and two touchdowns, one of them in the fourth quarter to take the lead for good. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 299 yards, a TD and an interception.
Rankings (as of 2013):
|Total Points||339 (22nd)||388 (20th)|
|Total Yardage||5410 (19th)||5334 (10th)|
|Rushing Yardage||2307 (2nd)||2063 (28th)|
|Passing Yardage||3103 (28th)||3271 (4th)|
The Bills offense has a fair amount of question marks, led by last year's first round draft pick E.J. Manuel. Manuel threw for 1,972 yards, 11 TDs and 9 interceptions last year, but so far he's been a little inconsistent, and the backup situation was so muddled between cutting Jeff Tuel and Thad Lewis that the Bills paid Kyle Orton $11 million over two years to be backup insurance to Manuel. This year's first-round draft pick Sammy Watkins looks to add another dimension to a passing game that loses Stevie Johnson and T.J. Graham, but retains Scott Chandler and Robert Woods.
The Bills do like to toss the ball to their backs, as Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller combined for 80 receptions last year, in addition to contributing to the league's second-strongest rushing attack.
The strength of the Bills' defense is a rotation that racked up 57 sacks last season, led by prize free agent Mario Williams with thirteen and two other players notching double digits in Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes. In fact, Buffalo sent four defensive players to the Pro Bowl last year between both Williams, Marcell Dareus and Jairus Byrd. Three of those return, as Byrd flew the coop.
However, they suffered a pretty big blow with the loss of Kiko Alonso, as he tore his ACL in early July. In his place, the team will rely on middle linebacker Brandon Spikes to step in, along with contributions from third-round draft pick Preston Brown and free agent Keith Rivers, in what is a complete starting turnover. The backfield returns the same players, including Da'Norris Searcy, who filled in for Byrd when Byrd suffered foot injuries and took his time coming back and playing on the franchise tag. Leodis McKelvin returns with Stephon Gilmore as the starting cornerbacks, and backing them up is former Bears defensive back Corey Graham.
If the Bears do this... It doesn't really matter what Jordan Palmer was able to divulge to the Bills in his brief time as a Bill, because it still comes down to executing against the weapons the Bears have at their disposal. Hit the main targets (Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery) and beat the pass rush with outlet throws to Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett.
If the Bills do this... The problem, though, is that Bills' front attack is vicious enough to throw off the timing of the Bears' offense. If they break through Jay's pass protection, especially the right side with either Jordan Mills or Michael Ola, they could keep the Bears' passing game off kilter.
Closing Thoughts: We're here. Finally. Let's do this.