An Update on the Bills...a new AFC Power?
Wayne Root: An Update on the Bills...a new AFC Power?!
Last week at this time we talked about the beginning of the Rex Ryan era for the Buffalo Bills. Even though I liked their chances to spring a small upset over the Indianapolis Colts in their season opener (it was an Inner Circle play for me), I have to say that I was surprised by how DOMINANT the Bills were over the Colts this past Sunday afternoon.
Indianapolis was the market's second choice behind the New England Patriots to win the whole AFC entering the season. They didn't even look like they belonged on the same field as the Bills!
- Tyrod Taylor was smooth as silk at quarterback for Buffalo. He will definitely have some rough stretches ahead. All new starters do. But, he consistently made smart decisions that exploited his speed and athleticism without much injury risk. His apprenticeship has paid off well so far. His passing line of 14-19-0-195 was clean and impactful. He helped the Bills average 6.2 yards-per-play even though they were sitting on a big lead for the whole second half. It's one thing to draw raves during the Preseason when opposing defenses are going at half speed. Taylor jumped off the screen Sunday in a big game that mattered.
- The defense didn't seem to lose a step in the transition to a new head coach. Ryan is a defensive expert to begin with...and last year's Bills were fantastic on this side of the ball. You can basically pencil in "championship caliber defense" right now when talking about this team. Can Taylor match what Russell Wilson did for Seattle in recent seasons? This team very much as a Seattle vibe to them right now. That's true in terms of talent, and the energy of a hungry city that's ready to make a statement across the league. Great defenses are even tougher to deal with in front of rabid home crowds.
- Talking about making a statement...how about opening a season with victories over Indianapolis and New England...the two main favorites to win the AFC?! Buffalo will get that chance Sunday when the Patriots come to town. I can't imagine how loud that stadium is going to be. The Patriots will be helped by having a few extra days of preparation time off their Thursday night win over Pittsburgh. Are they truly ready for what's in store? If Buffalo's for real...that became a huge game very quickly.
I can't talk about that Bills victory without also referring to what was going wrong for Indianapolis. Andrew Luck has a reputation so far of being a quarterback who can abuse bad teams...but who's in trouble in big games that really matter. He fell apart in the AFC Championship game last year against New England. And, it's not like his balls had been deflated! He still tries to force things too often when pressured by quality opponents. He had 23 incomplete passes Sunday in Buffalo, including two interceptions. He only got yards and points on the board after the Colts had fallen way behind (it was 17-0 Buffalo at the half).
Indy has a soft schedule again this year...though maybe Tennessee is going to rise up and be a factor. Tough to assume that with a rookie quarterback. Come playoff time, Luck may still be a guy who's not quite ready to take that next step. Sunday's performance was a big strike against him in terms of championship readiness. Don't hold this against him when he's playing bad teams. Keep it in mind for other marquee matchups.
I won't be talking about Buffalo any more this week. I might be playing that game big come Sunday! I'll have some college notes for you in a few days for that huge Stanford/USC matchups in the Pac 12. And, then we'll look at the Giants home opener vs. Atlanta after previewing the Jets home opener last weekend. My New York roots will keep me on top of the Giants, Jets, and Bills all season. I just want you to be ready for the possibility that Buffalo is going to become a major story in the NFL this season. Be sure you're watching how Tyrod Taylor handles (or doesn't handle) pressure from the Pats this Sunday.
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