What to Hope For in Bills/Vikings

We probably bit off more than we could chew when we set real expectations on NFL preseason Week One. With the Redskins and Robert Griffin III rolling into Orchard Park last week, with the national media looking on, Bills fans at the Ralph were in a feverish pitch right up until the first play from scrimmage where Ryan Fitzpatrick got downed. From there it only got worse en route to a 7-6 loss for the home team. That game resulted in thousands of Buffalo fans spending all week taking deep breaths reminding themselves it’s just a meaningless preseason game. They didn’t even run the ball with the starters for crying out loud! And this wasn’t the only barn“burner doused by a cold shower. The Pats and Saints played a defensive stinker. The Cowboys and Raiders put up three points combined. It happens. We’re good. Let’s move on to Week Two before we talk ourselves into something crazy.

The Vikings game poses a fun new element to Friday’s game because A) Bills fans get to watch the game on TV and B) we get to see our boys on the road. I think we can expect to see a better effort simply based on that. This team looks a little tight at home sometimes and playing on the road against what will likely be a lax preseason crowd should help these guys focus a little quicker, and show a little more on offense. With that in mind, let’s look at a few things we should root for in the limited time we have with our starters, and a few other things for afterwards.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see a good mix of Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller on Friday. (Photo by John Kucko, WROC-TV)
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see a good mix of Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller on Friday. (Photo by John Kucko, WROC-TV)

Hand-offs:

Last week the Bills surprised fans by not running the ball for a single play in the starting unit. I honestly thought it was a great move. The Bills know they can rely on their running game. A run here and there in one preseason game isn’t what puts a pro like Fred Jackson over the top. It’s the passing game that needs more work. But the Bills are best when they feed Fred the rock early and set the tone with a bruising running game. The Vikings have a great pass rush led by Jared Allen, and the best way to counter that is to back them up with the run. I would not be surprised if we see the Dr. Jekyll to last week’s Mr. Hyde and see a good mix of bruising Jackson runs up the middle and draws to the sideline with CJ Spiller. Ultimately what we need to see in either the second or third preseason game is a sign that the Bills can still dominate with their running game. They did it for big portions of last season, but when they didn’t the rest of the offense tanked hard. Let’s get that train warmed up now so it’s ready come regular season.

Debilitating Defense:

Christian Ponder showed some promise last year as a rookie, but ultimately he was only a rookie and the Vikings were a pretty rough squad. Vikes fans are counting on Ponder to make some leaps and bounds, and it’s safe to say the kid has been working double time in the offseason to make the leap as soon as possible. In this league, a first round QB only has so much time to make a mark and one can expect Ponder to come out hungry in the preseason. The Bills first team defense looked pretty good last week against the Redskins, but watching Griffin drive down against a D that looked helpless at times certainly brought back old painful memories of a defense that can’t get a stop when they need it. I want to see our first team defense smother Ponder and never give him a chance. With Adrian Peterson out, the Vikings will have to rely on tough runs from Toby Gerhart and Ponder’s passing game. Let’s hope neither of them gets off the turf unless it’s to jog to the sideline afterwards.

Byrd has become the most valuable Bills defender not planted on the defensive line. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Jairus Byrd has become the most valuable Bills defender not planted on the defensive line. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Ball Hawking:

Jairus Byrd seems to get better with every snap he plays in any situation. He went from a gangly kid with great ball instincts to the best open field tackler on the team and the most valuable Bills defender not planted on the defensive line. Now it’s time to see which corner can play best without the Byrd blanket on his side. Stephon Gilmore had some plays last week that reminded us he’s still a rookie, but the kid’s still a hit. Let’s hope he or Aaron Williams can make a play on the ball a la Ron Brooks last week. Or better yet, let’s see Ron Brooks make another play on the ball so we can start hyping him up to unrealistic standards. I want to be proclaiming this guy has ten picks in him in 2012 after Friday’s game.

Can a kicker get a table dance?

Check it out, check it out, woo! 2 Live Crew? No one? Yikes, am I getting old? How about this punter race? I never saw it coming. I guess I’ve just assumed Brian Moorman would be our punter until he’s fifty, but here this Powell guy is kicking just as far. Unfortunately he chose the wrong team to excel for at the P. Has there been a better, more consistent Bill over the last decade than Moorman? If anyone needs elaboration on how rough the last twelve years have been, just tell them that tidbit. Anyways, apparently we have a number of strong legs on camp. I’m all for it. I think it is worth the extra roster spot to have a kicker, a punter, and a kickoff specialist. Pinning the other team at their twenty after every kickoff is a nice boost, and it’s something the Bills don’t have right now. Since we could never let Lindell or Moorman go, I’m rooting for John Potter to make the squad as the third leg. So I guess you should hope there’s lots of points so we can watch those kickoffs real closely. Can you tell we’re already running out of things to watch for?

Mafia Members:

How about our fellow Bills fans? Is anyone making the trip out to Minnesota? Let’s see some members of the Mafia kicking their heels and shouting in the dome. I will most definitely be watching for that as well. Going to the game? Tweet me @TheBuckMopsHere to boast and offer Bills banter.

Well there’s a few things to watch for now. Obviously if we don’t see them against Minnesota, there is still no need to panic. The third preseason game is the one where everything gets ratcheted up a little more so we can always find what we’re looking for in that game. Until then Bills Mafia, keep the faith and keep Billieving.

Cory Buck
Bills Mafia Blog