Sunday is the first game of the rest of the season for the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs. They’re both 0-1 and coming off disappointing opening losses.
Read that last line again. “Disappointing.” That could be the understatement of the season, and it’s only week two. The Chiefs and Bills were shellacked by their respective opponents in week one, and that makes Sunday’s game much more important than it might have been otherwise.
Let’s call it the “Who responds best to being destroyed in week one” Bowl.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, just 12 percent of teams to start a season 0-2 have reached the playoffs since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990. If the Bills fell to 0-2 and subsequently failed to reach the playoffs, it would be unlucky number 13 for the snake-bitten franchise, as in thirteen seasons since they last made the playoffs.
So how will the Bills avoid this statistical hole?
1.) Pressure the QB – Prior to the start of the season, a fan could look at the Bills’ schedule and be thankful for the notable lack of Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks on the slate. When you make Mark Sanchez look like Peyton Manning, though, it doesn’t particularly matter who the QB is on paper. Matt Cassel is the next man up, and if the Bills want to win this game, they must force him into mistakes, which he is prone to making when pressured. If that means Wannstedt needs to dial up a blitz instead of relying on his front four against KC’s formidable offensive line, than that’s what will need to be done, but another game of zero sacks and minimal pressure is not going to cut it.
2.) Lean on C.J. Spiller – Going back to Fred Jackson’s original broken leg last year, Spiller has averaged a whopping 6.91 yards per carry. For those scoring at home, that’s a yards-per-carry average higher than Ryan Fitzpatrick’s yards-per-attempt for the entirety his “career” year in 2011 (6.7). With Nelson and Jackson out, two of the top five options in the offense are suddenly off the field. Chan Gailey can be frustrating with his over-reliance on Fitzpatrick’s arm, but he needs to realize that the best player on his offense is now his best chance at salvaging this season.
3.) Win the turnover battle – Having Fitz not throw the ball 50 times a game will help with this. Although C.J. Spiller is not known for being a security lock (see last week’s fumble and one in preseason), I think all would agree that having him carry the ball is better for security than having Fitzpatrick throwing to a receiver core consisting of an undrafted second-year man from Youngstown State, a rookie third rounder who wasn’t ready for activation as recently as last week, and a converted quarterback. Stevie Johnson’s lingering groin issue should only serve to fuel the conservative-minded plan.
If the Bills fail to heed the above pieces of advice, we may be right back here next week discussing next year’s NFL Draft. Maybe the 2012 Bills can be one of the 12 percent. But they don’t call this franchise “snake-bitten” for nothing, and I don’t want to look up a stat about how many teams made the playoffs after starting 0-3.