Sunday, September 13, 2015

Bills vs. Colts 2016 Opening Day

Yes, we are ready to get started with another Buffalo Bills season. I have been a Bills fan now for more than 40 years and the season has ended in disappointment probably 37 of those years. Lately, for at least the last 10 years, I've gone things with a fairly pessimistic attitude, so I was actually kind of happy with last year's 9-7 record, although we certainly had a chance to do better.

This year, for the first time in awhile, I'm going in with no idea what to expect. We have a new coach, Rex Ryan, who has certainly enjoyed some success in the past, but some failure as well. We have a quarterback who has been in the league for four years as a back-up, but has only thrown 35 regular season passes. He's also relatively short for an NFL signal caller and even though he completed almost 60% of his passes his senior year in college, has the reputation of really not being very accurate. We are definitely going to learn a lot about Tyrod Taylor in the upcoming weeks.

Ideally, his impact should be somewhat minimized by the presence of our great defense and a running game that the Bills have invested heavily in, not necessarily through the trade of Kiko Alonso for LeSean McCoy, but by ludicrously signing McCoy (who many feel may already be past his prime) to a hefty five-year contract extension. Whatever. It should have little affect on the team this year unless of course the insane cutting of Fred Jackson has something to do with Shady's contract.

Offensive questions aside, the Bills return almost all their starters from a defense that last year was fairly highly regarded by almost all measures. Fourth in points allowed, only 16 TD passes given up, second in net yards allowed passing - all good stuff. And none of the key players are really old, although Kyle Williams is on the wrong side of 30. We did, of course, change defensive coaches, as D is Rex Ryan's specialty and there wasn't any more room in town for Jim Schwartz, who by all accounts did an excellent job. But this should not prove to be a downgrade. We also lost Brandon Spikes, who was a key run stopper, so we'll see how that affects us. Biggest worry, however, is that Leodis McKelvin, who we were counting on to start at cornerback is out for at least the first six weeks of the season after taking a longer than expected to recover from an ankle injury suffered late last year. Ryan's defensive schemes reportedly put a lot of pressure on cornerbacks (Darrell Revis earned his initial NFL bones under Ryan's tutelage) and now we're stuck with rookie second-round pick Ronald Darby starting. Darby has been very up-and-down during the preseason.

All this leads to a very mysterious match-up (at least from my vantage point) today vs. the Colts. On the plus side, the game is at home, but aside from that I really don't know what to expect. Will our vaunted pass defense hold up against last year's number one passing attack? Will we be able to move the ball vs. a defense that was fairly mediocre last year before shutting down the Broncos in the playoffs. (Funny side note: I was reading an article on Peyton Manning the other day that blamed a "physical game" against the Bills in Week 14 for starting his downfall last year with culminated with that Colts' win. So, maybe the Colts owe us one in a karmatic sense.)

The pick: All that aside, going by the paper (which is really all I got except for one visit to the Bills training camp and seeing maybe a couple/three quarters worth of pre-season Bills play) I've got to go Colts 24, Bills 19. From a fan's standpoint, hopefully I'm wrong.

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