The New England Patriots have dominated the AFC East over the last decade, but do their division-foes stack up better this season?
Normally the cellar-dwellers in the division, the Buffalo Bills have made some strikes in becoming at least a .500 team in 2014. E.J. Manuel flashed some promise in his starts last year, and the offensive line is quietly one of the best groups in the league at pushing forward in the running game. Doug Marrone showed that he is capable of calling a game in the NFL, but the passing game still did leave a lot to be desired.
On the defensive side of the ball, few teams can get to the quarterback like Buffalo can. Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, and Kyle Williams are the big names in that group, and their presence helps a secondary unit that hopes to forget an awful 2013 campaign. Stephon Gilmore is the key name for the Bills defense, as he struggled mightily during the first half of last season, injuring his wrist and missing five games. He has the tools to be a top defensive back in the NFL and he showed it down the stretch last year. If he can take away one side of the field, it will make those pass-rushers that much more devastating to the likes of Tom Brady, Geno Smith, and Ryan Tannehill.
So should the Patriots fear the Buffalo Bills?
I say, Yes! Not a Daniel Bryan level Yes! chant, but they are a team that can exploit the weaknesses of the Patriots in head-to-head games. Last year’s opening game was no fluke, as if the Bills put pressure on Tom Brady, and stop the run like their defense is more than capable of doing, the Pats will find themselves in a slugfest against a very physical team.
Buffalo, however, needs to show that the addition of Sammy Watkins can transform a passing-attack that doesn’t strike any fear into their opponents. What Watkins can do is what guys like Dez Bryant an others can do, run any route on the field and take it to the house. Being a rookie, it will not be likely he can make that impact right away, but there will be moments where has makes us say “wow” with his athletic ability and football acumen. Buffalo will finish .500 this year and they may be a year away from really putting up a fight with the Patriots.
So why do I say fear the Bills? Because in the two games they face each other, Tom Brady may get hit more than he does against anyone else and none of us need to be reminded why that is so scary.