Eight months ago to the day, Rex Ryan agreed to become head coach of the Buffalo Bills. That was just the start to an exciting offseason. A trade brought in LeSean McCoy, the NFL’s third leading rusher in 2014. In free agency, the Bills kept Jerry Hughes long term and added significant offensive pieces like Charles Clay, Jerome Felton, Percy Harvin, Richie Incognito and their Week 1 starting QB, Tyrod Taylor. And don’t forget about the NFL draft. Three players selected should see significant playing time on Sunday: Ronald Darby, John Miller and Karlos Williams.
Now, the regular season is upon us and Bills fans will be kicking their excitement level up a few notches. Tomorrow, the Bills will host the Indianapolis Colts at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Indianapolis is a dangerous team. Last year, the Colts made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game and this offseason they loaded even more talent on the offensive side of the ball in free agency (Frank Gore and Andre Johnson) and the draft (Phillip Dorsett).
While the Colts are favored, the Bills match up pretty well on paper with one of the best teams in AFC. Heading into the game, here are five Bills predictions for tomorrow’s season opener.
1. The Bills rush for 180+ yards
LeSean McCoy is ready to roll in Week 1. He may not be 100 percent, but it may not matter against the Colts defense. Indianapolis was 18th in the league last season in terms of run defense, allowing 1,814 yards rushing on 423 attempts (4.3 YPC). Making matters worse for the Colts, their defensive line will feature David Parry and Henry Anderson, two rookie starters.
Behind Buffalo’s revamped offensive line and Felton, McCoy goes for close to 100 yards in his Bills debut. Karlos Williams also chips in his first professional game with 30-40 yards of his own. Last, Tyrod Taylor breaks off a few big runs for the team. The Bills will show balance throughout the game, but they’ll gash the Colts run defense to start the year.
2. Mario Williams will have a multi-sack game
Jack Mewhort had a pretty solid season as a rookie in 2014. Mewhort started every game as a rookie and did very well in terms of pass protection and run blocking. That said, Mewhort spent most of the 2014 season playing left guard. Tomorrow, Mewhort will make his debut at right tackle for the Colts and it won’t be a walk in the park for the former Buckeye. Lined up across from the second year player will be Mario Williams. In terms of a one-on-one matchup, this heavily favors Williams. The veteran is coming off of a season in which he set a career-high in sacks (14.5). One year later, there’s a great chance that Williams breaks that career-high under Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman. Williams has a great chance to best Mewhort throughout the game and there’s no doubt that Buffalo will be sending some exotic blitzes that could also confuse the offensive tackle. In the first regular season game of the year, look for Williams to record more than one sack.
3. Charles Clay leads the Bills in receiving yards
As predicted above at number one, Buffalo’s run offense will have plenty of success against the Colts. Indianapolis will attempt to load the box and challenge Tyrod Taylor in his first career start. That will open things up in the middle of the field and Clay will be able to pick up big chunks of yards at a time. Clay can do it all as a tight end. He’ll play a part in the success of the run game but he’ll create even more headaches tomorrow in the passing game. Colts linebackers won’t be able to keep up with Clay and cornerbacks and tight ends will struggle to bring him to the ground. Greg Roman will utilize Clay in Week 1 and the tight end will finish as Buffalo’s leading receiver.
4. Someone in a new role will record an interception
I’m giving myself a little wiggle room here. Tomorrow, Corey Graham will debut in his new role as a starting safety and Ronald Darby will be making his first career-start at cornerback. One of them will come away with an interception of Luck. Darby may be the favorite as Luck will probably target the rookie cornerback early and often. That said, Graham or Williams will provide him with safety help throughout the game. Luck is a great quarterback but under pressure he still makes poor decisions from time to time. One of those poor decisions will result in an interception for Darby or Graham.
5. Score Prediction: Bills 31 – Colts 27
Yes, the Bills put up a 30 burger in their season debut. Buffalo only settles for one field goal on Sunday and shows the ability to punch the ball into the end zone with consistency. Andrew Luck keeps things close for the Colts, but Buffalo wins at home in Rex Ryan’s debut.