Sunday, September 14, 1:00 p.m.
Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, Jacksonville, Fla.
The Jaguars had an embarrassing season-opener against the Tennessee Titans. They certainly didn't look like the Super Bowl contenders they were touted as in the preseason. During their 17-10 loss last week, the Jags gave up three turnovers, gained a mere 33 rushing yards, and David Garrard was sacked seven times-hardly the opening statement Jack Del Rio wanted this season.
To add salt to the wound, the Jags will have only two of their starting offensive lineman because of two week one injuries suffered by guards Vince Manuwai, and Maurice Williams. This is in addition to starting center Brad Meester's absence due to a ruptured bicep from training camp.
However, Jacksonville still has Garrard, who finished second last year in passer ratings with a very healthy 102.2. If his line can hold up, Garrard has a good set of receivers in Reggie Williams, Matt Jones and Jerry Porter.
Also, the Bills better be careful of Fred Taylor who gashed the Bills on a 50-yard run in last year's week 12 meeting. Taylor had 104 yards and a touchdown during the game and Maurice Jones-Drew added 10 yards and another touchdown. When the two of these guys get rolling, they can be difficult to stop- the two combined for an average 154.1 yards per game in 2006 and 2007.
Scouting the Bills:
The complete opposite of the Jaguars, the Bills surprised the football world by turning in an impressive, well-rounded victory over last year's NFC West Champions, the Seattle Seahawks. While the Bills' special teams took total control of the game, their defense showed that it has made considerable strides since last season when they ranked near-last in every defensive category.
The defense piled up five sacks on Matt Hasselback, and forced two turnovers. The run defense held Julius Jones to 45 yards on the ground, a dramatic improvement over last year's revolving door of a defensive line. Marcus Stroud is the real difference maker, providing a solid wall on the line and generating some good pass rushes.
Trent Edwards turned in an efficient game, where the offense struggled at first but picked things up to gain 338 total offensive yards. The new offensive system under Turk Schonert looked more potent and wide-open than last year's conservative attack.
The Bills are officially the authority on special teams in the NFL. Roscoe Parrish, Terrence McGee and newcomer Leodis McKelvin are all very dangerous threats on returns and can score before the ball is even kicked. Two-time Pro Bowler Brian Moorman continues to have a foot of gold and Rian Lindell is the team's all-time most accurate kicker.
Things to consider:
---The most interesting storyline to follow during this week's game will be Marcus Stroud's return to Jacksonville. He'll be looking to take full advantage of Jacksonville's weak offensive line and pull down Garrard as many times as possible. Stroud seems set on redeeming himself and returning to the Pro Bowl.
---Look for Garrard to have a more productive week against a young Bills secondary. If his o-line can hold up, he can get hot at any moment and return to the David Garrard of 2007, instead of the week one in 2008 version.
---Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters may be returning to the field Sunday after returning from his pointless 43-day holdout this summer. If he does in fact return, Edwards may have a much easier time getting the ball to Lee Evans and Marshawn Lynch will enjoy clearer holes to dart his dreads through.
-Jacksonville did not have back-to-back losses all of last season. Jack Del Rio is a good motivator and wants his team to finally be the elite of the AFC.
---Both teams are playing for potential control of their respective divisions as both Indianapolis and New England suffered blows in week one with Indy losing to Chicago and the Pats losing poster-boy Tom Brady.
Prediction: The Bills seem to have the upper hand in this one. A well-balanced attack on offense to control the game and keep Jacksonville's offense off the field could spell success for Buffalo. Nagging injuries to some of Jacksonville's starters could really hurt them but if their defense steps up with some turnovers, they could possibly jump-start their offense into 2007 mode. Buffalo 21, Jacksonville 17.
For more coverage on this week's game against Jacksonville, check out Tyler Dunne's Behind Enemy Lines series with JagNation.com's Charlie Bernstein.