Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, NY
1:00 pm kickoff
Head coach Lane Kiffin is under immense pressure to just start winning, baby. His team was embarrassed at home in week one by the Denver Broncos who were able to rout the Raiders 41-14. A week two win against Kansas City may have just saved Kiffin's job for one more week, but going into week three against the Bills may be a tough challenge for the struggling Raiders.
The Raiders' passing game is virtually nonexistent despite having last year's number one draft pick, JaMarcus Russell, at the helm. Russell hasn't paid off at all for the team, starting in only one game last season and having only four career touchdowns to date. Their passing attack is currently 31st in the league with an average of just 106 yards a game. Their best receiver, newly-acquired Javon Walker, has yet to make a catch this season and has been having trouble with his hamstring during practices.
Their one saving grace on offense is their running attack. Rookie running back, Darren McFadden, gauged Kansas City last week for 164 yards on the ground, averaging almost eight yards a carry.
McFadden could just be the one to carry this team during the game with the Bills, and probably the season. He is a rising star that could potentially emerge as one of the league's best running backs. If he continues to put up number like he did against the Chiefs, you can count on him to carry the offense.
The defense could have some trouble on Sunday with their pass defense ranking 21st in the league, and their average yards allowed total (315) is good for 18th in the league. However, their run defense is ranked 13th, with an average of 98 yards allowed per game. They could be real effective in stopping Marshawn Lynch, who has yet to cross the 100-yard threshold this season.
The Bills seem to be slowly building a really good team. Dick Jauron has done an outstanding job in getting his young and talented squad ready for games, as the Bills have already knocked off two playoff teams from last year. Several of their young players have developed much quicker than anticipated and that starts with quarterback Trent Edwards.
Edwards is only in his second season, but has already had great success in managing games and reviving a passing attack that never really got off the ground last season. The Bills have the 11th ranked pass attack thus far this season, with an average of 221 yards per game. They also put up an average of 27 points during their first two contests, good for seventh in the league. Edwards has really been capitalizing on the new offensive system put in by new offensive coordinator Turk Schonert.
He has also been very careful with the ball, committing no turnovers yet this season and turning in an impressive 107.7 quarterback rating.
One person who would love to have a big game this Sunday would be Marshawn Lynch. His average of 3.6 yards a carry probably isn't sitting well with the back, who turned in a 1,100+ yard season last year. He has yet to turn in a 100-yard game, but he already has two touchdowns. Lynch has been grinding it out on the ground, gaining the tough yards for the Bills, improving a Bills offense that did little more than fizzle last season.
Much like the offense, the Bills' defense looks to be turning into something special. The acquisition of sturdy Marcus Stroud to plug up the middle of the line and create havoc for quarterbacks has paid off immensely. His shoring up of the defensive line has enabled the rest of the defense to improve dramatically. The defense looks like a completely different group than last year, despite returning nearly all of its starters.
They're stopping the run, stopping the pass, and creating turnovers. What more can you ask for? In two games, they've compiled seven sacks, two interceptions and two forced-fumbles. Last season, the Bills ranked near last in every defensive category. Now, going into week three of 2008, the Bills have the fifth-ranked defense in the league.
You can't talk about the Bills and not mention their special teams. Their unit is the elite of the league with dangerous returners in Roscoe Parrish, Terrence McGee and now Leodis McKelvin, who will have an increased role in Sunday's game. Parrish has already returned a punt for a touchdown, and punter Brian Moorman has already thrown a touchdown pass to Ryan Denney on a fake field goal attempt. There's no telling what this group will do when, and it usually is the thing to completely sink the other team and snatch the momentum of a game.
The match up:
Both teams have something to play for this week. The Raiders (well, Lane Kiffin) are fighting for a win, and some respect in the league. The Bills want to have their first 3-0 start since the Glory Days of the early 90's, and to establish themselves as a team to beat in the NFL.
If the Bills want to achieve this "team to beat" status, they have to really beat up on the beleaguered Raiders. Edwards and Lynch need to have huge games by putting up big-time yards and big-time touchdowns. They can't squeak out a win like they did in Jacksonville, it needs to be a blowout.
For the Raiders to have a chance in this game, they need to cause the Bills to make mistakes. Pressuring Edwards and limiting the receivers would be huge. Stopping the run and pressuring Edwards into making bad throws will knock the Bills' momentum off and prevent them from putting up points.
JaMarcus Russell also needs to start acting like a first-round quarterback in order for the Raiders to win. If he can turn it around, and Darren McFadden pounds it out like he did last week, the Raiders could have a chance.
Prediction: The Raiders have won the last four meetings of these teams, but that will end this week. The Bills have too many things working for them, and the Raiders simply have too many questions at key positions, including head coach. A team in turmoil is no match for a team on the rise. Bills: 27, Raiders: 17.