This past offseason, the Buffalo Bills had more troubles than a college kid during finals week that skipped class all semester.
The woes started when starting running back Marshawn Lynch pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge and the league suspended him for the first three games of the season. Terrell Owens' toe injury in the preseason didn't help quarterback Trent Edwards or the rest of the offense give Bills' fans much confidence for the upcoming season. Offensive coordinator Turk Schonert was canned because of the pitiful offensive performance through five preseason games. Starting left tackle Langston Walker was cut by the team after having difficulty making the transition from right to left tackle — a controversial call by the front office, as he only played a few downs at the new position.
It's safe to say that the Bills are having an identity crisis. In their 50th season, you might say they're having a mid-life crisis.
Regardless, Buffalo is in desperate need of someone to step up and make plays on a consistent basis. The offensive line is loaded with rookies and inexperience. Replacing Walker at left tackle is Demetrius Butler, a former seventh-round pick who has yet to play a snap in the NFL. Rookies Eric Wood and Andy Levitre are also starting, supporting free-agent acquisition Geoff Hangartner at center. The line has tons of potential, but will need time to mesh.
This is a make-or-break season for Trent Edwards. No one will doubt that he's the future of the franchise if he can prove that he can perform at a high level. He's flashed brilliance on numerous occasions – like the 4-0 start he led Buffalo to at the beginning of last season. But he also has shown his "Trentative" side. He has earned the nickname "Captain Checkdown" because of his reluctance to take chances downfield. In three games against New England, Edwards has thrown for 245 yards, one TD and three picks. Yikes. If he can command the no-huddle and at least keep up with Brady and the Pats, the Bills might keep this game competitive.
When Brady played the Bills in 2007, he unleashed on the secondary with zero mercy, throwing for 684 yards, nine touchdowns, and no picks. The Bills' defense has improved dramatically since then – Leodis McKelvin could blossom into one of the best shutdown corners in the league and linebacker Paul Posluszny has Pro Bowl potential. Rookie defensive end Aaron Maybin showed promise in the few preseason snaps that he played, and Aaron Schobel will need to return to his 12-sack season form.
The Patriots have lost multiple starters from last season, including Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison. The trade of Richard Seymour to Oakland came out of nowhere. New England didn't just lose skill players – they lost the heart and soul of that defense. However, Brandon Meriweather could turn into one of the best safeties in the league, and the off-season acquisitions of Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden further strengthen the Pats' secondary. Second-year man Jerod Mayo is a stud at linebacker.
If the Bills defense can contain New England's wide receiver corps and get to Brady, it improves an already slim-to-none chance of winning. And if Trent Edwards and T.O. can connect on deep passes and Fred Jackson holds down the fort in the running game, it improves that chance a little more.
The Bills haven't won in New England since 2000, and haven't beaten the Patriots since a 31-0 whopping in 2003. The Patriots are also trying to be the only team ever to win 12 straight against an opponent — too bad for Buffalo, as they have never won at Gillette Stadium. If Edwards gets protection from the line and points on the board, look for this game to stay competitive.
If Brady returns to his 2007 form, expect a blowout.
Spencer Timkey is an analyst for BuffaloFootballReport.com. Contact him at TIMKEYSM@sbu.edu.