The season is young but injuries are already shaking things up for the Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints in this week's matchup. The Saints are coming off of a sizzling 2-0 start, racking up 93 points in the process. As for the Bills, an impressive 33-20 victory over Tampa Bay positions them to rise above .500 with a win this week, an achievement that would not have seemed possible just a few weeks ago.
Although the same troubles were present last week, resulting in a rather surprising victory, the injury of Paul Posluszny will hurt the prospects of the Bills this week. Without a dominating presence in the middle, Drew Brees should be able to find receivers over the middle with ease for double-digit gains. Bills rookie linebacker Marcus Buggs will have to provide his team with the game of his young life if Buffalo wishes to contain the record-setting passing attack of Brees.
The offensive line of the Bills was looking scary enough prior to any injury problems. A barrage of new players and rookies made the situation up front tenuous at best. However, the strong play of the line in the first two weeks — giving Edwards plenty of time to survey his options — has left Bills fans in a state of shock and awe. Now, things get tougher. Brad Butler suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Buccaneers, throwing another wrench into Buffalo's constant line dance. Trying to break a nine-year streak of missing the playoffs, Buffalo couldn't afford any bad luck. Butler's physical problems are already wreaking havoc on the postseason plans of Bills Land.
Jonathan Scott will replace Butler at right tackle and the team also picked up Jamon Meredith, who was drafted in the fifth round by the Green Bay Packers. Many draft experts expected Meredith to go in the second round, but work ethic concerns hurt his stock.
The bad luck was inclined to the line either last week.
Coming into the season, a major question mark for the Bills was whether or not a quality tight end would step in to give Edwards a reliable target over the middle and act as an extra lineman for the backs. Derek Schouman appeared to be that guy. And then, like Butler, he was suffered a season-ending injury against Tampa Bay. Schouman accounted for over 100 yards of receiving in the first two games. His presence will be missed against the Saints. This game is shaping up to be a shootout, and Schouman may have been vital in providing first downs at critical moments. With contributory tight end Shawn Nelson doubtful as well, the Bills' blocking situation outside of the O-line does not appear too promising.
Derek Fine and Jonathan Stupar will be expected to shoulder the burden at tight end now. Fine is an excellent blocker, but an unknown in the passing game. Stupar enjoyed a breakout preseason (six catches for 56 yards against Chicago and five for 63 against Green Bay). He may figure into some of Buffalo's packages Sunday afternoon. The middle of the field was wide open last week — The T.O. Effect? — so there will be opportunities for big plays for whoever is playing tight end.
As for New Orleans, problems amount as well. Running back Mike Bell is listed as out. Considering Bell has accumulated over 200 yards and a touchdown already this season, the Bills may be able to focus on more on containing the pass. Additionally, wide receiver Lance Moore is listed as out for the Saints. With 928 receiving yards over the 2008 season, Moore was Brees' go-to guy last season. Still, the Saints passing game has motored right along with Marques Colston and Devery Henderson through two games.
On the defensive side for New Orleans, defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy is listed as out. Being a dependable ten-year veteran on the pass rush force around the NFL, Clancy is always a possible threat to the quarterback's comfort. With Clancy's absence, the Bills' passing attack shouldn't be thrown off kilter. More willing to take shots downfield, Edwards could have a big day.
Even though the Bills have plenty of tight end problems, the Saints will have trouble as well with the absence of Darnell Dinkins. Dinkins has a reputation throughout the league as a hardworking tight end who can catch the occasional pass with a total of 228 receiving yards in his career. The absence of Dinkins should equalize the problems that the Bills will face with the injuries of Schouman and Nelson.
With tackle Jammal Brown out for the Saints, Brees and his cohorts will have to deal with an offensive line lacking a dependable tackle who has started 58 games in his career. Look for Butler's injury to negate this as a factor, though.
Many injuries pose difficulties for the Bills and Saints this week. In this non-divisional early season shootout, who will hold up in the end? Who will prevail? The Saints have looked dominant thus far, but Buffalo has some momentum rolling at home. Look for an entertaining matchup, and whoever adapts to their injury losses the best could win.