Instead of following typical Buffalo fashion and falling apart after the heartbreaker against the Patriots, the Bills rebounded last week with a solid win against Tampa Bay.
Trent Edwards showed he has the potential and confidence to continue his rocky journey as the future of the franchise. More importantly, Edwards took chances deep, hitting both Lee Evans and Terrell Owens for 30+ yard touchdown strikes. Edwards also utilized Fred Jackson well. Jackson proved to be the offensive catalyst — breezing and bruising his way through Tampa Bay's defense for a career-high 163 yards.
The defense looked solid as well, turning Tampa Bay's deadly running game into an epic fail. The Bills went cash-for-clunkers, scrapping Cadillac Williams and shutting down Derrick Ward. Byron Leftwich's stats were very misleading — his 296 yards and three touchdown passes was pockmarked with two picks, multiple takedowns and floating-duck passes. The Bills' defense maintained heavy pressure.
Now, the Saints come marching in. And oh, how they're marching.
In his past two games, Drew Brees has in the midst of his own Operation Rolling Thunder on secondaries. He has tossed nine scores in two games, reminiscent of Tom Brady's 50-touchdown blowout two years ago.
Buffalo must do three things if they want to pull off the upset at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Brees has picked secondaries apart, throwing for 669 yards and nine touchdowns on 51 attempts. Yikes. Buffalo's youthful group of defensive backs must has cover the Saints' receiving corps like they did in the first 57 minutes of the game against New England. Brees only needs the slightest opening to thread a pass to Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and company. Reading defenses and going through his progressions multiple times is what makes the Saints' immortal quarterback so good.
Also, the speedy Marcus Buggs must be utilized at the middle linebacker position in pass coverage. When Brees doesn't see anything downfield, he often checks down to supplementary weapons underneath coverages. Buggs will need to be on his toes all evening.Secondly, the defense must put pressure on Brees. Letting him sit in the pocket will light up the scoreboard. For the wrong reasons. The two Aarons (Schobel and Maybin) must rattle Brees. Getting flushed out of the pocket is his Achilles heel so sacks, knockdowns and constant hands in his face will result in turnovers — which the Bills will desperately need. Maybin hasn't been utilized a ton yet. Maybe this is the game the Bills release him into more situations. Double teams on Marcus Stroud should free up Maybin and Schobel. The linebacker corps must choose their blitzes wisely, because stacking too many in the box will free up receivers for Brees.
Finally, Buffalo's offense has to keep up with the Saints. If New Orleans scores, the Bills have to swing back.
Edwards showed he's good enough to be the starter into the future. This is his time to prove it. Choose wisely between Fred Jackson and the deep ball. Don't force anything into coverage and get the ball to your playmakers. Jackson's dual-threat presence has become the central focus of this offense. Coordinator Alex Van Pelt would be wise to unleash him just as he did last week. Terrell Owens made up for his dropped bomb against Tampa Bay, and Edwards must throw to him again to a) keep him happy and b) free up Lee Evans. Nothing new on that front.
If the offensive line holds fast and the defense shuts down Brees, expect a win.
Spencer's Prediction: Bills 30, Saints 27.