MATCHUPS: BILLS OFFENSE VS. PACKERS DEFENSE
Mark: The Packers have got some D, there's no question about that. You guys were No. 1 against the rush last year and guys that I think really understand how to play. It's interesting because sometimes when you run a 3-4, some teams are going to slant guys — like a Jimmy Haslett 3-4 in Washington, he's going to move guys a lot, he's going to blitz his linebackers a lot on run downs. Green Bay, there's a lot of two-gapping going on with (Ryan) Pickett and B.J. Raji. Those guys are trying to control those offensive linemen and play both sides. Then you have some outstanding outside linebackers who can make things happen and disengage and get off blocks. They're going to have to do some things to be successful. Part of that is the misdirection stuff, because you have linebackers who really flow to the ball. Put a reverse in the package, the bend-back play where you're starting one way and going back the other. I think you might be able to find some seams. But those guys are really good at disengaging off of blocks.
Bill: I don't see the Bills beating the Packers by running the ball. At least not exclusively. At some point, Trent Edwards is going to have to hit Lee Evans with a big play or two to get big chunks of yards. Evans, the former Badgers star, is Buffalo's only legit receiving threat. When the Dolphins took him away last week (four catches, 34 yards), the Bills had nowhere to turn. Coach Chan Gailey has a good offensive mind. He's going to have to find a way to match Evans up against Tramon Williams or Sam Shields a few times and go deep. I just can't see the Bills making a living with 10-play, 70-yard drives. They need big plays, and Evans is that guy.
MATCHUPS: PACKERS OFFENSE VS. BILLS DEFENSE
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Bill: Similar to the offense, the Bills aren't going to win this game on a down-to-down basis. They'll win this game if they beat the Packers in big plays. The obvious guy is safety Jairus Byrd, who took the NFL by storm with nine interceptions last season. He's back 100 percent from offseason groin surgery. He's exactly what the Packers hope Morgan Burnett will turn into this season. Byrd is smart, has a sixth sense of the ball and isn't afraid to hit. Aaron Rodgers is going to have to be smart, because the Bills will trot out a good group of corners, too, with veterans Terrence McGee and Drayton Florence starting and 2008 first-rounder Leodis McKelvin coming on in nickel. Can the Bills help their defensive backs by pressuring the quarterback? Defensive coordinator George Edwards learned from Dom Capers in Miami, so he'll try to manufacture pressure. The big name, with Posluszny out, is 2009 first-rounder Aaron Maybin, who has zero sacks in his career. His speed, however, will test tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher.
THE PACKERS WILL WIN IF ...
They show up ready to play. The Bills' strength is with their running backs, but their offensive line should be no match for Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji and Cullen Jenkins. Look for Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk to smother the Bills' backs, and Clay Matthews and Brad Jones to destroy the Bills' overmatched offensive tackles.
THE PACKERS WILL LOSE IF ...
It's what I've been talking about in my segments: big plays. Roscoe Parrish entered this season with the fourth-highest average in NFL history on punt returns. C.J. Spiller returned four kickoffs for touchdowns as a senior. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch are all capable of breaking out in the running game if the Packers' outside linebackers lose contain.
THE BILLS WILL WIN IF ...
It's a tough task, there's no question. I think they're going to at least stay even with them in time of possession. It can't be so lopsided. They have to be able to turn the ball over and give themselves some better field position. And I think they need a couple big plays. They need to loosen up the secondary and find a way to get the ball downfield a little bit, even if it's only two receivers and keeping everybody else in to block. That'll open up the running game. Then, something opens up, and you hit a nice play pass. Now, they're thinking play pass on first down, then the next time you come with some type of run or some type of misdirection. You complement one phase of the game with the other.
THE BILLS WILL LOSE IF ...
It's the other way around. If the Bills can't run it, Edwards neither has the weapons in the passing game nor the protection to give him time.
BILL'S PREDICTION (0-1)
Packers 30, Bills 10: For one week, all of those questions about the Packers' running game won't matter. Green Bay has the element of surprise on its side — not to mention the far superior team.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.