With the NFL regular-season only weeks away, it’s time to breakdown what each team needs to do this season in order to be successful. We’ll start off with a team that’s looking for their first playoff win since 1995, when they had a player under center that went by the name of Jim Kelly. Kicking off the first edition of "4 Downs to Success," I take a look at the Buffalo Bills.
1st Down: BLOCKING
The saying, “it all starts up front,” may sound cliché, but for a team that allowed the fourth most sacks a year ago (48) and a total of (78) the past two seasons, it goes without saying. With EJ Manuel coming back for a knee surgery, protection isn’t only a need; it’s a must.
2nd Down: PATIENCE WITH MANUEL
I know it’s a “win now” league, but if the Bills want to build success for not only this season but also the future, they have to be patient with Manuel. After being limited to only ten games last season, Manuel’s season was cut short due to injury. Despite struggling his last couple starts, he showed tremendous ability early in the season, and led Buffalo to two come from behind wins. Not to take full blame off Manuel, but it didn’t help that the Bills had one of the worse pass blocking teams, last season, and a receiving-core that didn’t producer a player with more than three touchdown receptions. With the addition of Sammy Watkins and a year under his belt, the only question is how will Manuel bounce back from injury? If the first few weeks of the season look shaky, don’t panic Bill fans. Be patient and give this guy a chance to prove himself healthy for a full season.
3rd Down: RUN-RUN-RUN
With the numerous issues faced at quarterback a year ago, Buffalo established themselves as one of elite rushing offenses in the NFL last season. Ranking first in rushing attempts (471) and second in rushing yards, the duo of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller combined for 1823 of the team's 2063 rushing yards that were produced on offense. The ability to run the football will keep defenses on their toes, which will take pressure of Manuel. What this ultimately creates is the inability for defenses to do as they please, especially during pre-snap. If the Bills are able to force defenses to respect them, pre-snap reads will be much easier for Manuel. The inability for defenses to disguise coverage’s prior to the snap will allow Manuel to identify the coverage, which as a quarterback your taught starts with the high safety. In other words, success running the ball will open other doors for the Bills on offense.
4th Down: WIN IN DIVISION
If Buffalo wants to have a successful season, one the most important keys to achieve is to win in the AFC East. Although the New England Patriots have dominated the division for over a decade, overall, the AFC East has been weak. Despite this, since Buffalo’s last playoff birth in 1999, the Bills have gone 23-43 in divisional games. Last season Buffalo went 3-3 in divisional games.
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