by Mario Granata
With the rosters at 90, there are going to be some changes that occur before the official season kicks off for the Buffalo Bills. As it currently stands, the Bills defense will be facing their toughest test in recent years. While Buffalo has been successful the past couple of seasons, they will surely be tested in 2015. Just focusing on the skill positions, there are some big names that they will have to stop as they make a run at the playoffs. 8 of the 16 weeks they will be facing quarterbacks that have made a total of 24 Pro Bowls. Check out whom the Bills will have to stop in 2015.
Week 1: Indianapolis Colts
WR: Andre Johnson, T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief
TE: Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen
RB: Frank Gore
While it may seem like Frank Gore and Andre Johnson are on the downswing of their NFL careers, they are still forces that have to be dealt with and facing them in Week 1 of the season, they will be in their top form. 3x Pro Bowl Quarterback Andrew Luck will have a bevvy of receivers to choose from to test the Bills secondary. Hopefully the ‘Cold Front’ can disrupt Luck’s timing enough to allow the Savage Secondary to get their coverage down. If the Colts get out to an early lead, expect the Bills to get a heavy dose of Gore in the second half.
Week 2 & Week 11: New England Patriots
WR: Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell
TE: Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler
RB: LeGarrette Blount
Although the receiver core of the Patriots doesn’t look like a 'who’s who' of wideouts, Tom Brady hasn’t thrown a ball longer than 20 yards in about 6 years (or so it seems). A punishing ground game led by Blount with short, high percentage routes are enough to help any quarterback, even if Brady has to sit in Week 2. The true test will be if the Bills along with Ryan and Thurman have an answer for Gronkowski because during his time in New York, he has struggled to defend him. Blount has proven to be a handful. He will have an extra weeks rest and will come out firing in his debut in Week 2.
Week 3 & Week 9: Miami Dolphins
WR: Greg Jennings, Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry
TE: Jordan Cameron
RB: Lamar Miller
After receiving some new toys (and a brand new contract) Ryan Tannehill has to prove that he is the man that the Dolphins selected 8th overall in 2012. Landry gave the Bills some trouble in 2014, and Stills torched them in 2013. With the sure handed Greg Jennings and the 2015 selection in DeVante Parker, Tannehill will have options. Let us not forget about Jordan Cameron as well. This matchup could be tough for the Bills. Hopefully their experience covering Gronkowski the week prior will give them a good blueprint on how to stop Cameron.
Week 4: New York Giants
WR: Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham
TE: Larry Donnell
RB: Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen
For the 3rd straight week the Bills will have to face a quality Tight End when they take the field against the Giants. Donnell proved to be formidable last season for New York. The Bills will also have to deal with the dynamic duo of Cruz and Beckham who will test every secondary they see in 2015. If the Bills close down those options, the sure handed Shane Vereen, who has enjoyed success against Buffalo will be coming out of the backfield.
Week 5: @ Tennessee Titans
WR: Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Dorial Green-Beckham
TE: Delanie Walker
RB: Bishop Sankey
The Bills “official” bye week comes in Week 8, but this could be considered one as well. The Titans have a wealth of talent at the skill positions, and with the presence of former Bill Andy Levitre and bruising tackle Taylor Lewan, the Titans will have more success running the ball then airing it out with rookie Marcus Mariota. Staring down the "Cold Front" Mariota will quickly realize that he is not in the Pac-12 anymore. Welcome to the big leagues, kid.
Week 6: Cincinnati Bengals
WR: A.J Green, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones
TE: Tyler Eifert
RB: Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard
A comparison to Ryan Tannehill could be Andy Dalton, who has led his team to the playoffs, but due to the fact that the Bengals haven’t ‘won’ a playoff game since the Bo Jackson era, he has yet to get over the hump as a pro. He definitely has options to choose from with Green and Sanu, and with Hill and Bernard out of the backfield keeping the Bills on their toes, this should be a tough matchup as well. Dalton has proven that he will make mistakes, and with the complex blitz schemes that Ryan and Thurman will dish out, this could be the recipe to serve as the Bills approach mid-season.
Week 7: @ Jacksonville Jaguars (London)
WR: Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson
TE: Julius Thomas
RB: TJ Yeldon, Toby Gerhart, Denard Robinson
The first game to ever be streamed on the internet, the Bills take on the London, um, excuse me, Jacksonville Jaguars. Some Bills fans might be circling this game on the schedule as a guaranteed win, but with the conditions like they have been in England, the ground game will be key in this matchup. Despite the futility that the Jags have shown in recent years, the 1-2 punch of Yeldon and Gerhart and the explosiveness of ‘Shoelace’ Robinson could give the Bills all they can handle. As Eric Decker found out last season, life without Peyton Manning could be a rough one, but even still Julius Thomas has to be accounted for on every play.
Week 10 & 17: New York Jets
WR: Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker
TE: Jace Amaro
RB: Stevan Ridley, Chris Ivory
While the additions of the unpredictable Chan Gailey, having toys such as Marshall and Decker on the outside and Ridley in the backfield, the Jets could create some problems for the Bills. However, with Geno Smith under center, and the familiarity that Rex Ryan has with his former team, this game will be a defensive battle and ultimately whoever turns the ball over the least will win. If both teams score 40 points total in their two matchups, I will be surprised and due to the war of words between Ryan and Jace Amaro, don't be surprised if there is a late hit on Amaro during the game...more than likely from Jerry Hughes.
Week 12: @ Kansas City Chiefs
WR: Jeremy Maclin, De’Anthony Thomas
TE: Travis Kelce
RB: Jamaal Charles, Knile Davis
Kansas City traditionally has been a very tough place to play and the Bills coming off of a loss to division rival New England could still be in their minds. Andy Reid is reunited with Jeremy Maclin (as well as Jason Avant) and has proven to be one of the top playcallers in the league. Despite the Chiefs not having a touchdown scored by a receiver in 2014, that trend will change in 2015. The Bills will also have to contend with Charles and Davis as the theme of them dealing with tough running games continues. Alex Smith is as smart as they come, but the Bills have been able to get to him in their last two matchups so you can best be sure that will be on his mind.
Week 13: Houston Texans
WR: DeAndre Hopkins, Cecil Shorts
TE: Garrett Graham
RB: Arian Foster, Alfred Blue
Another “rookie” is served up for the Buffalo Bills as it is a former Patriot who will be the victim here. Hopkins and Shorts should give Buffalo a run due to their size and speed, but if the Bills can bottle up Arian Foster (who by week 13 will be day-to-day) and hold down the outside, they should walk away with this one easily…that is unless EJ Manuel throws another 80-yard pick 6. Let's hope that nightmare doesn't rear its ugly head again.
Week 14: @ Philadelphia Eagles
WR: Jordan Matthews, Riley Cooper, Nelson Agholor
TE: Brent Celek, Zach Ertz
RB: DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews
Probably the toughest backfield that the Bills will face (next to Hill and Bernard) will be when they travel to the unfriendly confines of Philadelphia. Matthews certainly made a name for himself last season (having more receptions than Sammy Watkins) and the two-headed monster that is Murray and Mathews could prove to test the Bills front seven. Depending on the revolving door that will start at quarterback, and the high-octane offense of Chip Kelly, this one could go either way in the end. Let's pray we get a Tebow sighting...pun completely intended.
Week 15 @ Washington Redskins
WR: Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson
TE: Jordan Reed, Niles Paul
RB: Alfred Morris
Facing their second NFC Least opponent in as many weeks, the Bills will look to rebound against the Redskins, who will be in utter turmoil by this time in the season. Jay Gruden will certainly have his hands full with his cast of characters, but the Bills should handle the combination of Garcon and Jackson given the wide receivers that they have had to face before Week 15. Alfred Morris is probably one of the most underrated running backs in the game and could wear down the Bills front if he gets a head of steam.
Week 16: Dallas Cowboys
WR: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams
TE: Jason Witten
RB: Darren McFadden
Unless there is another running back that gets picked up by Dallas, Tony Romo might set the attempts in a season record because there will be no one to hand the ball off to, given the injury history of McFadden. Dez Bryant (at the moment) is holding out for a new contract so who knows what his status will be at the end of the season. Witten is a good solid target, but is getting up there in years, and the cold weather will be very unfriendly to the Cowboys. Remember that Monday Night game against the Cowboys in 2007? Yeah, neither do I.
So there you have it, the skill players that the Buffalo Bills defense will have to contend with (as it stands right now) for the 2015 season. Now, obviously the rosters are subject to change, but keep an eye out for these players, as well as the Bills Opponents: Defense Edition coming soon.