Welcome to the Division: AFC East
by Mario Granata
During the talks that are going around Buffalo and beyond about the beloved Bills, the point that seems to get lost in the mix is that the Bills, to make the playoffs or advance, have to take care of the division first. With the off-season acquisitions that have been happening, it seems that the AFC East is not going to be a cakewalk for the New England Patriots…and any other team for that matter. Here is a quick look at some familiar faces for Buffalo this season and how they have fared against the Bills. Welcome to the Division.
DT Ndamukong Suh – Suh’s addition to the AFC East is two-fold. The Bills, and more importantly their offensive line, will have to deal with him twice as well as his performance this season as the Bills will look to resign Marcell Dareus next season. Now there will be an even greater comparison as Dareus goes into contract talks.
As far as on the field, Suh has only faced the Bills twice, recording 7 tackles and 0 sacks. Hello, Mr. Eric Wood, pleasure to meet you…again.
WR Kenny Stills – The nightmare of Stills putting up a 3-129-2 stat line against the Bills in 2013 still haunts me. Watching Jerry Hughes chase him up the sideline and Nickell Robey being outfought or the ball still play in my mind, as they no doubt play in their minds and hopefully offer some motivation for 2015.
TE Jordan Cameron – Cameron has a mild 8-81-0 against the Bills in two games, which doesn’t seem like much, but when he is healthy could post a problem for the Bills on the backend. He has to be accounted for on every down, which might open up some lanes for Stills and Jarvis Landry underneath.
New York Jets:
WR Brandon Marshall – Marshall makes his return to the AFC East after a brief stint with the Dolphins in 2010 and 2011. He was productive with Miami posting a 23-248-2 line with Chad Henne and Matt Moore at quarterback, so look for those numbers to improve this season. The Bills gave up an 8-71-1 in last season’s opener, and the combination of Marshall and Decker could offer some big targets that the Bills have to contend with.
CBs Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie – During the first act that Revis and Cromartie were with the Jets from 2010-2012, they held the Bills in check for the most part. Revis’ has two career sacks, both coming against Buffalo and has 5 career picks against the Bills, while Cromartie’s last pick 6 came against the Bills in 2012. Here’s to hoping that the combination of Percy Harvin and Sammy Watkins are too much for them to handle.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – Fitz is reunited with Chan Gailey, where he enjoyed the most success in his career. He threw for 3,000 yards in each season with Gailey and averaged a 24-18 TD to Int ratio during that span, and although his role will be more of a mentor to Geno Smith, his ability to be in the film room, and on the sidelines to tutor Smith will be valued most.
New England Patriots:
DE Jabaal Sheard – Sheard last played Buffalo in 2012 and was productive in Cleveland posting 23 career sacks in 50 games. The Bills will have to know where he is at all times and may be the underdog signing of the season for the Patriots.
WR Brandon Gibson and LB Jonathan Freeny – In true “Patriot” fashion, they pick players in the division to gain the central intelligence that they need for the upcoming season. This is also true with the signing of Gibson and Freeny.
Gibson has posted 4 of his career touchdowns against the Bills as a member of the Rams and Dolphins, and to likely give Belichick an insiders look at what Miami’s weaknesses are on the offensive side of the ball.
Freeny likewise has never started a game in his 4-year career, but look for Tom Brady to be standing by his locker early in training camp to pick his brain about the defensive philosophy of the Dolphins.
TE Scott Chandler – Another staple for the Patriots is to sign a bevy of tight ends with the roster being at 90 before training camp. Chandler offers a bonus, as he as with Buffalo for the past 4 seasons, and after being cut will have extra motivation to “try” and outperform Gronk when they play the Bills.
For the Bills to break the longest playoff drought in the NFL, they will have to take care of the division first, and with the additions that Miami, New York and New England have this offseason, they will certainly have their work cut out for them. Take care of the division, and the playoffs will come.
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