Know your opponent: The Buffalo Bills invade Soldier Field for Week 1
Finally a week that leads up to a real regular season game for the Chicago Bears.
The Bears will open up the 2014 season at home against the Buffalo Bills, their third straight year opening up the season at home against a AFC opponent.
Before each week we will help you get ready for the Bears upcoming game with a new series titled ‘Know your opponent’. The article will preview the upcoming Bears opponent through another bloggers eyes.
2013 record: 6-10
Key returners: Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Mario Williams
Key newcomers: Sammy Watkins, Brandon Spikes
Key losses: Jairus Byrd, Kiko Alonso (Season ending injury)
Guest Blogger: Brian Galliford; BuffaloRumblings.com
Pass DEF: 4th (204 YPG)
Rush DEF: 28th (128.9 YPG)
Pass OFF: 28th (194 YPG)
Rush OFF: 2nd (144.2 YPG)
Three Key Players
C.J. Spiller; RB
Fred Jackson; RB
Stephon Gilmore; CB
Familiar face on defense
When the Bears line up against the Bills on Sunday, they will see a familiar face on the sideline. The Bills hired former Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz as their defensive coordinator. Schwartz went 29-51 in his five years with the Lions, facing the Bears 10 times.
Schwartz had the talent in Detroit but couldn’t put it together. However, there might be a little bit of an advantage seeing that Schwartz saw this Bears offense twice last season winning both of those games.
The Bills have a solid defense that could make life tough on the Bears offense. They have a solid defensive line and secondary, but the Bears receiving core should be more than enough for them to handle.
From Galliford –
The Bills were bad defending the run and getting off the field on third downs last season. Part of the reason that the team targeted Jim Schwartz to replace Mike Pettine in the defensive coordinator post is because Detroit was quite good in both of those areas in 2013. The Bills have an excellent defensive line and a talented secondary; if they can shore up those two other areas, they’ll be in good enough shape to compete.
One rookie NOT named Sammy Watkins to watch:
The Bills gave rookie tackle Seantrel Henderson his one chance to make it out of the University of Miami, and now he needs to run with it. Henderson has behaved so far in his short NFL career and now he finds himself in the right tackle spot where he will begin the year.
He’s possibly the steal of this past NFL Draft if he works out for the Bills. His first test comes against Lamarr Houston who has looked very impressive during the preseason.
Henderson has a load of talent as he was once a top recruit out of high school. Now he is looking to be the future of the Bills offensive line and lead the way for running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
Last season the Bears were historically bad at stopping the run giving up 161.4 yards per game. Now with an attempt to fix the defense this offseason, the Bears get their first real test in week one.
The Bills have a running game featuring two solid backs in C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson who combined to rush for 1,823 yards and 10 touchdowns. The two got their fair share of carries last season, spelling each other when needed. This attack could be one of the biggest difference makers in the game for both teams, especially if the Bears can’t stop the run. It could also open up the passing game for Manuel and the Bills offense.
Jackson will be the third down back as Spiller gets the start, but both will have their share of carries. Even at age 33, Jackson still produces for the Bills, and will help the running game which their offense is focused on.
What will it take to slow down the Bears offense?
The Bills have a very talented defensive line that might be the key to the game for them. The line goes up against an improved offensive line the Bears field which was a disaster a few seasons ago.
With a talented defensive line and secondary, the Bills figure they can slow down the Bears offense and get the game in their pace. The Bills won’t be a pushover and the defense can keep them in the game.
Keep an eye on…
Bills tight end Scott Chandler who will likely have mismatches against linebackers and safeties. With Lee Smith missing practice this week, Chandler will get the majority of snaps.While the Bears focus on Spiller, Jackson and Watkins, Chandler could be one of the difference makers. The Bears struggled covering tight ends last season and facing Chandler in week one won’t be easy.
Tim Jennings, Charles Tillman and Kyle Fuller will be marking the Bills receivers, Chandler will see his fair share of targets as well. It will be interesting so see how the Bears try to cover Chandler.
Last season Chandler finished with 53 receptions for 655 yards and two touchdowns. He established himself as a favorite target early on.
What does Buffalo need to do to win the game?
Basic stuff: win the turnover battle, avoid costly penalties (they’re a very young team and commit penalties in spurts), get a consistent effort out of Manuel, and make plays. Buffalo has a lot of individual talent; where they’re set up for a downfall is expecting a lot of young, moving parts to come together as a team quickly. They are physically capable of competing with any team in the league, but they’re a long way off from being a consistent winner.