E.J. Manuel has recovered from his surgery on his left knee in time for the season opener against the New England Patriots. The Buffalo Bills were almost pressed into starting undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel at quarterback. Had Tuel started, he would have become the first ever undrafted rookie quarterback to start a regular season opener in the Super Bowl Era.
The Bills are thrilled to have Manuel, their first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, healthy and ready to go for their contest against the Patriots. However, Manuel could be in store for a long and frustrating day in his first career start in the NFL.
Under the tutelage of Bill Belichick, the Patriots have posted a 13-4 record versus rookie quarterbacks since 2000. The Patriots have registered a .765 winning percentage, far better than the .579 winning percentage the remainder of the NFL teams have recorded against rookie quarterbacks in the same span.
The Patriots’ incredible success against first-year starters is truly awe-inspiring. In the past 12 seasons, the Patriots collected 24 interceptions against rookie QBs, allowing just 16 passing touchdowns. Simply completing a pass, let alone firing a touchdown pass, has been a major struggle for first-year QBs against the Patriots, who have limited rookies to 278 completions in 516 attempts (53.9 percent).
The odds are strongly against Manuel, especially since this is his first taste of regular season action. The Patriots are 4-0 since 2000 against rookie QBs making their first career start.
Past success does not dictate future triumph, so counting out Manuel and the Bills would be foolish. Then again, the Bills enter Sunday’s contest as huge underdogs. The secondary could be picked apart by Tom Brady as the Bills will be without cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety Jairus Byrd for an extended period of time.
Could Manuel pull off the colossal upset? It’s certainly possible, as the phrase “any given Sunday” has proven true year after year in the NFL. Alas, it’s tough to envision Brady and Belichick losing to a rookie quarterback to start off the 2013 season.