Last week’s dramatic last-minute win by the Buffalo Bills over the Carolina Panthers could mean nothing or it could mean everything. They’ve had dramatic wins in the past, yet ended up where they always have over the past decade. Some people think that this might be different. E.J. Manuel was the first QB taken as the Bills’ top selection in the draft since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. This is his team and to make his first win so theatrical has created a lot of buzz and excitement within the fan base.
Of course, how he follows up will be the important next step. This is a big game for Manuel and the Bills. They face off against their division rival New York Jets and their own rookie quarterback in Geno Smith. This might be the toughest defensive test for Manuel so far, but the Jets’ D is not without weakness. The defensive backfield struggled last week against the New England Patriots and they would have lost by much more than three points if the inexperienced Pats receivers could catch the ball. With guys like Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods at receiver, and C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson out of the backfield, the Jets will have to play tighter in the secondary or it could be a big day for the rookie Manuel.
The Bills have issues in the secondary themselves, although S Jairus Byrd has been upgraded to questionable after being doubtful for the first two weeks. They’ll try to keep Smith on his toes with a lot of blitzes. Smith has been indecisive in the pocket through the first two games, and things won’t get easier against Mario Williams and the Bills pass rush. Rex Ryan protege Mike Pettine will try to force Smith into mistakes and try to give the Bills’ offense a short field against the tough Jets front seven.
At the end of the day, I can’t get past the fact that Manuel has been more efficient than Smith, and that should be the difference in the game. Behind the QBs, the teams are pretty similar. The Jets have a better run defense, but the Bills are better at running the ball on offense. I think the experience that Manuel has in the skill positions will give the Bills an edge in this one. A win would be huge for the Bills going into a tough home game against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4.