by Mario Granata and Paul Wanecski
In the current era of the NFL which is considered by many as a "Passing League" the Buffalo Bills are playing a brand of throwback football from the 1980s and 1990s. However, can this formula be effective and last in the New NFL? The Cover 2 question this week will be, can the Bills make a significant playoff run by having a quarterback who has a per game average of 200 yards passing?
Granata - No.
And its not an emphatic no, seeing that recent history has had it happen for a couple of teams. The most recent time this has happened was with the 2013 Seattle Seahawks. They won the Super Bowl with Russell Wilson who posted a per game average stat line of 16-25 for 210. Wilson also had 26 touchdown passes to only 9 interceptions that season. Along with his passing statistics, Wilson also ran for 539 yards on 96 carries (6-34 per game average). The Seahawks that season had a defense that many people were putting into the 2000 Ravens and 1985 Bears category as well. Checking out the stats for Tyrod Taylor in Sunday's game against the Colts, he was 14-19 for 195 and also had 9 carries for 41 yards. I am not sure about you, but I don't want my quarterback to have close to 150 carries in a season. That is too many hits for a #1 quarterback.
Other examples are the 2000 Ravens and the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Ravens who had Tony Banks and Trent Dilfer combined for 193 yards per game passing, and the 2002 Bucs with Brad Johnson, Rob Johnson and Shaun King threw for 229. Even in more recent history, and probably more relevant, the 2012 San Francisco 49ers made it to the Super Bowl on the heels of Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick throwing for 222 per game. In the case of the Seahawks, Bucs and 49ers, they all posted less than 10 interceptions from their signal callers. So, for this formula to work, the Buffalo Bills have to post the best defense in the league AND have Taylor throw an interception every two games for this to work. There is a very low percentage of all the stars aligning for the Bills which makes me think that although it 'could' be done, it is highly unlikely.
Wanecski - Yes.
First off, let me just state that I am not drinking the Tyrod "Kool-Aid". Given what was asked of him in week one against the Colts, he delivered. The offense that Roman employs is complex, however the things they asked Taylor to manage were reasonable. He put enough on tape for New England to think about. Since Taylor only threw the ball 19 times - two of which were deep balls that were nicely thrown - it was easy to walk away with an inflated sense of optimism. Now, with that being said, had Matt Cassel been under center the entire game, the pass protection breakdowns would have been a problem. The offensive line, specifically Eric Wood (who has had a tall order seeing as though he played alongside 5 different starting guards in the last 16 months), ran into communication issues when facing pressure. This is an area that must improve, as Taylor accounting for 9 total rushes is too high to expect week in and week out. If that trend continues, expect comparisons to RGIII in Washington his rookie season. Will Sammy Watkins be limited in targets all season? Realistically, yes. The Bills were among the league leaders in pass attempts last year and that is not the plan now. Given the explosiveness from the offensive skill position players, the goal is to force a team to leave single coverage, so even though Watkins will see less targets, the goal is that they are more impactful targets. The Bills will run the football effectively once the league notices that Taylor doesn't miss single coverage opportunities. Going back over week one, you did not see Taylor make a single throw to any player who was double covered. As he gets more comfortable, the 3rd down percentage should improve. When that improves, look out. This team is just too talented to fail.