Buffalo Bills are in a much better place this season
Chan Gailey and Ryan Fitzpatrick versus Bill Belichick and Tom Brady would appear to be a mismatch, and perhaps it will be.
Yet, at least one last-place team from the previous season has made the playoffs in eight consecutive NFL seasons, and Gailey’s Buffalo Bills are operating like this year’s best candidate to do it … with Fitzpatrick under center.
“It’s a great feeling knowing you’re going to get the job done even before you have,” Fitzpatrick said Sunday after throwing for 264 yards and three touchdowns, including the deciding touchdown toss to wide receiver David Nelson with 14 seconds remaining.
“Smooth wide receiver,” Fitzpatrick said of Nelson, who finished with 10 catches for 83 yards. “They didn’t have an answer for [him] … he has a ton of confidence.”
So do the Bills, who are 2-0 after rallying from a 21-3 halftime deficit to defeat the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, 38-35.
Home again in Orchard Park, N.Y., the Bills get the big boys, facing three-time Super Bowl champion New England.
“They’re playing very well,” Belichick said of the Bills on Monday in a news conference. “Very explosive offensive group.”
Belichick typically knows how to defuse those offenses. The Patriots’ coach just did it Sunday, his defense taking away two fumbles and two interceptions from the visiting San Diego Chargers to win, 35-21, as Brady drew near 1,000 passing yards through two games.
Though he has nowhere near the same credentials, Harvard product Fitzpatrick has demonstrated leadership that has made the Bills the league’s most successful red-zone team (80% of those entries have netted touchdowns).
Buffalo also has the league’s rushing leader in Fred Jackson, who gained 117 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, including a 43-yard score that launched the comeback.
“Fred’s running the ball extremely well,” Gailey said. “He’s hitting holes. He can protect, run routes inside and outside. And the line’s blocking well for him.”
Similar to Belichick in Cleveland, Gailey failed to impress as an NFL head coach in his first try, with Dallas. And Buffalo didn’t fare well last season, but Fitzpatrick said the Bills are intent not to repeat those wrenching late-game mistakes that wrecked their record (4-12).
“We lost a lot of those last year,” Fitzpatrick told reporters of the Raiders game. “It’s good to be on the other end of it. Chan told us after the game, ‘2-0 feels good, and it feels right.’ ”
Houston at New Orleans: So far the Texans’ bid to earn their first playoff trip looks strong, but an unbeaten season already seems tenuous as Saints quarterback Drew Brees gets another home game after shredding the vaunted Chicago Bears for 279 yards and three touchdowns in a 17-point victory.
New York Jets at Oakland: Coach Rex Ryan said his 2-0 team is not “intimidated by any surroundings,” including the Black Hole, which is chafing after the Buffalo defeat. The Raiders would be wise to fully assert their running game. The Jets intercepted four passes while hammering Luke McCown and Jacksonville, 32-3, Sunday.
Green Bay at Chicago: The renewal of the ancient black-and-blue-division affair is a rematch of last year’s NFC championship game. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler — stained in the title affair by leaving early because of an injury — showed his toughness in defeat Sunday, enduring six sacks against the Saints. Aaron Rodgers and the champion Packers stared at a 13-0 deficit on the road in Carolina and responded with 23 consecutive points to get to 2-0.
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