The Bills have a short week as they prepare for their home opener against the Raiders. With a tough start to the year, Buffalo is still searching for their first win and has the opportunity to put one in the win column on Sunday afternoon.
Here are five storylines to watch for in Week 2.
1. Bouncing back after a Week 1 loss
The Bills couldn’t finish the task at hand in overtime against the Jets on Monday night. It resulted in a 22-16 loss in their first game of the 2023 season. It’s not the way the Bills wanted to start the season, but the team still has plenty of time to turn it around.
It’s also not the first time in the Josh Allen era that the Bills have dropped their first game of the season. Buffalo lost their first game of the 2018 season and the first game of the 2021 season.
In 2021, the Bills lost to the Steelers at home in Week 1 with a final score of 23-16. The team didn’t let the loss define them because they bounced back with a 35-0 win against the Dolphins the following week. They also won four-straight games after suffering that Week 1 loss. That season, the Bills went on to win the AFC East and finished the regular season with an 11-6 record.
While every season isn’t the same, just like 2021, Buffalo doesn’t want this loss to get the best of them.
“What we’re trying to solve moving forward is making sure that we find ways to win,” head coach Sean McDermott said on Tuesday. “It’s hard when you do turn the ball over, it gets harder and harder to win when you do that. But Josh is very upfront about it as you know, and he wants to get it corrected and it’s important to him.”
2. Home openers in the Sean McDermott / Brandon Beane era
Sunday’s game against the Raiders marks Buffalo’s home opener for the 2023 season. In the Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane era, the Bills have a pretty good record to start the season at home.
Since 2017, Buffalo has four wins and two losses in their home openers. The Bills beat the Titans 41-7 last year in their first game at home. Buffalo’s last loss in a home opener came in 2021 when the Bills lost to the Steelers by seven points.
The Bills have averaged 24.3 points per game in the last six home openers. Josh Allen has scored 10 total touchdowns in his career in five home openers.
3. Defense set to face another explosive rushing attack
Buffalo’s defense had their hands full with two star running backs on the Jets in Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook. The Bills allowed 172 rushing yards to the Jets, which was the fourth most of any NFL team in Week 1. Hall had 10 attempts for 127 rushing yards, averaging 12.7 yards per carry and Cook added 33 rushing yards from 13 attempts.
Last season, Buffalo had one of the best run defenses in the NFL allowing an average of 104.6 rushing yards per game, which was good for fifth least in the NFL. The Bills will have to get back to their 2022 ways because they’ll face another talented running back in Josh Jacobs on Sunday.
Jacobs had 19 carries for 48 rushing yards and only averaged 2.5 yards per rush against the Broncos in Week 1, but Jacobs was one of the best running backs last season. The running back led the NFL last year with 1,635 rushing yards and had the third-most rushing touchdowns with 12.
When it comes to prepping for another explosive rushing attack, McDermott says the Bills need to do a better job of getting off their blocks.
“Physicality at the point of attack is important for us as we continue to try and take another step here this week as we move forward,” McDermott shared. “Use of our hands to get off blocks and defeat blocks and then tackling overall, I think that’s going to be important as we continue to move throughout the season here.”
4. New-look raiders with Jimmy G at QB
The Raiders are in their second year with head coach Josh McDaniels and offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi but their quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo is bringing a new look to the Raiders this season.
Garoppolo is on his third NFL team and in his 10th NFL season. The vet has made 58 starts and played in 75 games. He has thrown for 14,489 passing yards and 89 passing touchdowns over his career. The two-time Super Bowl champion kicked off Week 1 on his new team with a win over the Broncos and posted a 76.9 percent completion percentage (fourth best in the NFL), two passing touchdowns and a 107.9 passer rating (6th best in the NFL).
He will lead an offense that has last year’s rushing yards leader and a receiver who has posted back-to-back 1,500 receiving-yard seasons.
While the Bills only have one game to look at of Garoppolo in a Raiders uniform, they are familiar with the type of offense McDaniels runs as he was the offensive coordinator for the Patriots from 2012 to 2021.
“(They’re) a talented football team,” McDermott said. “Know the coordinator, or the head coach in this case, as the ex-coordinator of the Patriots. Josh McDaniels has a history of going against the Bills and us against him and his offensive system. He does a great job, extremely smart, does a great job game-planning. Along with the players that they have with (Josh) Jacobs and (Davante) Adams. They’re talented, and they added (Jakobi) Myers and he’s a heck of a football player as well.”
5. Josh Allen wants to turn it around
Josh Allen had a tough outing in Week 1 when it came to turnovers. The QB threw three interceptions and had one fumble against the fourth best defense from last season in the Jets. Although, even with the turnovers, Allen was able to get his team into overtime.
The Jets’ strong defensive line looks to be back for a second year due to the type of pressure that Allen faced in the pocket. The Jets led the NFL last year with 121 quarterback hits and picked up 9 on Monday, good for 3rd most in the NFL in Week 1.
Allen opened up his press conference on Monday night by taking responsibility for the four turnovers and noting he has to turn it around for Week 2.
One of the many reasons the Bills coaching staff loves their QB is due to his athleticism that so few can replicate – we saw that on his off-script touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs, which gave the Bills a seven-point lead over the Jets. According to Sean McDermott, this athleticism can sometimes turn into a play gone wrong when Allen tries to do too much for the team.
“Josh is such a strong competitor and has that competitive drive and wants to help the team in any and every way he can,” McDermott said. “Sometimes we just got to chip away at it when we’re off schedule. Or, if it’s third down and long know that a punt is okay. So, it’s just all about playing winning football at the end of the day.”
Winning football to McDermott when it comes to Allen’s decision making sometimes means just living to see another down.
“Just playing smart,” McDermott shared. “We don’t need Josh to sacrifice his body as much as he does, just slide or go out of bounds from a health standpoint. Number one, because we need him healthy through the entire season. And number two is just keeping the big picture in mind at all times as much as possible that we’re just linking all three phases up to play complementary football, which is important. So, it doesn’t all have to happen at once or on one down in particular.”
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