Tale Of The Tape: Buffalo Bills At Chicago Bears
- QuarterbackThe Bills are hoping that second-year quarterback E.J. Manuel can stay healthy and make significant progress this season. He flashed his athletic ability and skills last year, but he had a hard time saying healthy. Manuel is a powerful man who can shake off the pass rush and throw the ball with power. If he can increase his consistency, the Bills could develop into a dangerous offensive team.The Bears have a very challenging schedule in the first half of the year, so it’s imperative that they get off to a good start in their season opener. Jay Cutler has had an excellent training camp, and he has the weapons to put stellar numbers on the board. He completed 63.1 percent of his passes last year and threw 19 touchdowns in an injury-shortened season a year ago.
- OffenseThe Bills have the weapons on offense to push hard for an upset against the soft Bears defense. Running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson figure to both have excellent days. Spiller has the speed to find a crease and break the long run, while Jackson has power. Wide receiver Robert Woods had a solid rookie season and the Bills would like to see more from him. Sammy Watkins (rib) is questionable for this game.Explosive running back Matt Forte is one of the most consistent players in the league. He is a solid runner and he plays a key role in the passing game. Brandon Marshall is one of the best big-play receivers in the league, while Alshon Jeffery has a huge wingspan and will not drop the ball. Tight end Martellus Bennett is a very solid third-down weapon.
- DefenseThe Bills have some legitimate talent on the defensive side of the ball, and it’s hard not to start with DT Kyle Williams. He is coming off a monster year in which he had 10.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. If defensive end Mario Williams can match the 13.0 sacks he had last year, the defensive line can be formidable. The secondary, however, is quite vulnerable.If the Bears are going to push the Green Bay Packers this year and make a run at the NFC North title, they have to show improvement on defense. They were awful against the run in 2013, and they appear to be in bad shape at the linebacker position again this season. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is depending on improved play from the line to help this unit step up.
- Special TeamsThe Bills got a surprisingly good season out of placekicker Dan Carpenter last year, as he made 33-of-36 FG attempts. Don’t expect the Bills to be anything more than ordinary in their coverage teams, while they appear to be limited by their own return ability.The Bears special teams were poor last year and they looked even worse during the preseason. The coverage teams appear to lack athleticism and determination. However, Robbie Gould is one of the most consistent kickers in the game. He made 26-of-29 FG attempts last year.
The Bears have a chance to be one of the most explosive offensive teams in the league this year. However, without an improved defense, they will have little chance of contending for a playoff spot. The Bills have a chance for the upset because of their sold running attack. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports