Brian Galliford of Buffalo Rumblings was kind enough to answer five Bills questions from me ahead of tomorrow's game at the Meadowlands.
1. Describe some of the differences since the Bills changed from E.J. Manuel to Kyle Orton at quarterback.
They're far more efficient passing the football, and they're far easier to sack and turn over. It's a classic "take the bad with the good" situation. Orton is utterly lacking in mobility and has literally run into the arms of defenders on a few occasions, and is a bit more cavalier with the football than Manuel was. But he's also completing 68.5 percent of his passes and getting the ball into the hands of the Bills' talented skill players, chiefly Sammy Watkins. The change has been a net positive, for sure, but the Bills are hardly great at that position.
2. How do you think the offense will change in light of the injuries to Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller?
Not an awful lot. Over the past five games, the Bills have morphed into a pass-heavy offense, averaging 41.4 passing attempts per contest. Spiller and especially Jackson are a huge part of that philosophy, and there's no doubt that Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown are a step back from the norm in terms of pass-catching ability. But they're going to run their offense, and that means they're going to throw the ball to their backs. They should just plan on needing to make a few more big plays to their receivers and Scott Chandler than usual.
3. Take us through the state of the offensive line.
It's a hot mess. Cordy Glenn is the only member of the starting line that is performing anywhere near league average. Eric Wood is having a bit of a down year, perhaps because the team's guards have been so bad. Erik Pears has been brutal moving to right guard from right tackle - particularly in the run game - and the left guard position continues to be a revolving door (it's looking like Kraig Urbik will be playing there this week). Seantrel Henderson, a rookie, is also a liability at right tackle, though he at least offers upside. They are beatable one-on-one, and they are often incapable of handling stunts. The Jets' defensive line should expect to have a banner day on Sunday.
4. How would you attack the Buffalo defense if you were the Jets?
After the way the Minnesota game went last week, I'd line up in two- or three-tight end sets and pound away at the Bills' base run defense. They looked great in the first six weeks of the season, and then regressed terribly against the Vikings, giving up 5.4 yards per rush and nearly giving a winnable game away at home. That will also slow down the Bills' pass rush, which currently leads the NFL in sacks. That seems like an obvious answer, given the Jets' quarterback situation, but it's easily the Jets' best bet. Buffalo's defense is pretty solid.
5. How do you feel if this game comes down to special teams?
Pretty good, though I'd feel better if they were a bit healthier on the coverage side of things. Buffalo's special teams were a disaster last season, but they made a concerted effort to beef up in that phase, and by and large those efforts have worked. They've lost their kick returner (Spiller), their short-area punt returner (Jackson), and several key coverage players (Ty Powell, probably Dixon thanks to his expanded role on offense, and Marcus Easley), but they've been able to fill in with quality players like Leodis McKelvin and Corey Graham. They're solid in that phase. They also have one of the game's better kickers at the moment in Dan Carpenter, who has made 47-of-52 kicks in his 23-game Bills career.