Three things I’m watching Sunday:
Will the real Josh Allen please stand up
For about 80 percent of the plays last week against the Jets, Josh Allen was pretty good. Nothing spectacular, but lots of calm, cool professional quarterback throws. He completed 65 percent of his passes, a number that felt like a pipe dream even on his good days last season.
The other 20 percent of plays nearly lost the Bills the game. Yeah, there were some unfortunate bounces, but there were fortunate ones, too. If Marcus Maye hangs on late in the third quarter, we’re talking this week about that fourth quarter comeback as “garbage time” production.
Was the 65 percent completion percentage the product of one good game or one good gameplan against a team with dreadful corners? Or is Allen just a few more safe decisions from becoming a legit dangerous NFL QB?
The Fab Five…. or Six
The Bills offensive line had never played together before in a game. Mitch Morse had never taken a snap with a real Bills uniform on. Yet, they were mostly excellent in the opener, especially protecting the pass. Sure, Dion Dawkins got dusted for the sack-fumble on the opening drive and just about everyone had a moment of weakness, but Allen also seemed to have oodles of time to throw on most pass plays.
There’s no Gregg Williams dreaming up money blitzes on the other sideline this week (he had a few last week I thought were so good, no team would have had an answer). I’m interested to see where this line can go. Run blocking left a bit to be desired, so there’s room to improve. And do we see Ty Nsekhe and Cody Ford continue to split reps? It was 37-32 Ford last week. The rookie fared well in his NFL debut. Will he eventually just take the job full time?
The Book of Eli
Look, Saquan Barkley is going to get his. I don’t care what the Bills think they have dreamed up to snuff him. At the end of the day, Barkley’s stat line will read 100-plus combined yards and thousands more jaws dropped.
The danger for the Bills, in my opinion, is if Eli Manning has enough smarts and guile to see through what the Bills are trying to sell presnap with blitzes and coverages. Sam Darnold came into last week’s game with a ton of talent, but only 13 starts. He never looked comfortable. Manning will have much less talent at this point in his career compared to Darnold, but 231 starts worth of experience.
Evan Engram is a budding star at tight end. Barkley is a weapon out of the backfield. I think the receivers can be good enough. Can Eli turn back the clock and dissect the Bills defense that overwhelmed the Jets in week one?
It’s a credit to how far the Bills have come that a road game feels like a “should” win. The Giants don’t defend the pass any better than the Jets do, so Allen, John Brown and his merry band of receiving friends should find plenty of open spaces.
You never know with a veteran, Super Bowl winning, likely Hall of Fame quarterback, but Manning isn’t immune from looking overwhelmed and what the Bills D did to Darnold last week certainly seems like no fluke.
I think there’s a decent chance the Bills game at MetLife against the team in blue looks a lot like the game in the same stadium against the team in green. It won’t be 100 percent pretty, but Buffalo will open the season with a pair of road wins for the first time in team history. Bills win 21-13.