Bills Prepare For “Huge Game” Against Bears

Practicing in Chicago, the enormity of the challenge of playing a talented team that is favored by 7 is starting to be talked about at length by the Bills.
An offense that struggled to score in the team’s 1-4 preseason has  been criticized for a lack of production entering the regular season. However, quarterback E.J. Manuel, who head coach Doug Marrone said did show progress during preseason, is ready to “show” why fans should be more confident in him entering his second season.
“Coming out there in a regular season game, it’s a huge game,” said Manuel. “Chicago has a great defense, great offense and special teams.  I think it’s a huge  match-up for us.
“I can’t control what’s happened in the past.  You have to move and look forward.  Chicago is our first opportunity for this regular season and we want to come out there and start it off how we want to.”
Sammy Watkins 350
A big piece that was brought in this offseason to help Manuel, rookie receiver Sammy Watkins (ribs), does not have a definitive status for Sunday, according to Marrone.
“I think we’re just going to wait and see for the game,” said Marrone. “It’s hard to judge right now.”
After what he called a “great practice”, Watkins said he felt “pretty good” and is “ready to play”. But the uncertainty of how his body will react to game action is still something he doesn’t know.
“With the ribs you don’t know, whether you feel one hundred percent one day, or eighty, ninety,” said Watkins. “Until I get that first hit, that will explain it all. Now I know how it feels to get hit, and what the outcome will be. A lot of pain, losing your breath but it’s not going to take me out of the game. Just get a breather and come back in.”
Former Bears offensive lineman Chris Williams, who was drafted in the first round by Chicago in 2008, is also not sure to play on Sunday. He was not listed on the injury report, but Williams, who Marrone said has “done a nice job” at left guard, hasn’t been confirmed to play on Sunday.
“He was practicing today,” said Marrone. “I’m not going to guess what’s going to happen tomorrow. He was practicing today.”
The Bears offense scored the second-most points in the NFL last season, so it is assumed that Buffalo will need to score a lot of points to keep up. However, new Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz coached last year’s Detroit Lions to two victories over Chicago, with his defense forcing a combined five turnovers.
The fact that Schwartz has extensive experience game planning for the Bears when he was coaching an NFC North rival is something Marrone called “a great help for us”. Buffalo’s head coach expects the defense to improve, as though it forced
29 turnovers and had 57 sacks, there were also big plays allowed in crucial moments, something “that has to change”, especially this weekend.
“We’re playing a team that has the potential to make a lot of big plays with the guys that they have,” said Marrone. “Also, they have an outstanding running back [Matt Forte] and we have to make sure that we’re getting a lot of people around the ball to limit him. He’s probably a guy that not a lot of people talk about, but is probably one of the best backs in the league.”
Along with Forte and quarterback Jay Cutler to deal with in the backfield, Buffalo’s defense will have to limit the effectiveness of the three towering pass targets of Chicago’s offense. The duo of Brandon Marshall (6’4”) and Alshon Jeffrey (6’3”) at receiver, combined with tight end Martellus Bennett (6’6”) is a “tough matchup” for “anyone in the league”, Marrone told the media.
The task could be made more difficult due to starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore being limited in practice due to a groin injury, according to’s Matthew Fairburn.
Gilmore said after practice that he felt “pretty good”, and that he doesn’t think he will have any problem playing on Sunday. With the talent around Jay Cutler and his individual arm strength, Buffalo’s third-year corner thinks there will be chances for the secondary to take the ball away.
“A guy like him, he’s going to let it go no matter what,” Gilmore said of Cutler. “He trusts his guys to make plays so we will have a lot of opportunities to make plays and create turnovers. That’s my main goal, going up and getting the ball against their guys because he has trust in his guys to go up and get it on us.”
Another potential issue could be the weakside linebacker spot, as Kiko Alonso’s torn ACL and Nigel Bradham’s one-game suspension force the Bills to go with a combination of Ty Powell and rookie Preston Brown at the position. There would be “more of a concern”, Marrone stated, if Powell and Brown weren’t performing, but the second-year head coach believes the two players can “fill that void”.

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