Milt Northrop’s Sunday Playbook: Rookie QBs don’t have stellar history for Bills - The Buffalo News

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Milt Northrop’s Sunday Playbook: Rookie QBs don’t have stellar history for Bills

Welcome to the NFL, rookie.

History is not on the side of EJ Manuel today.

It’s a small sample size but past experience is working against Manuel coming out a winner as an opening day starter at quarterback for the Bills against the New England Patriots.

For all the success the rookie quarterback class enjoyed in 2012 – Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson led their teams to the playoffs – the newcomers started only 1-4 on Kickoff Weekend. RGIII threw for a pair of touchdowns and 320 yards in Washington’s 40-32 upset of the New Orleans Saints. Luck, Griffin, Wilson, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden saw their teams lose.

Manuel will become the fourth rookie quarterback to start the first game of the regular season in Bills’ history. Dan Darragh in 1968 and Jim Harris in 1969 were losers. Joe Ferguson was a winner in 1973.

Darragh’s baptism in 1968 came by default after Jack Kemp was injured in preseason. It was a 16-7 loss to the Pats at War Memorial Stadium. Darragh was 13 for 25 for 150 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns.

The Bills lost Harris’ debut to the New York Jets and Joe Namath, 33-19, at the Rockpile. He completed only 3-of-12 passes for 74 yards in O.J. Simpson’s first regular season game with Buffalo.

Ferguson completed 1-of-only-2 passes for 10 yards in the 31-13 victory over the Patriots in Foxborough in 1973. That was mostly Simpson’s show, however. He rambled for 250 yards, then an NFL single-game record, to start his historic 2,003-yard season.

Dennis Shaw in 1970 played as a rookie in the season opener, a 25-10 loss to the Denver Broncos at the Rockpile. However, Darragh started. Shaw did not get his first start until the third game of 1970 when he threw for 317 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 34-31 upset of Namath and the Jets.

Besides Manuel, Geno Smith of the Jets is scheduled to make his NFL debut as a starter at the position today in place of the injured Mark Sanchez.

A look at the Kickoff Week games:

Game of the day

Packers (12-6) at 49ers (13-5-1)

Kickoff: Ch. 29, 4:25 p.m.

The line: 49ers (-4)

The scoop: Rematch of 2012 opener won by Niners, 30-22, at Lambeau. Niners then won divisional round playoff over Pack at home, 45-31, when Colin Kaepernick went wild for 181 yards rushing with two TDs and 263 passing and two TDs. ... Packers counting on Alabama rookie Eddie Lacy as counter-balance to passing of Aaron Rodgers. ... WR Anquan Boldin is Niners’ new weapon.

Outlook: Best game on the schedule pits read-option QB (Kaepernick) against traditional, but athletic, pocket passer (Rodgers). Niners, 33-30.

Top attractions

Falcons (14-4) at Saints (7-9)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Saints (-3)

The scoop: NFC South rivals get right to it. ... Sean Payton back coaching Saints again after Bounty-Gate suspension. His record against Atlanta: 10-2. Atlanta coach Mike Smith is only 3-7 against Saints. ... Falcons have added former Rams RB Steven Jackson, but this is a passing team.

Outlook: Saints had worst defense in league in ’12, but led NFC in offense. New Orleans, 41-33.

Giants (9-7) at Cowboys (8-8)

TV: Ch. 2, 8:30 p.m.

The line: Cowboys (-3)

The scoop: Only the second time Cowboys have opened at home in last 10 years, both times against Giants. ... Monte Kiffin is new defensive coordinator for ‘Boys, replacing Rob Ryan. ... Dallas still has a lot of holes to fill, but WR Dez Bryant seems ready for huge breakout season.

Outlook: Giants defense was not impressive in preseason, but this is not the preseason. New York, 22-17.

Eagles (4-12) at Redskins (10-7)

TV: ESPN, Monday, 7:10 p.m.

The line: Redskins (-3)

The scoop: Chip Kelly and Doug Marrone come to NFL from college jobs, but unlike new Bills coach, Kelly has no NFL background. ... Redskins defensive boss Jim Haslett has task of cooking up schemes to slow down Eagles’ quick-tempo, spread offense run by Michael Vick. ... How much freedom will RGIII be given in his first game after major knee surgery?

Outlook: Can Redskins repeat surprise division title of ’12? Washington, 35-27.

Bengals (10-7) at Bears (10-6)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Bears (-3)

The scoop: The Bears’ new coach, Mark Trestman, follows path Marv Levy took in 1986 from Montreal Alouettes to NFL. Former University of Minnesota QB was volunteer assistant at Miami when Jim Kelly played there. ... Bengals QB Andy Dalton has best winning percentage (.594) as a starter in team history.

Outlook: Bengals are young and talented. Bears are older and just as talented. Chicago, 17-13.

Best of the rest

Seahawks (12-6) at Panthers (7-9)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Seahawks (-3)

The scoop: Seattle was 1-3 in Eastern games that started at 10 a.m. PDT last season and 19-34 the past 12 years. ... For what its worth: Seattle went 4-0 in preseason. ... Panthers QB Cam Newton will go against a Seahawks defense that ranked fourth in the league last season.

Outlook: LB Luke Kuechly and Newton lead Panthers upset, 24-21.

Patriots (13-5) at Bills (6-10)

TV: Ch. 4, 1 p.m.

The line: Patriots (-10)

The scoop: Doug Marrone debuts as sixth Bills head coach to serve in this millennium. ... Besides QB, Buffalo has huge questions in defensive secondary. ... Aqib Talib probably will draw coverage assignment on Bills WR Stevie Johnson.

Outlook: Bills could surprise because they didn’t show much in last two preseason games, but it’s too early for EJ and unproven secondary. New England, 31-10.

Dolphins (7-9) at Browns (5-11)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Browns (-1)

The scoop: Ownership change brought more instability to Browns. Rob Chudzinski is latest to try Cleveland head coaching chair with much-maligned Norv Turner as new offensive coordinator. ... WR Mike Wallace, Dolphins’ prize offseason acquisition, averaged 20.8 yards per catch for Steelers against Cleveland.

Outlook: Neither side is an offensive powerhouse, but Dolphins have more weapons. Miami, 20-17.

Vikings (10-7) at Lions (4-12)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Lions (-5)

The scoop: NFL rushing champion Adrian Peterson carried 48 times for 273 yards and 5.7 average as Vikings swept the Lions in 2012. ... Lions were huge disappointment in 4-12 season. They are counting on newcomer Reggie Bush to terrorize division opponents, especially indoors.

Outlook: Lions don’t win close ones, even at home. Vikes, 31-27.

Chiefs (2-14) at Jaguars (2-14)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Chiefs (-4)

The scoop: Bottom feeders in 2012 start over with new coaches. Andy Reid takes over under-achieving K.C. team. Gus Bradley, who was defensive coordinator with Seahawks, is new man for Jax. ... Alex Smith should be improvement at QB for K.C., but Jags won’t make a big improvement unless QB Blaine Gabbert turns it around.

Outlook: Some believe K.C. can make worst-to-first jump in AFC West. K.C., 30-14.

Buccaneers (7-9) at Jets (6-10)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Bucs (-3)

The scoop: So-so Jets made disproportionate amount of headlines in offseason as the Rex Ryan Soap Opera plays on. ... Rookie Geno Smith starts at QB for Jets. ... Ex Jets CB Darrelle Revis debuts for Bucs against his old team. ... New York has won last seven against Bucs and is 9-1 all-time in rivalry.

Outlook: Geno isn’t ready and the Jets have few other weapons. Greg Schiano comes back to New Jersey for 24-13 win.

Titans (6-10) at Steelers (8-8)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Steelers (-7)

The scoop: Pittsburgh went 0-4 in preseason and seem to be getting older right before our eyes. ... Titans coach Mike Munchak, a Hall of Fame guard, is building team from inside out with addition of ex-Bill Andy Levitre and No. 1 pick Chance Warmack (Alabama) at guards.

Outlook: Steelers have won last 10 home openers. Make it 11 but by only, 24-23.

Cardinals (5-11) at Rams (7-8-1)

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.

The line: Rams (-4)

The scoop: Bruce Arians, who once was head coach at Temple and UAB and guided Colts to playoffs last year as fill-in coach, gets team of his own. His mission: Ignite league’s worst offense. Carson Palmer at QB should be improvement. ... Rams will put the heat on Palmer with pass rushers Chris Long and Robert Quinn. ... St. Louis’ top rookie is explosive, exciting WR Tavon Austin.

Outlook: Neither defense will get pushed around. Cardinals gain upset over divisional foe, 20-17.

Texans (13-5) at Chargers (7-9)

TV: ESPN, Monday, 10:20 p.m.

The line: Texans (-4)

The scoop: Houston has been on upswing last two seasons and getting MLB Brian Cushing back from knee surgery could push them over the top. ... Mike McCoy debuts as Bolts’ new coach in San Diego upheaval that saw Norv Turner and A.J. Smith swept out.

Outlook: This team is not as talented as some recent Chargers teams, but good enough, at home, to give Texans problems. Houston, 23-21.

Dog of the day

Raiders (4-12) at Colts (11-6)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Colts (-10)

The scoop: Terrelle Pryor will start for Raiders at QB but he won’t be a match for Luck, who seems primed for a huge season. Colts’ new receiving target is ex-Raider Darrius Heyward-Bey.

Outlook: Raiders are too thin in too many places. Colts, 27-13.

Last season’s record: 146-97-1 outright, 109-118-6 versus spread.


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