Here are my three thoughts on the Buffalo Bills as they prepare to open the season Sunday against the New York Jets:
1. Those who were quick to declare that the Bills and Jets are playing for first place in the AFC East are correct, of course, but let's pump the brakes on attaching a whole lot of meaning to the New England Patriots' season-opening flop. I don't think the Patriots showed they should no longer be regarded as hands-down Super Bowl favorites. I don't think Tom Brady looks like he should have ridden off into retirement with a fifth Super Bowl ring after all.
They're still the Patriots and they're still the most talented team in the AFC East and better than most, if not all of the rest of the NFL.
What they showed in losing to the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday Night Football is that they: a.) miss Julian Edelman; b.) have issues to resolve on a defense that didn't look a whole lot better than the one that set the stage for that historic rally in Super Bowl LI; c.) have a lot of new players who are still learning how to play together.
So, yes, with the Patriots 0-1 and the Miami Dolphins not playing this week because of Hurricane Irma, the Bills and Jets are playing for the top spot in the division. But if you're tempted to believe that the Pats are going to be playing catch-up the rest of the season, then apparently you aren't familiar with their quarterback or their coach or the other talented players and coaches who haven't likely become bored with winning championships.
2. Well played, LeSean McCoy. You know that, with Sammy Watkins no longer around, you're the only thing the Bills have that represents elite talent. You know that, with Mike Gillislee scoring touchdowns for the Patriots and Jonathan Williams in Denver, there's no one else to pick up the running-back slack.
Therefore, even though you're an exceptionally well-paid running back at nearly $9 million, you wanted the Bills to be prepared to give you more if Sean McDermott does, in fact, make good on what he said the other day about doing "whatever it takes to win the game … If it means (McCoy's) got to play every snap, that’s what we’ll do."
They'll also pay for it, reportedly in $2.5 million in incentives added to the running back's contract.
3. Watching the new faces on the Patriots (including a couple of familiar ones to Bills fans, Gillislee and Stephon Gilmore) made me think about the many new ones who are playing for the Bills. Getting everyone to instantly jell isn't easy, and don't be shocked if that presents a problem or two – especially for the Bills' brand new secondary and receiving corps.
Much of what is done on both sides of the ball is based on timing, adjustments, and (our favorite word from the Rex Ryan Era) communication. Any breakdowns in those areas, and a season-opening game always presents ripe conditions for them to occur, will inevitably result in something bad happening.
The Bills should be the better team Sunday, but a lot of them are still getting to know each other and what they're supposed to do.