This week's opponent for the New York Giants is the Buffalo Bills, off to a 4-1 start that should have gotten the attention of Giants' fans -- and everyone around the league. To find out what's up with New York's 'other' NFL team I chatted earlier this week the editor of SB Nation's Bills site, Buffalo Rumblings, Brian Galliford.
We talked about a wide range of topics, which you will find after the jump. Be sure to stop by 'Rumblings,' where I also answered some questions. Brian is using those in an array of different posts throughout the week.
Ed: Bills are 4-1, already equaling last season's win total ... it's been a long time since the Bills have been good ... what does it feel like to be a Bills fan right now?
Brian: It feels like it did in 2008, when the Bills started 5-1 - it feels great. We're all just hoping that 2011 doesn't end the way 2008 did; the Bills finished 2-8 en route to a 7-9 season.
Ed: OK. What has keyed this start, and does it seem like a different, or better, team than 2008?
Brian: They're certainly a much tougher team than the 2008 club, both physically and mentally. And unlike the '08 club, this team has already beaten high-quality, ultra-talented opponents. Right now, the biggest factors for the team's success have been Chan Gailey's expert use of Fred Jackson, some shockingly excellent offensive line play, and a highly opportunistic defense.
Ed: Tell me about Chan Gailey. He didn't exactly succeed in Dallas. What is making him successful in Buffalo?
Brian: He didn't exactly fail in Dallas, either, which is worth noting - he got two seasons with an aging empire and squeaked two playoff seasons out of that team. He's been successful in Buffalo to this point because he's an excellent offensive play-caller, he's changed the mindset of his players and the culture of the locker room, and he's put together an unheralded (but quality) coaching staff.
Ed: Speaking of coaches, you asked me the other day about Perry Fewell. What do you think of Fewell?
Brian: I liked Fewell more as a head coach than I did as a defensive play-caller. Unless you're a head coach like Gailey or Mike Shanahan, head coaches on game days are essentially managers; yes, players are executing their systems, but that job is more about motivation, game-planning and managing the flow of a contest. Fewell was pretty good at doing those things; he always struck me as less good at the minutiae of a coordinator's job.
Ed: Interesting. Right now I think Giants fans would tell you he is not getting the most out of the talent he has, which is considerable.
Anyway, I will admit I don't follow the Bills closely. Tell me about some of the players we should watch for on Sunday who might not be 'household names' right now.
Brian: That would imply that the Bills do have household names somewhere; I'm still not sure that's the case. The big names offensively (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson) drive the offense. The big names defensively (Marcell Dareus, Shawne Merriman, Nick Barnett) drive the defense. One guy that's only now coming onto the radar is strong safety George Wilson, who just had a huge game against Mike Vick and the Eagles, and who is really coming into his own as a first-time starter at strong safety despite being 30 years old.
Ed: Looking at the Giants roster what single player would you like to take off the Giants and put in Buffalo's starting lineup?
Brian: The easy answer there is Hakeem Nicks. Buffalo is one receiver shy of fielding one of the most explosive and unpredictable offenses in the NFL, but they aren't currently able to beat defenses deep. That's not surprising given that they traded their deep threat, Lee Evans, prior to the start of the season. Nicks and Stevie Johnson would be one hell of a receiving duo to contend with, and combined, they could hurt defenses at all levels of the field.
Ed: Here's an off the wall question: Which team do Bills fans have more hatred for, the Jets or Patriots?
Brian: My goodness, that's a heck of a question. I'm not sure I can quantify that one way or another; up until Week 3, the easy answer would've been the Patriots considering they'd beaten the Bills 15 straight times, but that particular hurdle has been cleared. Choosing between those two teams is rather like choosing between two different strains of a virulent stomach bug; the end result is the same.
Ed: What key injuries are the Bills concerned about this week?
Brian: Donald Jones, the team's No. 2 receiver and best deep threat, suffered a high ankle sprain against the Eagles and will miss 4-6 weeks. Demetrius Bell, the team's left tackle, won't play with a shoulder injury; rookie Chris Hairston will replace him. Rookie nickel corner Aaron Williams has a collarbone injury that's kept him out of the last two games, and he won't play. Chris Kelsay tweaked a calf in practice late last week and probably won't be back until after the bye. Perhaps most importantly, Kyle Williams - the team's best and most consistent defender - has been dealing with a foot injury all season, missed practice Wednesday, and is looking questionable at best for Sunday.