AFC East: Rian Lindell

Rian Lindell's letter to Bills fans

August, 21, 2013
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Released by the Buffalo Bills on Monday, kicker Rian Lindell signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday, the team announced.

Lindell played 10 seasons for the Bills and ranks second in franchise history with 225 field goals and 980 points.

On Wednesday, the Bills' official website posted an open letter from Lindell to Bills fans:
Bills Nation,

Thank you, Bills fans, for all the support I've received over the years and over the last few days. I always tried to remember the people I represented every time I put the Bills uniform on. Over the years, I've truly enjoyed hearing the many stories Bills fans had to share from Sundays at the Ralph.

I’ll never forget the feeling of driving into the parking lot on game day and seeing the excitement of fans young or old, warm or cold, going through their pregame routines in anticipation of a Bills victory. What I came to understand over the years, was the genuine passion Western New York and Bills nation has for their Bills, and I can't tell you how appreciative I am to have been a part of it for a decade.

I also want to thank Mr. Wilson and each and each and every person in the organization for 10 great years together. You made my family and I feel like we were truly a part of your family, and we were proud to “circle the wagons” with you.

Thank you Buffalo, and while I begin a new and exciting chapter of my career, I look forward to our paths crossing again down the road.

Rian Lindell

Bills slowly trimming active roster

August, 19, 2013
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The Buffalo Bills have been busy on the NFL's transaction wire over the past week. With the team's third preseason game approaching -- they travel Saturday to face the Washington Redskins -- the Bills have begun the process of paring down their 90-man roster.

Here's a snapshot look at their moves since last Tuesday, which have cleared eight roster spots:

Aug. 13: Waived P Brian Stahovich
Aug. 14: Waived/injured TE Mike Caussin; signed LB Jamaal Westerman
Aug. 15: Placed Caussin on injured reserve; waived DT Aaron Tipoti
Aug. 18: Placed WR Kevin Elliott on injured reserve; waived OT Tony Hills, WR Terrell Sinkfield, CB Don Unamba, and S Mark LeGree
Aug. 19: Released K Rian Lindell

In the last week, the Bills have settled their kicker battle by releasing Lindell, as well as their competition at punter by cutting Stahovich. Meanwhile, Tipoti and Caussin had missed most of training camp with injuries, and Elliott suffered a season-ending injury in Friday's preseason game.

As of Monday afternoon, the Bills' roster stands at 82 players. All NFL teams must trim their roster to 75 players by Aug. 27 at 4 p.m. ET.

Here's an early look at where the Bills can make some further snips to their squad:

Offensive line -- The Bills are carrying 15 offensive linemen on their active roster. According to the Buffalo News' Jay Skurski, only Keith Williams and Thomas Welch were held out of practice Monday. Meanwhile, tackle Chris Hairston remains on the active/physically unable to perform list. Moving him to the reserve/PUP list would clear a roster spot, but keep him out at least the first six weeks of the regular season. Either way, the Bills look to carry only about half of these 15 players into the regular season.

Defensive line -- The Bills have a pair of big-name players who are working back from injuries (Mario Williams and Kyle Williams), which could lead Buffalo to stay heavy on their defensive line numbers through the final two weeks of the preseason. Yet a longshot such as Izaan Cross (11 snaps vs. Minnesota) could be part of the 75-man trim.

Safety -- Even as franchise-tagged Jairus Byrd remains unsigned, there's not a whole lot of intrigue at this position. Aaron Williams and Da'Norris Searcy have filled in well in Byrd's place and will stay in those spots for now. Beyond that, the Bills invested two draft picks in safeties (Jonathan Meeks and Duke Williams), and unless there's a late injury, they also will be in the mix. That might mean Jordan Dangerfield (13 snaps vs. Minnesota) and Dominique Ellis (eight snaps vs. Minnesota) could be soon on the outs.
The Buffalo Bills released long-time kicker Rian Lindell on Monday morning, the team announced.

Hopkins
Even after 10 seasons with the team, the writing for Lindell's departure had been on the wall after the Bills drafted kicker Dustin Hopkins in the sixth round in April.

Lindell performed well this preseason, with three of his four kickoffs reaching the opposing end zone. In his only field-goal attempt, Lindell converted from 30 yards.

But at 36 years old and with a $2.1 million base salary, it was tough to see Lindell in the Bills' plans once Hopkins was added.

Hopkins, 22, has a $405,000 base salary and was perfect on his field goals in the first two preseason games (24, 23, 39, and 35 yards).

In four seasons at Florida State, Hopkins became the NCAA's all-time leader in points (466) and field goals made (88). In 2012, he was named to the first-team All-ACC and was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award for the nation's best kicker.

But among Seminoles, Hopkins won't be alone in the Bills' special teams room.

Punter Shawn Powell and long snapper Garrison Sanborn also played at Florida State, although Sanborn graduated in 2009, the spring before Hopkins arrived in Tallahassee.

With Sanborn one of the NFL's better long snappers and Powell locking in his job earlier in training camp, the Bills' all-Seminole specialists can expect to spend at least this upcoming season together.

Links: Lamar Miller learns from Frank Gore

July, 12, 2013
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Buffalo Bills

Free safety Jairus Byrd and the Bills are still far from striking a deal before the July 15 deadline to sign the one-year franchise tender. "I would be completely and utterly shocked if there was a deal done by Monday," a league source told sports station WGR 550. "There are no talks going on. Someone would have to seriously cave."

Undrafted rookie Kendall Gaskins says he'll likely be used more as a running back instead of at fullback in the Bills' offense.

Veteran kicker Rian Lindell has been a mainstay for the Bills since 2003, but that doesn't mean rookie Dustin Hopkins isn't going to compete for the job.

Miami Dolphins

Second-year running back Lamar Miller is getting a summer education of his own, working out with 49ers back Frank Gore. “Since Lamar started gravitating toward Frank, his work ethic and mentality are unparalleled,” said Pete Bommarito, who runs the Bommarito Performance Systems, where Gore, Miller and many other NFL players train in the offseason, according to the Miami Herald.

Rookie first-round pick Dion Jordan joins Miami’s defensive line, the team's deepest unit.

A.J. Francis, a 309-pound rookie defensive tackle for the Dolphins, says via Twitter that ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue should include a variety of people.

Andy Behrens of Roto Arcade says the most important variable for Dolphins fantasy owners is quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

New England Patriots

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski held a book signing for "Growing up Gronk" on Thursday, and he said he's "in great spirits" about the upcoming season.

As the Aaron Hernandez case continues on, the Miami Herald's David J. Neal has a piece of advice for those looking to place responsibility and blame: "Leave Urban Meyer alone."

Continuing a month-long series analyzing players who are on the roster bubble and where they might potentially fit in 2013, ESPNBoston.com's Mike Rodak looks at tight end Daniel Fells.

Tight end is the position being most talked about around Foxborough, and ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss projects how the position might play out given all the question marks.

New York Jets

Jonathan Mael, new media coordinator for MLB.com, recently published a tweet in which he compared Jets' offensive lineman Oday Aboushi to former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.

Geno Smith’s failure to show up at what is largely considered a team-building weekend doesn’t speak highly of the relationship between the rookie quarterback and veteran Mark Sanchez, writes Seth Walder of the New York Daily News.

NFL.com's Dan Hanzus digs up Jets coach Rex Ryan's autobiography, "Play Like You Mean It," only to find that "Ryan wanted to write a book about the beginning of a great future for the New York Jets. Instead, he accidentally managed to distill everything that's frustrating about being a fan of New York's other team."

Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg talks with Eric Allen, of the team's official website, about the changes in store for the Jets' offense this season.
Quarterback isn't the only position where there will be various competitions involving rookies in training camp. Two teams in the AFC East also drafted place kickers on Day 3 of the NFL draft.

The Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills picked kickers in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively. The Dolphins selected Florida kicker Caleb Sturgis and Buffalo picked Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins.

Sturgis will compete with Dolphins veteran kicker Dan Carpenter, who struggled at times last season. Carpenter missed five field-goal attempts in 2012 and botched 21 attempts the past three seasons. Carpenter has kicked in Miami for six consecutive seasons, but may have to earn his spot against Sturgis this summer. It's also possible that Carpenter could be a salary-cap casualty for the Dolphins, who spent a lot of money in free agency this offseason.

Meanwhile, veteran kicker Rian Lindell has been a staple in Buffalo for nine seasons. His accuracy remains solid. But at 36, Lindell's leg strength is diminishing. Hopkins comes to Buffalo as the NCAA's all-time leading scorer. Most importantly, Hopkins has a strong leg, which is needed in Buffalo's inclement weather for field goals and kickoffs. Similar to Carpenter, Lindell also could become a salary-cap casualty. But at the very least, Lindell must compete for his job.

Keep an eye on both of these new kicking developments in the AFC East this offseason.
Buffalo BillsUS PresswireCoach Chan Gailey, with Mario Williams and a healthy Fred Jackson, could lead a dark-horse team.

The scene at the AFC coaches' breakfast in Palm Beach, Fla., was fitting.

To my far left was New York Jets coach Rex Ryan. He was surrounded by a large group of media who wanted to know how the Jets would handle Tim Tebow-mania and whether they could bounce back from a disappointing 2011.

To my immediate left was new Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin. A throng of reporters wondered what the rookie head coach had in store for his first season.

On my right was future Hall of Fame coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. He continually gave non-answers about his team as reporters tried to dig up something -- anything -- about the reigning AFC champions.

In the middle of this madness was Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey. His table was relatively empty for most of the hourlong breakfast, with the exception of a few passers-by and this AFC East blogger. Few in the national media cared to know what Gailey and the Bills were up to. They're a small-market team that finished 6-10 last season and hasn't been to the playoffs in 13 years.

But by this time next year, people will be talking about Buffalo. The Bills are my sleeper pick in 2012. Here are five reasons why Buffalo will get over the hump and finish with a winning record:

Reason No. 1: Bills made right moves in free agency

[+] EnlargeMark Anderson
Fernando Medina/US PresswireFormer Patriot Mark Anderson gives Buffalo another proven pass-rusher on its defensive line.
Analysis: I will give myself a pat on the back. I was one of the first to note Buffalo's interest in two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams. Despite my prediction, I did not think Buffalo would be able to land the top defensive free agent on the market. But the Bills put on the full-court press and gave Williams 100 million reasons to join them. Buffalo gained an elite pass-rusher and its first game-changer on defense.

The Bills didn't stop there. They continued to improve their anemic pass-rush by signing former Patriots defensive end Mark Anderson, who recorded 10 sacks last season. Williams, Anderson and defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus make up one of the top defensive lines in the NFL. It's a group who can stop the run and get push up the middle while attacking the edges and pressuring the quarterback. Buffalo's talented front four will be a problem for a lot of teams next season.

The Bills also retained their own key free agents. Buffalo re-signed No. 1 receiver Steve Johnson at an affordable rate and starting tight end Scott Chandler.

There are still a few more holes Buffalo would like to fill, but the team is one of the biggest winners in free agency.

Reason No. 2: Double trouble at running back

Analysis: When they are healthy, there may not be a more dynamic running back duo in the NFL than Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. These two will be headaches for opposing defenses once Buffalo figures out how to blend both into the offense simultaneously. Jackson and Spiller could complement each other well.

Buffalo's coaching staff admittedly did a poor job of balancing the two tailbacks last season. Jackson received a bulk of the carries when healthy, and Spiller finally showed what he could do at the end of the season once Jackson was injured. Now, both are hungry and want the football. Gailey called it "a great problem to have."

Jackson is 31 and coming off a season-ending leg injury. That should open the door for Spiller to get more carries. Will it be a 50-50 split? Probably not. But the Buffalo offense will be dangerous if it can use Spiller and Jackson enough to keep each fresh and productive the entire season.

Reason No. 3: AFC East is weakening

Analysis: A case can be made that the AFC East became a weaker division this offseason. The division wasn't strong to begin with; only the Patriots finished with a winning record in 2011. But the 6-10 Dolphins gutted their roster, getting rid of top players such as Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall and leading tackler and starting safety Yeremiah Bell. Miami also failed to land a franchise quarterback and settled on 34-year-old David Garrard as the potential starter next season. It's early, but it's hard to imagine Miami's finishing with a better record than last season.

Meanwhile, the Jets are an aging team with chemistry issues. New York gave embattled quarterback Mark Sanchez a three-year contract extension and then traded for popular backup Tebow, setting up a potentially explosive situation. The Jets will be on a year-long implosion watch, and their arrow could be trending downward after last season's mediocre 8-8 finish.

The Jets, Dolphins and Bills are all chasing the Patriots, who are clearly the favorites in the division. But the Bills, who split with New England last season, did a solid job to make up some ground.

Reason No. 4: Players are getting healthy

Analysis: I usually try to avoid the injury excuse, because every team has them, but it legitimately applies to the Bills. Buffalo suffered key injures last season at running back (Jackson), defensive tackle (Kyle Williams), linebacker (Shawne Merriman), offensive line (Eric Wood), receiver (Donald Jones) and kicker (Rian Lindell), just to name a few. Bills starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick played much of the season with a painful rib injury. By the second half of the season, the Bills didn't have anywhere near the same depth they had during their 4-1 start.

Most of these players are expected to be back and healthy in 2012. Merriman is perhaps the biggest question mark after his second season-ending Achilles injury. But chances are slim that Buffalo will be hit this hard with injuries again. Health will be key for Buffalo to maintain a successful run over 16 games.

Reason No. 5: Bills have a top-10 pick

Analysis: The Bills have had a productive offseason, but they aren't done yet. They still have a top-10 pick in this month's NFL draft. This is a great opportunity for Buffalo to plug more holes on the roster. The Bills could use a starting-caliber left tackle, another threat at receiver, a cover corner and depth at linebacker.

The Bills also have more than $9 million in cap room to spend. Don't rule out late signings in free agency. After years of not spending to the cap, Buffalo tabbed 2012 as the year to make a push.

All of these reasons make the Bills my ideal sleeper pick for next season. Don't forget that you heard it here first.
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday morning in the AFC East: Morning take: The AFC East blog called this one weeks ago. New Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano was a big supporter of Henne while in Miami. It didn't work out for either party. But it makes a lot of sense to have Henne reunited with Sparano and push Jets starting quarterback Mark Sanchez next season.
  • Will the New England Patriots make a play for free agent defensive end/linebacker Mario Williams?
Morning take: In a perfect world, Williams is just what New England's defense needs. He's a game-changer who can get to the quarterback. But financially this would be tough. New England has the cap room, but Williams and receiver Wes Welker would take up a majority of it.
Morning take: I think Miami should go the route of free agency. Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn are better options at this point, considering it only takes money to get these quarterbacks. The price for Griffin III is going to be a lot, and Miami needs its draft picks to help other areas.
  • The Buffalo Bills' special teams were ranked 11th according to the Dallas Morning News.
Morning take: Buffalo's third unit was solid, especially when Rian Lindell was healthy early in the season. The kicking and punting from Lindell and Brian Moorman, respectivley, combined with big returns from Leodis McKelvin helped Buffalo's numbers.

Previewing AFC East salary cap

January, 20, 2012
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Free agency begins in less than two months. Teams around the league are planning their strategies and figuring out which big names to pursue.

But where teams stand with the $120-million salary cap next season will be an indicator of which will be aggressive and which won't.

Let's take an early look at the projected 2012 cap numbers in the AFC East:

Buffalo Bills (6-10)

Projected cap: $105.5 million

Key free agents: WR Steve Johnson, TE Scott Chandler, K Rian Lindell

Analysis: The Bills are looking pretty good entering free agency. General manager Buddy Nix says the team will spend to the cap this year. The first order of business is deciding on Johnson's future. The two sides are still a ways apart and I think it's a 50-50 proposition. With or without Johnson, Buffalo has the space to acquire impact players. We mentioned Houston Texans defensive end/linebacker and unrestricted free agent Mario Williams as a possibility to help the Bills' pass rush. But getting Williams -- or any top free agent -- to come to Buffalo will be a tough sell.

Miami Dolphins (6-10)

Projected cap: $114.3 million

Key free agents: DT Paul Soliai, G Vernon Carey, QB Chad Henne

Analysis: The Dolphins are in decent (but not great) shape with the cap. There will be an interesting dynamic in Miami to keep an eye on this offseason. Usually when a new coach comes in, there is huge turnover in the coach's first season. But that probably won't happen with general manager Jeff Ireland still in charge of the 53-man roster. Ireland is not going to cut many of the players he helped bring to Miami. But the Dolphins would have to do something if they want to make enough room to make a splash for a big free agent. Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn is a good example.

New England Patriots (13-3)

Projected cap: $99.9 million

Key free agents: WR Wes Welker, DE Andre Carter, WR Deion Branch

Analysis: It's amazing that the best team in the AFC East also is in the best shape with the cap. The Patriots have done a masterful job and have plenty of money to spend in free agency if they choose. A big chunk of it will go to Welker, who is due for a nice payday. New England won't let Welker slip away. The Patriots also have the tools to acquire defensive help in free agency, as well as sign their two first-round picks and two second-round picks in the draft. The Patriots are in position to be a major force again next season.

New York Jets (8-8)

Projected cap: $125 million

Key free agents: WR Plaxico Burress, DT Sione Pouha, S Jim Leonhard

Analysis: The Jets are the only AFC East team projected to be over the cap. This was a team built to win now and it didn't work out; now New York has to make some trimmings on the roster if it wants to do anything in free agency. There's a good chance Burress and Leonhard won't return. Pouha is a good player and could come back at the right price. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson also is a free agent. But his role was drastically reduced this past season and it's unlikely he will return. Tomlinson is contemplating retirement.

Morning take: Bring on the Ravens

January, 16, 2012
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Here are the most interesting stories Monday morning in the AFC East: Morning take: Baltimore and New England were the two best teams in the conference from start to finish. I expect a great game that could go either way.
Morning take: McCoy did a great job designing an offense for Tim Tebow. Don't expect that kind of offense to work in Miami. But McCoy is versatile and developing a buzz around the league for the job he's done this season.
Morning take: Everyone is aware that No. 1 receiver Steve Johnson is on this list. But there are some underrated players like tight end Scott Chandler and kicker Rian Lindell who are solid. Buffalo says it will spend up to the cap in free agency this year.
  • New York Jets tailback LaDainian Tomlinson says it's possible the wide receivers were doing the anonymous bashing of quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Morning take: It's unfair to speculate who said what when there's no name attached. So I'm not going to go there. But I will say if New York's receivers feel that way about the quarterback, the Jets have some major issues.

Morning take: Patriots in Super Bowl?

December, 9, 2011
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Here are the most interesting stories Friday morning in the AFC East: Morning take: The Patriots have a shot in a flawed AFC. But home-field advantage will be important. In addition to the four teams listed (Patriots, Packers, Ravens, Steelers), I would add the Saints to that list.
Morning take: They have to for the betterment of New York's inconsistent offense. Both coaches probably have their own ideas on how to run things. But the Jets would be best if they took the best from each coach.
Morning take: McCoy is good but he's no Sanders. Still, the Dolphins have a big challenge trying to stop McCoy this week.
Morning take: Buffalo was holding out hope for Lindell. But with virtually no chance of making the playoffs, there was no reason to risk it. Lindell had another solid season before the injury. He had Buffalo's most memorable kick to beat the Patriots in Week 3.

AFC East update: Bills add kicker

November, 8, 2011
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Here are the latest happenings Tuesday evening in the AFC East:
  • The Buffalo Bills signed kicker Dave Rayner to fill in for the injured Rian Lindell (shoulder).
  • The December 4 game between the New England Patriots (5-3) and Indianapolis Colts (0-9) has been taken off prime time due to flex scheduling.
  • The New York Jets reportedly have no interest in acquiring former Patriots defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.
  • Former Miami Dolphins head coach Jimmy Johnson says Miami should forget about Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher.
  • Here is a recap of this week's AFC East chat.

Morning take: Updating Bills injuries

November, 8, 2011
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Here are the most interesting stories Tuesday morning in the AFC East:
  • Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News reports Bills defensive lineman Kyle Williams (foot) is expected to miss the rest of the season and kicker Rian Lindell (shoulder) will miss 4-6 weeks.
Morning take: The Bills have been able to overcome injuries all season. But these two leaders will be hard to replace as Buffalo goes through a key stretch in its season.
  • Gary Myers of the New York Daily News believes the Giants (6-2) are better than the Jets (5-3).
Morning take: The Giants have a better record and beat the Patriots, which is something the Jets haven’t done. But it’s a long season and plenty of football left to play.
  • ESPN's Adam Schefter reports New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes has a strained MCL.
Morning take: It’s strange that MCLs have been the injury of choice for New England. Tight end Aaron Hernandez and linebacker Jerod Mayo also missed time this season with the same injury.
  • Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne tells Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post that he's "gung-ho" about being a Dolphin.
Morning take: That sounds nice. But Henne is going to be a free agent coming off season-ending shoulder surgery. Add in the fact a new head coach will take over, and it's virtually a certainty Miami will be looking for a new quarterback.

Inside the Buffalo Bills' offense

September, 30, 2011
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Fred Jackson, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Steve JohnsonGetty ImagesFred Jackson, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Steve Johnson have the Bills leading the NFL in scoring.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The NFL's highest-scoring offense might be found in Buffalo, but it was hatched in Pittsburgh.

In the mid-1990s, Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey was a wide receivers coach for the Steelers. Gailey realized he had a deep and talented group, and convinced Pittsburgh -- primarily a running team -- to use more four-receiver sets.

"We kind of evolved to it, to be honest with you," Gailey said. "Ron Erhardt was the offensive coordinator, and we had four really good players. We had Ernie Mills, Andre Hastings, and Charles Johnson and Yancey Thigpen. So we said, 'How can we get them on the field at the same time?'"

The concept helped lead the Steelers to the Super Bowl after the 1995 season. Sixteen years later, Gailey's spread offense is tearing up the NFL once again. The Bills lead the league in scoring with 113 points in three games. Buffalo (3-0) averages 37.7 points per game, is third in total offense and is the only undefeated team in the AFC.

Now, instead of Neil O'Donnell, the Bills have fast-rising quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Thigpen's role as the No. 1 receiver in Gailey's offense is filled by Buffalo's Steve Johnson. Charles Johnson and Hastings are replaced by Donald Jones and David Nelson. Receiver Naaman Roosevelt, tight end Scott Chandler and tailback C.J. Spiller share time as Buffalo's fourth receiver.

Even Kordell "Slash" Stewart, who was used on trick plays by Gailey and Pittsburgh's staff, is comparable to Bills receiver/quarterback/returner Brad Smith. But so far, Buffalo hasn't used many trick plays.

Gailey's system thrives on several core principles. First, by lining up with four receivers, Buffalo is able to "expand the defense." Buffalo's alignment forces defenses to spread out. It creates bigger seams, and makes it easier for the quarterback to read defenses and recognize blitzes.

Fitzpatrick, a Harvard graduate, is one of the smartest quarterbacks in the league. He’s done a great job of reading defenses pre-snap, and changing routes and protection. It's led to Fitzpatrick’s fast start and his earning AFC player of the month honors. He's thrown for 871 yards and nine touchdowns in three games.

"When he's confident, on top of his game and hot, he's really hard to deal with," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said of Fitzpatrick. "I don't know if that's going to keep up for 16 games. But he's on fire right now. He's at the pinnacle of his game."

Buffalo's spread also takes defenses out of their comfort zones. Every base defense in the NFL has three or four linebackers. The Bills, with three and four receivers, create tough choices. If opponents stay in their base defense, they have to cover wide receivers with linebackers. If opponents go away from their base defense, some of the better, front-seven players are taken off the field. That makes it easier to run the football. Bills tailback Fred Jackson is fourth in the NFL in rushing yards (303).

It's a catch-22 opponents have yet to figure out.

"Oakland stayed in a lot of base, and we exploited that," Jones said. "David in the middle, if they're going to keep a linebacker on him, that's a mismatch all day. Kansas City did the same thing.

"That's why we do it: to see what the defense is going to do. Are they going to bring in extra corners, or are they going to stay base? We're going to exploit it, whatever it is."

Buffalo's offense works because it defies stereotypes. With spreads, typically you think of big plays in the passing game but also a lot of sacks and struggles running the ball. Fitzpatrick has been sacked just once this season, and Buffalo is fourth in the league in rushing. The Bills average 5.6 yards per carry.

One of the secrets of Buffalo's success has been its receivers' blocking downfield. Buffalo is second in the NFL with six runs of 20 yards or more.

"This is what we tell our receivers: 'Do you want the running back to block the protection when you're running a route so you can catch a pass?'" Gailey said. "If you do, then when he's running the ball, you block for him because we're in this thing together."

Gailey's selfless team concept is working for the Bills. Buffalo usually sends four receivers out on passing plays, and it's Jackson's responsibility to block the extra rusher.

"I don't know if there's a better pass-protecting back in the league with what he does," Fitzpatrick said. "The fans and everybody watching the game, they see his runs, they see what he does after the catch, but that’s the thing that nobody really talks about and that’s what makes him one of the most complete backs in the game.

"He's taken on defensive linemen, he's taken on defensive ends and he's storming linebackers. Whatever it is, he's the best I've played with in terms of picking up blitzes. There are no stats for that."

The success of Buffalo’s offense has permeated the entire team.

Veteran Bills kicker Rian Lindell has seen a lot of bad offenses in his eight seasons in Buffalo. He provided some insight into how this year's offense has changed things.

"I have a kicking shoe that's tighter, so I don't wear it all game," Lindell said. "It used to be, I would wait until we get to midfield or in field goal range until I put it on. Now, if we get the ball on our own 20, 25 or 30, I say, 'I better put the shoe on. It might be a couple plays, and I have to get warmed up.'"

These Bills believe they can score with anyone. They proved it in a 34-31 shootout victory against New England. The Bills fell behind 21-0 in the first half and became the first NFL team to overcome deficits of 18 or more points in back-to-back weeks. Buffalo trailed by 21-3 at halftime of a 38-35 victory over Oakland in Week 2.

The offense is clicking because players better understand the system, Gailey said. In 2010, Gailey's first year in Buffalo, the Bills were ranked No. 25 offensively. They got off to a horrendous 0-8 start but finished the second half of the season 4-4. The Bills are 7-4 in their past 11 games.

Surprisingly, Buffalo's offensive playbook is not huge, players say. Gailey puts an emphasis on keeping things manageable. He believes that if everyone knows exactly what he's doing, the plays will work and it's easier to hold players accountable.

Many question whether the Bills, a four-win team in 2010, have the staying power to remain in contention. Much of it rests on this offense's ability to perform at a high level over 16 games.

Through three weeks, Buffalo is on pace to score 602 points this season. That would break the NFL record set by the Patriots (589) in 2007.

"I don't know if we'll set records this year," Gailey said. "But it'd be nice if we did."
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The first-place Buffalo Bills (3-0) began preparation for Sunday's road game against the Cincinnati Bengals (1-2).

Here are some notes Wednesday from the Bills' locker room:

  • [+] EnlargeRyan Fitzpatrick
    Rick Stewart/Getty ImagesBuffalo's offensive has given Ryan Fitzpatrick plenty of time in the pocket.
    Buffalo starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick knows how maligned his offense line was during the preseason. It was expected to be one of the weakest areas of the team. But the group has played well through three games. Buffalo's offensive line has only allowed just one sack and is opening a lot of holes for running back Fred Jackson. Fitzpatrick said it's time to give his linemen some credit. "These guys are playing really well up front," Fitzpatrick said. "It's not like I'm taking one step and throwing the ball. I've been able to sit back there, throw the ball and not take a lot of hits. ... They do deserve more credit than they're getting."
  • Bills head coach Chan Gailey said he isn't surprised Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton has taken over as a first-year starter. Buffalo and Cincinnati were the two coaching staffs in this year's Senior Bowl, and Dalton impressed both staffs. The Bengals later took Dalton in the second round this past April. Dalton has thrown for 570 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. It also looks like Dalton will have some help. Embattled running back Cedric Benson will play Sunday, according to Bengals coach Marvin Lewis.
  • The Bills also said they have a lot of respect for the Bengals' defense. "They're not third in the league for nothing," Gailey said. "They're good." Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has his group playing well. It will be a matchup of strengths. Buffalo is leading the league in scoring with 113 points.
  • Buffalo kicker Rian Lindell was awarded the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his game-winning kick against the New England Patriots. Lindell was 2-for-2 on field goals and made all four extra points. The Bills also promoted cornerback Terrence Wheatley to the 53-man roster and released backup tight end David Martin.
  • Bills veteran linebacker Shawne Merriman is impressed with how this young Buffalo team is handling success. Merriman has been on four playoff teams as a member of the San Diego Chargers. "I've been in a situation like that for a long time, and like I've said, these guys in this locker room handle it as well as anybody I've ever been around," Merriman said. "They're very mature and we got a bunch of guys who's focused right now."

Rian Lindell seals Bills' overtime win

August, 27, 2011
8/27/11
11:37
PM ET

Rian Lindell hit a 40-yard field goal with 3:04 left in overtime to give the Buffalo Bills a 35-32 preseason victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in a game only scrubs and NFL diehards could love Saturday night.Lindell's kick came after Jacksonville's Josh Scobee missed a 53-yard attempt.

It was a back-and-forth game in which Buffalo squandered a 17-point first half lead and had to overcome a 15-point second-half deficit.

For the complete game story, click here.

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