AFC East: Three and Out
Three quick hits on the Buffalo Bills:
1. The offense's success will rely more on the offensive line than Terrell Owens.
Owens has received a lion's share of the attention. Bills fans are fascinated with the future Hall of Famer. They're not used to players with Owens' credentials showing up as free agents. His presence will help receiver Lee Evans immensely, perhaps unleashing offensive elements not seen since Jim Kelly was throwing to Andre Reed and James Lofton. But their new no-huddle offense won't work if the line doesn't come together in a hurry. All five projected starting linemen will be in different positions from last year. Left tackle Langston Walker has been uninspiring in camp and through two preseason games. Injury-prone quarterback Trent Edwards can't exploit his weapons if he's running for his life -- or leaning on crutches.
2. Buffalo should be fine at running back while Marshawn Lynch is suspended.
Not many teams can lose a Pro Bowl back and still maintain its options. Lynch, one of the hardest runners around, will miss the first three games because NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for various misdeeds. The Bills have reinforcements. I wouldn't be surprised to find Fred Jackson among the league total-yardage leaders heading into Week 4. Jackson is an underrated back who also excels in the passing game. Behind him is Dominic Rhodes, who kept the Indianapolis Colts' afloat last year while Joseph Addai was sidelined. Of course, Jackson's and Rhodes' production will depend on the offensive line's ability to open holes. But whatever the Bills' record is after three games, we likely won't be saying "Everything would be different if Lynch hadn't been suspended."
3. Will the defensive line be a difference maker?
The Bills feature a formidable defensive tackle in Marcus Stroud, but they still were abysmal up front last year in their 4-3 alignment. They ranked 14th in team defense, but 22nd against the run. The only teams to record fewer sacks were the Washington Redskins, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs. But the Bills think they can improve their pass rush dramatically with the help of a healthy Aaron Schobel and rookie Aaron Maybin. Schobel, a two-time Pro Bowler, missed 11 games with a foot injury. Maybin, the 11th overall draft pick, missed camp and three preseason games because of contract issues. If either of those defensive ends make an impact -- don't hold your breath on the yearling Maybin finding his stride this year -- and the Bills can get anything that resembles first-round value out of defensive tackle John McCargo, their D-line rankings could rise big-time.