Welcome to Ralph Wilson Stadium
September, 30, 2012
By Field Yates | ESPNBoston.com
ORCHARD PARK -- Welcome to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, where the Patriots (1-2) will square off against the Buffalo Bill (2-1), at 1:00 p.m. EST (CBS).
Grey skies blanket the area. A layer of grey skies are currently overhead, and after a light rainfall earlier in the morning, the chances of precipitation at game time have dropped down to just 15 percent (according to Weather.com). The current temperature is a moderate 50 degrees, with an expected rise up to 56 degrees by game time. Current winds are at just three miles per hour from the northeast, just strong enough to generate a wave amongst the stadium flags that line the top of the upper level stands. Winds are expected to pick up just slightly to five miles per hour, heading directionally from east-southeast.
Feel for the stadium. Named for current Bills owner and Pro Football Hall of Famer Ralph Wilson, the stadium has housed the Bills since its opening in 1973. It has a maximum capacity of just more than 73,000 patrons, and has never featured a natural grass playing surface. For many years, the Bills played upon an astroturf surface, before switching to AstroPlay in 2003, a surface comparable to field turf. In 2011, the Bills instituted a new surface called A-Turf Titan, a variation of field turf. Much like Gillette Stadium, Ralph Wilson features three tiers of seating, with the lower and upper bowls featuring blue seats, with a level of red seats sandwiched in between. Interestingly, the playing field is actually located 50 feet below ground level. As part of a Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration, the Bills have painted matching "Futbol Americano" logos spanning between the 24-33 yard lines on the left side of either's team bench, in between the numbers and the sideline. The Bills' customary Buffalo logo graces the middle of the field, with vibrant shades of red and blue paint really popping out to onlookers.
One final inactive. The Patriots have already declared six players as out for this week's game, including guard Logan Mankins, wide receiver Julian Edelman, and tight end Aaron Hernandez. That leaves just one final player to designate as an inactive, which we'll find out about roughly 90 minutes before kickoff. The Patriots have several players listed as questionable for the contest who could end up as the final inactive, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, interior offensive lineman Nick McDonald and running back Shane Vereen. As ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported, Gronkowski is expected to play. Third-round pick Jake Bequette, the defensive end who was inactive in each of the team's first three contests, seems like a candidate to not dress.
Regular officials return, Parry gets the call. After coming to terms on a new labor agreement earlier this week, which was officially ratified on Saturday morning, the NFL's regular officials have returned to action. Referee John Parry will lead the seven-man on-field crew, and no doubt players, coaches, and fans alike will be happy to see their return. In an unusual and compelling scene on Thursday night, a referee crew led by Gene Steratore was greeted with a raucous ovation from the crowd at the Ravens and Browns game, the first in which the regular officials re-assumed their duties.
CBS broadcast. The duo of Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf will have the call on CBS' broadcast. Dierdorf offered some thoughts on the matchup earlier this week (link here).
Scouts are in town. A member of both the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers scouting department will be on hand for the game today. It comes as no surprise that this is the case, as the Patriots will host Denver next week, while Buffalo will travel west to take on the Niners. These scouts will take in the sights as part of their advanced scouting report, which will be implemented into the team's preview of the opponent, traditionally handed out to players on Wednesday morning.
What's at stake. The Patriots have fallen under .500 for the first time since 2003, and will look to avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2002 today. Additionally, a win for the Patriots coupled with a Jets' loss and Dolphins' victory would gridlock the AFC East with four teams at 2-2.