The Buffalo Bills head into its 2015 regular season opener against the Indianapolis Colts with a level of optimism that hasn’t been seen since its Super Bowl days. With a revamped coaching staff, one of the most talented rosters in the league and a recent infusion of offensive playmakers, it’s hard not to be excited about this team.
Andrew Luck and the Colts high-powered offense coming to town makes for a tough first test for new head coach Rex Ryan and his Bills. Indianapolis has its weaknesses like anyone but it’s going to take an all-around impressive performance for Buffalo to knock off the reigning AFC South Champions.
Here are four keys to beating the Indianapolis Colts:
Anytime you’re facing an elite quarterback with multiple weapons at his disposal the best defense is to try and keep the ball out of their hands. Greg Roman and the Bills’ offense will be looking to do just that by moving the chains on the ground and controlling the time of possession.
It’s actually a favorable matchup for Buffalo too as the Indianapolis Colts have a suspect defense that especially has trouble stopping the run. If Tyrod Taylor and this new-look offense can put some points on the board and keep Luck and his crew on the sidelines, the Bills can definitely pull off the week 1 “upset”.
Blitzing with Balance
Rex Ryan likes to bring the pressure on defense and you would think hitting and trying to hurry Andrew Luck could throw off the passing Colts’ game. History says that’s not always the case however as Luck was the top ranked quarterback when facing the blitz in 2014 and finished in the top-15 the year before, according to Pro Football Focus.
That shouldn’t be a problem for this Bills’ defense that led the league with 56 sacks last season while mostly just sending its front four lineman to harass the quarterback. New coordinator Dennis Thurman and Rex will have a different scheme on Sunday that’ll still try and disrupt Luck with the blitz but they’ll have to be tactical in how they attack.
Stopping Frank Gore
While the Colts passing attack is hard to stop no matter how good your defense is, it makes it even more difficult when Indianapolis is also running the ball well. Veteran running back Frank Gore is the new starter for the horseshoe and despite being in his thirties is still a productive player.
The last time Gore played against the Bills he racked up over 100 yards and averaged 7.6 yards per carry. That was in 2012 but without suspended All-Pro defensive tackle Marcel Dareus and the loss of run-stopping linebacker Brandon Spikes via free agency, this makes for an interesting matchup.
If Buffalo’s defense can’t suppress Indy’s running game then it will open up more room for Luck to operate through the air which is never a good thing when there is a rookie starting in the secondary.
Just like when safety Bacarri Rambo intercepted Aaron Rodgers (twice) or Marcus Thigpen returned a punt for a touchdown in last season’s win over Green Bay, the Bills could use a big performance by one of its playmakers. Whether it’s a game-breaking score on offense or a huge takeaway Buffalo will need a big play to defeat the Indianapolis Colts.