Saturday, September 6, 2014

Matchup Mashup: Your Bills-Bears primer


Week 1: Buffalo Bills (0-0) at Chicago Bears (0-0), 1 p.m.
Location: Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill.
Weather: Low 70s at kickoff, no precipitation expected (accuweather)

The skinny: Buffalo heads into Chicago with high expectations this season, as sophomore quarterback E.J. Manuel looks to prove he can make the leap from rookie to reliable franchise quarterback. With a stout defensive crew running on all cylinders behind new coordinator Jim Schwartz, all eyes will be on how Manuel can operate with an improved wide receiver corps at his disposal. On the other side, a humbled Bears defense is looking regroup from a season they'd like to quickly forget, while Jay Cutler and the offensive group may just be the strongest and deepest unit in the NFC North.

What to watch for (links):
- How will rookie receiver Sammy Watkins fare in his regular-season debut?
- With a banged up depth chart, will Buffalo's backup linebackers rise to the challenge?
- Will coach Doug Marrone's calculated risk pay off with C.J. Spiller returning kickoffs?
- Can the Bills' secondary contain the one-two punch of Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall?
- What impact will the Bills' defensive front have against a Chicago ground game centered around Matt Forte?

Injury report: No. 1 corner Stephon Gilmore is listed as questionable for Buffalo, but the team is otherwise is pretty solid shape health-wise. On the Bears' side, things are more or less business as usual, with only third-string quarterback David Fales out for Sunday.

Other tidbits from the week:
Marrone brought some unneeded attention on the team this week with an alleged blow-up with top brass at practice; Kyle Orton, recently acquired as a backup for Manuel, returns to Chicago after leaving for Denver in 2009.

Our picks:
Dan: Bears 27, Bills 17
Nick: Bears 24, Bills 14
Sean: Bears 34, Bills 6

Head-to-head recent history:
Buffalo has lost four of six matchups with Chicago in the last 20 years, two in a row more recently. The Bills have never won at Soldier Field and are 4-7 in 11 total games.

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