By Dave Thomas
Raise your hand if you had the Buffalo Bills sitting atop the AFC East after two weeks with the division’s only perfect record. Anyone? Someone? No one?
While hardly marked for the NFL’s basement before the season started, the Bills certainly were and are not a trendy pick to win the AFC in 2014. That said they are sitting at 2-0 following impressive wins on the road in Chicago and at home versus AFC East rival Miami. Next up, a visit from the San Diego Chargers.
Following a hard-fought 30-21 win over defending Super Bowl champ Seattle at home Sunday before nearly 68,000 wild fans, the Chargers must harness that passion and emotion and take it with them across the country for this Sunday’s game in Orchard Park.
In what can be one of the tougher environs to win at, San Diego will need to find the same effort they used to knock off the Seahawks in order to hand Buffalo its first setback of the season.
An Old-Fashioned AFL Meeting
When the Bills and Chargers square off Sunday in Buffalo, it will be a meeting of two of the original AFL teams (Chargers were in Los Angeles when they first came into the league). Although neither franchise has ever won the Super Bowl (Buffalo is 0-4, San Diego 0-1), both have had their share of success in the AFC since the league merger.
In more recent years, however, both teams have been searching for an identity.
With the Bills, the team’s identity focuses on young quarterback EJ Manuel. While Manuel doesn’t have the career playing experience or numbers of course of counterpart Philip Rivers, he does bring one threat to the game that the latter doesn’t, the ability to run and create trouble for opposing defenses.
In Buffalo’s 29-10 home opener win Sunday over Miami, Manuel didn’t tear up the stats sheet, but did have a decent afternoon of 16-of-26 for 202 yards and a TD.
What made the win more interesting was that Buffalo’s offense finished with 10 fewer first downs to the Dolphins (23-13), though they did out gain Miami in total yardage by a 315-290 count. Buffalo’s offensive highlight of the day was a 102-yard kickoff return for score by CJ Spiller after Miami had gotten on the board with a field goal.
More impressive on the day was Buffalo’s defense, which survived 49 pass attempts from Miami’s Ryan Tannehill. The Bills, led to date by linebacker Preston Brown’s 20 total tackles, also limited Miami to a mere 80 yards net rushing.
With winless Jacksonville at home (Sept. 28) to finish out their September schedule, the Chargers finding a way to win on the road in Buffalo could potentially be looking at a 3-1 record when they roll into October.
For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.