Blogging The Boys: What's the big difference with the Bills between the hot 3-0 start and the recent 2-3 stretch?
Buffalo Rumblings: I'm not sure that the difference lies with the Bills. They're pretty much the same team, and are doing the same things. They've lost some players along the way - Roscoe Parrish, Kyle Williams, Shawne Merriman - but for the most part, the Bills have been the Bills. The change, I'd say, is that teams are figuring out how to stop what the Bills do best, and the Bills haven't really figured out how to counter that.
BTB: What effect did losing Kyle Williams have on the defensive line, and talk about the play of rookie Marcell Dareus.
BR: Williams has the same effect on this defense that Jay Ratliff does for Dallas - he's the quick, penetrating nose tackle that acts as the disruptor that catalyzes the rest of the defense. Losing that presence has hurt, but Dareus - who is very capable of playing that role himself despite being sized as a more traditional 3-4 nose tackle - has picked up the slack extremely well, particularly in the last three games. Dareus is a load against the run and can rush the passer effectively, and he's conditioned so well that he doesn't often come off the field. He's been excellent of late.
BTB: Give us your breakdown of Ryan Fitzpatrick. What does he do well, and where does he need work? Also, he recently got a big contract, how confident are you that he is the Bills QB of the future?
BR: Fitzpatrick reads defenses well and gets the ball out of his hands quickly. Chan Gailey has built his offense around those traits, and that's why Fitzpatrick has generally been successful over the past two seasons. He is very much a rhythm player, so he gets into trouble when he needs to create plays with his legs and when he's forced to hold onto the ball, disrupting said rhythm. I think he's shown enough under Gailey where Bills fans can feel comfortable with him moving forward, but only if the team can continue to develop the talent around him and keep him in his rhythm. He's a system quarterback - and that's not a problem as long as the system keeps working.
BTB: Fred Jackson has turned into a beast. Feel free to gush about him for a bit, letting us know what has made him so good.
BR: Jackson is great because he has no weaknesses. He makes up for a lack of top-end speed with outstanding wiggle and instincts. He is one of the league's most versatile backs; he's lined up as a wide receiver and as a blocking fullback this year. He's an outstanding receiving threat, and runs the screen as well as anyone. You'll notice on Sunday that Jackson is also outstanding in pass protection. The guy does everything well, and he does everything. That makes him very difficult to defend. In eight games, Jackson has had 30 plays - 18 runs and 12 receptions - in which he's gained 10 or more yards.
BTB: Looking at the Cowboys, give us your scouting report on Dallas and what are the potential matchups you see that could decide the game?
BR: As in any NFL game, both teams present problems for the other. The Bills annually struggle to defend tight ends, so Jason Witten will likely have a big day. But I also like Buffalo's offense against Dallas' defense, because it's very difficult to get after Ryan Fitzpatrick, and because Dallas' secondary is somewhere near the league average - and nowhere near the talent level of the Jets, who shut Buffalo down last week. I think Fitzpatrick will have a solid day in Big D.
DeMarcus Ware will likely spend some time playing against Chris Hairston, a rookie left tackle out of Clemson. Hairston has been solid when healthy, and Buffalo's offense aims to get the ball out of Fitzpatrick's hands quickly, but obviously Ware's a guy that creates havoc against anybody. Buffalo's going to need to know where he is play in and play out.
Buffalo will need to limit the big run, as well, no matter who's toting the rock. Buffalo's improvement defending the run has been night and day, but they're still prone to being physically dominated in key situations and giving up big runs.
Thanks for the knowledge, Brian. Head over to Buffalo Rumblings for more on the Bills.