New England Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich sounds pumped to play against the division rival Buffalo Bills to open the season, and it is easy to see why. Ninkovich will need to help put some pressure on whichever rookie quarterback is behind center, because Stevie Johnson looks determined to take every advantage of his opportunities in the slot in three-wide sets. Johnson seems overconfident in the Bills chances of success against the Patriots secondary, but he is right in saying that the Bills receivers do look pretty good. The Pats secondary shouldn’t be taken lightly, but neither should the Bills WRs despite the youth at the position.
Ninkovich spoke at length regarding the atmosphere created by Buffalo Bills fans, and it sounds like the passion of that fan base is part of what excites him about playing in this game. He said this during his interview with Mut and Merloni, “Buffalo is always a fun place to play. There’s a ton of energy there. You get the beer cans and the eggs and everything on the bus when you’re coming in, so it’s really a fun atmosphere to play at. The fans always seem to really like us there and enjoy our presence.
“That first game is always a very exciting game and everyone has a ton of energy and it will be exciting. I’m ready to get to Buffalo already. It’s Week 1, it’s a great game to be at. … We’ll be prepared and be ready to roll there.”
The Buffalo Bills offense isn’t great by any means, but they do have a chance to put points on the board quickly, especially if the Patriots defense gets sloppy. They were sloppy last year coming off of the bye week, and they ended up giving up 31 points in a fest of missed tackles and generally lackluster defense. Their Week 1 matchup could have ended in the same fashion if the Patriots defense didn’t buckle down at half-time. The focus is more on the Patriots defense than the offense coming into this game, especially since the Bills cornerback situation looks terrible with Stephon Gilmore out.
Ninkovich also spoke about the Bills playmakers on offense, and, like Bill Belichick, he praised the big-play ability of top weapons Stevie Johnson and C.J. Spiller, “They definitely have some weapons with Spiller, Johnson and [running back Fred] Jackson, so you definitely have to make sure that you have those guys contained. Every single one of those guys have big-play ability,” Ninkovich said. “You have to make sure that you have the edge [against Spiller] every single time, because you have to be aware of him being able to not only trying to get to the edge, but cutting back and running back across the field and test the other edge, so you just have to be super aware of him and where he’s at.
The Bills will be using Spiller a lot more under new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, but Fred Jackson has historically been a thorn in the side of the New England Patriots defense. Rob Ninkovich knows this as well as anyone (he’s one of the most experienced players on this defense), but Johnson and Spiller are obviously the two guys to watch for the most. Heck, chalk up center Eric Wood as another guy to keep an eye on, because he can handle the interior pressure about as well as any center in this league (though I expect Vince Wilfork to take advantage of Wood in the running game).