The Buffalo Bills have announced that E.J. Manuel will be healthy enough to play against the New England Patriots, and that’s certainly terrific news for the Bills and was also expected. Manuel was able to start practicing on Sunday, and all we have heard thus far are good things about Manuel’s recovery from a meniscus injury. Starting him is far more ideal than playing undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel, no matter how much the Bills say they like Tuel. Manuel’s arm strength and rushing ability are two playmaking assets that could cause the Patriots trouble if Manuel can get off to a hot start, but I don’t anticipate the Patriots allowing Manuel to have a huge day. It is possible, though, and Manuel gives the Buffalo Bills a significantly greater chance of upsetting the Patriots than they would have had if Jeff Tuel was the Week 1 starter.
Manuel has the mental make-up of a franchise quarterback, and he looks more poised than most rookie signal-callers. I don’t expect the jitters to hurt Manuel against the Pats, but I do think the Patriots can take advantage of the fact that he stared down his receivers quite a bit in Week 1 of the preseason, unless if he has fixed that problem since then. There are a lot of variables at play, and it will certainly be interesting to see how the Bills use E.J. Manuel and how the Pats gameplan to stop him. Do they use delayed blitzes? Do they have somebody spy on Manuel? I don’t expect to see a big game from Manuel in Week 1, but he will get better as the season goes on and did have a great preseason.
Jairus Byrd was not initially expected to miss game time with a foot injury, but now the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that Byrd will “probably” end up “missing some time” with plantar fasciitis. This is an injury that is painful, but it can be played through. Byrd, per Rapoport, suffered from the ailment last year, and it now looks like we should expect him to miss the game against the Patriots. Rapoport only reported that Byrd will “probably” miss time, so there is still a shot that the Patriots will have to face Byrd roaming deep in the secondary. If the Bills don’t have their star free safety on the field on Sunday, then the Patriots passing attack should have an easy day with both stars Stephon Gilmore and Jairus Byrd out.