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Know Thy Enemy 2008: Buffalo Bills - Sunday, November 30

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How many of you remember how Chris Berman used to pick the Bills and the 49ers in the Super Bowl at the beginning of EVERY NFL season.  I still don't know why he did it, but I always found that amusing.  Way back in the early 90s I was usually rooting for those Bills teams in the Super Bowl as I couldn't stand the Cowboys, Redskins and Giants. 

Long story short, while I'm not a Bills fan, I find myself particularly intrigued by the Bills of last year and this year.  I'm not a Stanford fan but I expect some decent things from Trent Edwards.  Although, I will confess that I have Trent Edwards in a dynasty fantasy football league (keep an entire 28 man roster), so that may explain why I like Trent.  The Bills addition of James Hardy to pair with Lee Evans keeps me just as interested.  For those who don't remember, back before the draft from January to April I became more and more enamored by the monstrous Indiana receiver.

The SB Nation Bills blog is Buffalo Rumblings, and is run by Brian Galliford.  It's a very solid blog and I recommend checking it out when you get a chance.

Overview
The Bills rolled off their second straight 7-9 season last year, but I think it's safe to say that it could be considered a season of growth.  They added four starters via the 2006 draft (Lynch, Posluszny, Edwards and and Derek Schouman at fullback) and if not for a 3-game swoon to finish the season, they would have finished at or above .500.

Edwards split time with JP Losman over the course of 2006.  While Edwards did not blow people away with his numbers, he should some signs of being a solid signall-caller.

Additions
The Bills appear to be talking a cautious but smart approach in building through the draft, while adding some key parts through free agency.  They added starters in defensive tackle Marcus Stroud and outside linebacker Kawika Mitchell.  The Bills finished in the middle of the pack in both rushing and passing defense, so I'd imagine they hope for an impact from Stroud and Mitchell.

The Bills had 10 picks in the 2007 draft and came with two potential immediate starters.  Leodis McKelvin, a cornerback out of Troy, is battling Jabari Greer for the #2 cornerback position and I'd imagine he'll get every opportunity to win the job.  On the offensive side of the ball, big James Hardy currently sits behind Josh Reed and will be battling with Reed and Roscoe Parrish for catches.  Young wide receivers take time to develop and Hardy is a guy I'm especially curious about.  He's got the physical tools, but so did JJ Stokes.  He needs to convert that potential into production if he wants to make a name for himself (in a good way!).

Subtractions
The Bills didn't get hurt too badly by free agency losses.  The toughest loss, technically, would probably be Jason Webster, the former 49er who will now be a starting corner in New England.  Of course, the Bills went with a cornerback in the first round so I'd imagine they're not too shaken up over the loss.  Other than that, the Bills remain a young team looking to lock up the youngsters.

2008 Questions and Answers
As is always the case with a young QB, the biggest question is whether Trent Edwards will step up and take the mantle of control.  The addition of James Hardy gives him one more weapon to throw too.  Now it's just a matter of Edwards producing.

Can Marshawn Lynch improve upon 2007?  For a rookie he put up solid numbers, but I think it's safe to say the Bills would like him to improve upon the 4.0 yards per rush.  If the Bills are going to improve their passing game, they really need to get continued production out of Lynch.

vs. San Francisco
Depending on how the first 12 weeks of the season shake out, this week 13 matchup could be HUGE.  Back during the favorite/underdog predictions, I predicted the Bills would be a favorite in this game.  The 49ers will have gone through the toughest stretch of their schedule and this could be a make or break game for any potential playoff chances for both teams.  The Bills are a prime candidate to surprise people and make the playoffs (or at least a run at the playoffs) and we've discussed thoughts on the 49ers chances aplenty.

The outcome of this game will depend in part on the 49ers development and in part on the development of Trent Edwards.  If the 49ers want to make the playoffs, I think this game falls into the must-win category, and I don't think a win is entirely out of the question.  I think the 49ers defense holds firm and Frank Gore powers through the undoubtedly freezing weather to lead the 49ers to victory.  I smell a last second Joe Nedney field goal and the 49ers pull out a 23-20 victory.