Bills running back Marshawn Lynch was issued a three-game suspension by the NFL today as a result of his arrest in February on gun-possession charges. Allen Wilson writes the story for today's Buffalo News, and after reading Wilson's piece, I emailed him to ask how he feels this alters the dynamic of the season-opening game between the Bills and Patriots.
Wilson was kind enough to respond, and this is what he wrote:
"Marshawn Lynch's three-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy is not what the Buffalo Bills needed, especially with them visiting New England for the Monday night opener. The Patriots have dominated this matchup in recent years, winning the last 11 meetings and 16 of the last 17 games.
"The addition of wide receiver Terrell Owens will certainly help the Bills' offense, but his arrival could be negated somewhat by Lynch's absence. He is a physical runner who could provide the offensive balance needed to keep the Patriots' defense off balance. Although backup running back Fred Jackson had a 100-yard game against the Patriots in the 2008 finale, it should be noted the Bills were still shut out, 13-0.
"Jackson, who is unhappy with his contract situation, is a solid, versatile back. But he's not the threat Lynch is.
"The Bills have been overmatched against the Patriots under normal circumstances. Facing the Patriots without one of their best players will make the Bills' task even more difficult."
I agree with Wilson. In recent years, it seemed as if the Bills had become a pretty easy offense to defend -- roll safety help over the top of receiver Lee Evans to negate his impact and force the other receivers to beat you, while counting on a strong front seven to overpower the Bills in the running game.
This year, I was curious to see how the Patriots would account for Evans and Owens, while remaining strong against Lynch in the running game. All of a sudden, the Bills seemed to become tougher to defend.
Without Lynch in the opener, though, the Bills' firepower isn't what it could be.