Friday's our first chance to see Rex Ryan coaching the Buffalo Bills. And how could they not beat the NFL odds with their new three-headed starting quarterback?
It's going to be an amazing year for the Buffalo Bills. Not only do they have one of the NFL's most colorful head coaches in Rex Ryan, the Bills also have a tremendous new starting quarterback: Matt Cassel/Tyrod Taylor/EJ Manuel. Finally, our first official human clone has been created, specifically designed to handle the most important job in the world today.
What's that? Oh. My colleagues here at the home office are telling me this super-athlete wasn't created in a lab. The Bills have simply taken the three quarterbacks they do have, and listed all three as the starter for Friday's exhibition game (7:00 p.m. ET) against the visiting Carolina Panthers. Welcome to Buffalo, Rex. The Bills are 3-point home faves on the NFL odds board as we go to press.
The Unholy Trinity
So this is what purgatory looks like. Bills GM Doug Whaley said earlier this month that the team was in a tough spot when it came to acquiring a quality quarterback: Not bad enough to land a high draft pick, not good enough to lure a top free agent. Plus, they're in Buffalo. So the Bills are left with the three aforementioned gentlemen all vying for the top job.
It might not be ideal for the regular season, but when it comes to exhibition play, that's a pretty strong three-headed monster right there. Cassel, Friday's actual starter, has been a strong preseason quarterback in years past. Taylor played reasonably well in his four years with the Baltimore Ravens, and Manuel was fantastic as a rookie in 2013 before things started going sour last year. Life could be worse.
The Double-R Ranch
The Panthers respond with Cam Newton, who has no need to prove himself on Friday and may only get a whiff of action against the Bills – no decision has been announced as we go to press. There isn't much of a competition between Derek Anderson and Joe Webb for the No. 2 job, either. We could see a whole lot of Webb in Carolina's preseason opener, as we did last year when the Bills won 20-18 as 1-point road dogs.
As far as the coaching matchup goes, neither Ryan nor Ron Rivera has shown a propensity for beating the football odds in the preseason. Rivera has the advantage at 9-7 ATS to Ryan's 11-13 ATS, but when it comes to Week 1, Rivera is 2-2 SU and ATS, while Ryan went 1-5 SU and 0-6 ATS at the helm of the New York Jets.
That's almost enough to make us recommend the Panthers for your NFL picks. Instead, we're going to suggest the OVER, which is 17-7 for Ryan in the preseason and 8-8 for Rivera. This looks like a situation where the revamped Bills offense is going to get plenty of burn, and as we go to press, there's a tiny total of 35 points on the board at Sports Interaction – the tiniest total of all the Week 1 preseason games. We'll buy that for a dollar.
Free NFL Pick: Take OVER 35 at SIA