Buffalo Bills (0-1) at Green Bay Packers (1-0)
TV: CBS (Spero Dedes, Randy Cross)
Keys to the game
On paper, the Bills simply do not match up talent wise with the Packers, one of the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Last season, Green Bay was one of the best at scoring points and stopping the run; Buffalo was one of the worst in those departments. Green Bay's roster is virtually the same while Buffalo's is weaker with the losses of WR Terrell Owens and DE Aaron Schobel. The only hope for a Buffalo upset is if it can somehow run the ball and limit the touches Packers' QB Aaron Rodgers has with the ball. If the Bills have to blitz an overabundant amount to get heat on Rodgers, he can name his score with the weapons at his disposal.
11th regular-season meeting. Bills lead series, 7-3. The inter-conference opponents are meeting in Green Bay for the first time since 2002, where the Packers have won two straight in the series. The Bills won the most recent meeting, 24-10 in 2006 at Buffalo. ... Bills PK Rian Lindell surpassed Jeff Jaeger (1,000 points) last Sunday to move into 43rd place on the NFL's career scoring list with 1,011. He's scored 739 points for Buffalo, second all-time. ... This is only the Bills' fourth visit to Green Bay (they've also played the Packers twice in Milwaukee). ... Chan Gailey dropped his Bills’ coaching debut last week at home vs. Miami. No surprise there, Gailey is the 16th head coach in franchise history. Not one of them has won his debut.
Bill Huber has his three keys to the game, one each for offense, defense and special teams, at Fox Sports Wisconsin.
Packers injury report
Questionable — LB Desmond Bishop (hamstring), G Daryn Colledge (illness), FB Korey Hall (hip), DE Mike Neal (rib/side), CB Brandon Underwood (shoulder). Probable — LT Chad Clifton (knee), DE Cullen Jenkins (hand), S Derrick Martin (ankle), LB Clay Matthews (hamstring), CB Charles Woodson (toe).
Bills injury report
Out — S Cary Harris (hamstring), LB Paul Posluszny (knee). Questionable — P Brian Moorman. Probable — LB Antonio Coleman (hamstring), C Geoff Hangartner (ankle), LB Reggie Torbor (chest).
Inside the Bills
At 6-feet-1, 229 pounds, Keith Ellison would register as a nicely sized strong safety by NFL standards. But for the past five seasons, he's defied the odds and made his living as a linebacker, racking up 251 tackles for the Bills.
Aaron Rodgers surveys the Bills' defense during last year's preseason game.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
"According to most people, I'm not the prototypical size linebacker for any defense, but it doesn't matter," Ellison said. "Football is football. My job is to do whatever they ask of me, no matter what defense we're out there running."
Ellison will make his 39th career start and first at middle linebacker when the Bills play at Green Bay Sunday, filling in for 240-pound Paul Posluszny who is out 2-3 weeks with a sprained knee.
Ellison, a sixth-round pick out of Oregon State in 2006, was an outside linebacker in Buffalo's previous 4-3 scheme. But he was moved inside when the team switched to a 3-4 during the offseason.
One thing that hasn't changed: his role as Mr. Emergency, stepping in when somebody goes out injured. Ellison has played in 51 games overall. He made eight starts last season until going on injured reserve himself with a quad injury.
"This is an old habit for me," he said. "Ever since I've been here, something happens where I'm forced to play. So, my job is just to be ready and step up for this team."
There was a lot of speculation that Ellison wouldn't make the 53-man roster, but he adjusted quickly and impressed the new coaching staff.
"There are guys who have instincts and he's one of those guys who have instincts," coach Chan Gailey said. "He's one of those guys that are around the ball a lot, he studies and there have been a lot of great undersized linebackers in this league. He certainly makes up for his lack of size, he's savvy and the way he plays the game, he's doing a good job. The only thing he doesn't have is size. Everything else he's got."
Buffalo's defense faces a huge test against the Packers, who will be without starting running back Ryan Grant (ankle, injured reserve), but who have a capable backup in Brandon Jackson (63 yards against Philadelphia last week). Green Bay's passing game, meanwhile, is among the league's best led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Among Ellison's assignments will be to cover rising star tight end Jermichael Finley.
"We have so much room for improvement," Ellison said. "Going in to this next week against Green Bay ... they want to throw it a little more with Aaron Rodgers. For us, (we're) just continuing to improve and play the best that we can out there."
As for Posluszny, he said his injury wasn't anything "major" and he's confident he can be on the shorter side of the two- or three-week recovery window he's been given. He was injured tackling Miami's Ronnie Brown near the sideline.
"It's a slight sprain," he said. "Initially it felt like I could go back out there but then it kind of tightened up on me."
How much more pass-happy can the Packers offense get now that featured back Ryan Grant is out the rest of the season because of a broken ankle?
Conventional wisdom is head coach/play caller Mike McCarthy has the convenient excuse to get greedy and have Aaron Rodgers throw at will, especially against an ordinary, short-handed Buffalo Bills defense. McCarthy, though, won't stoop to being so one-dimensional -- and predictable. He has a lot of confidence in Grant's replacement, Brandon Jackson, as an every-down back and will want to get Jackson in the flow of carrying the football after the young player answered the emergency call in Week 1 with 18 carries for 63 yards.
Defensively, the Packers' priority will be to stop the run as the Bills roll through a triple threat of C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. By putting Buffalo in difficult down-and-distance situations, defensive coordinator Dom Capers can have his pass-rushing charges pin their ears back and force an easily flustered Trent Edwards into mistakes. After Tim Masthay did a terrific job with his directional punts of pinning the Philadelphia Eagles' DeSean Jackson along the sideline in the opener, look for Mason Crosby to angle his kickoffs to one side or the other to keep the dangerous Spiller from being a spoiler in the Packers' first home game.
Bills coach Chan Gailey has to stick with a rotation of running backs that works and do something to protect Edwards against a fierce Green Bay pass rush, which collected five sacks and one turnover against the Eagles last week. The Bills finished with 50 yards rushing on 17 carries against Miami in Week 1.
How can they run it better at Lambeau?
"I don't have any unique thoughts," Gailey said. "We have to block better, run north and south better, and not have negative plays."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.