THE BUFFALO Bills would not have objected had their second game been rescheduled for last Monday. Anything to wash off the stink from the Bills' heartbreaking home loss to the blatantly beatable Jacksonville Jaguars on the first Sunday of the NFL season.
Alas, the Bills have waited a full week for a shot at redemption, but it finally comes today in Oakland. The Raiders are equally hungry for their first victory, but their Week 1 defeat wasn't quite as gut-wrenching as what the snake-bitten Bills experienced.
The Raiders fell way behind early in Pittsburgh, but mounted a stirring 11-point comeback in the fourth quarter to tie the game before ultimately losing by a field goal. The Bills, on the other hand, had numerous chances to put away jittery Jacksonville, but lost on the final play when the Jaguars' Ernest Wilford caught an unlikely seven-yard touchdown pass.
"It seems like deja vu," Bills running back Travis Henry said, referring to the bad feelings that carried over from Buffalo's 6-10 campaign in 2003.
Do you wonder sometimes what Buffalo fans ever did to deserve this much pain? From the Super Bowl infamy of four consecutive defeats, to Brett Hull scoring a Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Dallas Stars while doing the Macarena in the Sabres' crease, it just doesn't seem fair.
A new Bills season, new hope, crushed immediately. Hilariously, sports call-in shows in Buffalo last week were jammed with people already going for the throat of new Bills coach Mike Mularkey. As ludicrous as that is, it reveals a level of frustration and impatience among Bills supporters that Mularkey would be wise to respect.
"We have to get over it soon," Mularkey said of the Week 1 debacle. "It's just one game that will be a memory here once we get on a roll."
No one is holding their breath on that one, Mike.
The game today is a matchup between two veteran quarterbacks -- Buffalo's Drew Bledsoe and Oakland's Rich Gannon -- who are trying to prove they aren't washed up.
"I'm a little interested to see what that's all about," Bledsoe told the Associated Press when asked about the challenges of playing in the Bizarro World that is a Raiders home game. Bledsoe, in his 12th NFL season, never has played in Oakland before.
"I've heard about it and I've seen it on TV," Bledsoe added. "I know it's a crazy, crazy place to play. And I hesitate to say I'm looking forward to it, but it's certainly one of those unique experiences in the NFL."
WAITING IN THE WINGS
Gannon, meanwhile, will have the entire Raider Nation turn against him if the Silver-and-Black drops to 0-2. Waiting in the wings, after all, is fellow veteran Kerry Collins, who joined the Raiders during the off-season.
Gannon arguably was the main reason the Raiders advanced to the Super Bowl two seasons ago, but last year he got injured and the Raiders went 4-12 -- the worst season for a team following a Super Bowl appearance in NFL history. Gannon never has lacked confidence, nor has he ever been shy about pointing out his own value or the inadequacies of his teammates. He's the type of guy you can stomach if things are going well, but who grates on you if they're not.
For example, get a load of this assessment from Gannon after the Raiders' loss at Pittsburgh last week:
"We have to do a better job of stepping up into the pocket and protecting the football, and throwing it away when (an open receiver) isn't there," said Gannon, who was hit repeatedly by the Steelers' defence. "We're all responsible and accountable for that."
Hmmm ... so how exactly is anyone but Gannon "responsible" for stepping up into the pocket and throwing the ball away when needed? Isn't that the quarterback's job? What do the left guard and the tight end have to do with it?
Rest assured, there will be plenty of blame to go around the locker room of whichever team loses this game.