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Buffalo Bills Offense Needs Big Performance Against Saints to Finally Gain Respect

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COMMENTARY | The 2013 Buffalo Bills offense hasn't been great by current NFL standards, but, through seven games, it hasn't been nearly as bad as many have made it out to be. In Week 1, skeptics believed Bill Belichick's defensive game plan would absolutely baffle rookie quarterback EJ Manuel in his first NFL start.

As if they were foreshadowing the future, Manuel and Buffalo's offense weren't spectacular but did more than enough to hang in.

The following week was definitely going to be a tough test for the Bills offense against Luke Kuechly and the Carolina Panthers menacing defensive front seven.

Staying true to form, the Bills moved the ball well, hit some bumps in the road and scored 24 points.

Heck, they averaged 6.0 yards per play.

Whoops.

The New York Jets were to end Buffalo's little offensive honeymoon in Week 3. While Manuel and the offense turned in their worst performance of the season, the Bills were within a touchdown at the end of the game.

Eh, fine, the skeptics got that one right.

In Week 4, the Ray Lewis and Ed Reed-less Baltimore Ravens defense, fresh off a beatdown of the Houston Texans, were a lock to totally suffocate the Bills offense.

Again, Manuel wasn't fantastic, and he got a ton of help from a defense that picked off Joe Flacco five times, but the Bills scored 23 points.

Then, the Thursday Night outing against the Browns in Cleveland.

Ray Horton's ultra-aggressive defense was going to give the Bills offense a rude awakening, especially after that catastrophic seven-point road loss against the Jets a few weeks prior.

The Bills were humming along until Manuel went down with a knee injury early in the second half. With undrafted free agent rookie Jeff Tuel under center for most of the final two quarters, Buffalo scored 24 points and averaged five yards per carry.

(By the way, the Browns have allowed a cumulative yards-per-carry average of 3.16 in their other six games this year.)

No way in hell the Bills were going to be able to do a darn thing offensively with Manuel's replacement Thad Lewis--who?--against the mighty Cincinnati Bengals defense and reigning All-Pro Geno Atkins in Week 6.

Stunningly, Lewis led a ferocious 14-point fourth-quarter comeback and finished the game with a QB rating of 100.5. Though Buffalo lost, the 24-point effort was encouraging.

(By the way, the Bengals have allowed a cumulative QB rating of 80.5 in their other six games this year.)

Coming off the bye week, the Dolphins were going to teach Lewis and the Bills offense a lesson in Miami. Cameron Wake was healthy ... watch out.

In probably the dullest game of the year, Lewis and Buffalo's attack weren't special, and were aided by some big defensive plays, but they managed to score 23 points and get the win.

Now, it's Rob Ryan and the vastly improved New Orleans Saints defense, a group that ranks 12th in yards allowed per drive and fifth in points allowed per drive according to Football Outsiders. C.J. Spiller's doubtful.

A recipe for disaster, right?

Playing against Drew Brees, Thad Lewis, Fred Jackson and Co. have to play their best game of the year to win or even stay competitive.

If the Bills' offense turns in another better-than-many-expected performance, will it finally get some respect?

Hopefully.

Chris Trapasso is a sportswriter who lives in Western New York and has been covering the Buffalo Bills and the NFL since 2009 for Bleacher Report.

For Bills and other NFL news, follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisTrapasso

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