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While the Bills’ best start in 16 years is at stake, so too might be the job status of Kiffin when Oakland visits Buffalo on Sunday.
A tumultuous offseason led to Raiders owner Al Davis sending Kiffin a letter of resignation to sign. Kiffin never put his name on the dotted line and he’s continued to clash with the ostentatious icon, bringing about reports the coach would soon be fired, especially after a 41-14 home loss to Denver to open the season.
Oakland (1-1) might have helped saved his job with a 23-8 win at Kansas City last Sunday, though it certainly seems as if one false move - or potentially one more loss - could spell the end of Kiffin’s brief tenure as Raiders coach.
“There are certain things I can control, there’s certain things I can’t,” said the 33-year-old Kiffin, who has been at the helm for 18 games. “This happens to be the next one. (Davis) has a decision to make. It does me no good to worry about it right now.”
He surely is worried about facing the Bills (2-0), one of the league’s biggest surprises not only because they’re unbeaten, but how they’ve done it.
Unheralded quarterback Trent Edwards has led a resurgent Buffalo passing attack which finished third-to-last in the NFL last season. Edwards is fourth in the AFC with a 107.7 passer rating, having yet to throw an interception while completing 70.9 percent of his passes for 454 yards.
“‘Encouraged’ is a good way to describe it,” said Edwards, a 2007 third-round pick out of Stanford. “But for me, personally, I still feel like we have a lot to prove. It’s Week 2. It’s nothing monumental.”
A win in Week 3 might be. The Bills haven’t won their first three games since a 4-0 start in 1992, en route to the third of four straight trips to the Super Bowl during the Jim Kelly-Thurman Thomas era.
While Edwards looks to fill Kelly’s shoes, second-year back Marshawn Lynch is trying to play Thomas’ role. Lynch has rushed for a touchdown in each of the first two games, but has yet to post a 100-yard game this year and would like to improve upon his subpar average of 3.6 yards per carry.
A year after Lynch topped all AFC rookies with 1,119 rushing yards, Oakland has the current conference leader among rookies in Darren McFadden.
The former Arkansas standout ran for 164 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries last Sunday, and he’s averaging 7.0 yards per carry. McFadden now faces a Buffalo defense which has held opposing running backs to 151 total yards and a 3.6-per-carry average through two games.
Offseason acquisition Marcus Stroud has steadied that run defense. The three-time Pro Bowl tackle had two sacks and tipped a pass that led to an interception last Sunday in a 20-16 win at Jacksonville.
Edwards, though, was the key to that come-from-behind victory. He engineered a nine-play, 74-yard drive that ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass to rookie James Hardy with 4:10 to play to give Buffalo the lead.
“The mood is good around here,” said Lee Evans, the team leader with 179 receiving yards. “Right now, we’re starting to find our niche. Everybody’s starting to get a little more confidence in what we’re doing and believing in what we’re doing.”
It seems JaMarcus Russell still might not know what he’s doing. The second-year quarterback was 6-of-17 for 55 yards last Sunday, after he contributed virtually nothing offensively in the opener until the fourth quarter, when Oakland was well behind.
Some positive signs from Russell surely would help Kiffin’s cause, and possibly help deflect some of the spotlight from the embattled coach.
“I can’t be worried about that. I’ll let everybody upstairs worry about that,” linebacker Thomas Howard said. “He’ll be here next week. He’s here now. He’s our head coach. He’s coaching us and we’re going to try to keep winning games for him.”
The Raiders have won all four meetings between these teams since a 44-21 loss in Buffalo on Dec. 13, 1998.