Colts set to try their Luck against Bills' dominant defense
''Number 1 or it's a bust,'' Williams said this week. ''Number 2 is not acceptable.''
''I love it. I love it. I love it,'' said Williams of the test facing a defense that returns mostly intact after finishing fourth last season. ''I just wish it was New England first.''
The focus is on an intriguing matchup between two former AFC East rivals, each with something to prove.
The Bills have adopted some of new coach Rex Ryan's bravado in making a case they're finally in a position to end a 15-season playoff drought - the NFL's longest active streak.
As for the Colts, they've made steady progress in each of the past three seasons since Luck's arrival. After losing the AFC championship game to New England in January, the next logical step would be a Super Bowl appearance, of course.
Patience, said Luck.
''I think regardless of where people have us pegged, whether it's first or last or somewhere in the middle, that doesn't change our approach,'' Luck said before turning his attention to facing the Bills. ''It's always a good measuring stick to go up against a good unit. And we'll see what we're made of.''
The Colts spent the offseason restocking both sides of the ball with a mix of proven veterans, beginning with running back Frank Gore and receiver Andre Johnson. The two join an offense that finished third in the NFL last season.
Indianapolis' defense remains a question mark, and will go up against a new-look Bills offense that has newly acquired LeSean McCoy at running back and a dual-threat quarterback in Tyrod Taylor making his first career start.
A number of things to look for on Sunday:
MARCELL-LESS: Dominant as the Bills defensive front has been in combining for an NFL-best 111 sacks the past two years, Luck avoids having to line up opposite defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, who signed a $100-plus million contract extension Thursday. Dareus will miss the opener while serving a one-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
FRANK TALK: As much as the Colts want to establish their ground game to take the pressure off Luck, coach Chuck Pagano has no intention of running Gore into the ground early this season. ''We've got him on a pitch count and we're going to stick to it,'' Pagano said.
That's fine with Gore, the 10-year veteran and former 49ers star who is 164 yards shy of passing O.J. Simpson for 19th on the career list.
''He's the coach,'' Gore said. ''Whenever they call my number, I just want to be ready and help my team.''
PICKING ON DARBY: Buffalo's big question mark on defense is at the No. 2 cornerback spot, where rookie second-round pick Ronald Darby will start in place of Leodis McKelvin (right ankle). Darby was beaten several times by both the Panthers' Kelvin Benjamin and the Steelers' Martavis Bryant last month.
Darby will have the daunting task of covering either Johnson or T.Y. Hilton.
''This kid can play,'' Ryan said, in Darby's defense. ''We know the challenge in front of us, but guess what, we're not running from it.''
T-MOBILE: After spending the past four seasons as Joe Flacco's backup in Baltimore, Taylor beat out former Bills starter EJ Manuel and journeyman Matt Cassel to win the No. 1 job in Buffalo. The Virginia Tech product has a strong arm and elusive speed in bringing a dual-threat element to the Bills offense.
Pagano is familiar with Taylor as he was the Ravens defensive coordinator in 2011, when the-then rookie quarterback ran the scout team.
''He can beat you with his arm. He can beat you with his legs,'' Pagano said. ''He's a pain in the rear.''
BRING THE NOISE: Ryan made a public plea asking Bills fans to be loud each time the Colts offense is on the field.
''I'm calling our fans out, we need you, all right?'' Ryan said. ''We've got to make it miserable.''
Fans will have a chance to cheer at halftime when the Bills will honor the surviving members of the Buffalo teams that won the 1964 and `65 AFL championships.
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