Two of the more efficient quarterbacks through three weeks might be two of the least likely. For one, it's resulted in two wins and a one-possession loss to the Super Bowl champions. For the other, what could very well be a 3-0 record has resulted in two losses.
Buffalo Bills first-year starter Tyrod Taylor and New York Giants veteran Eli Manning square off Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and both are facing exposed pass defenses. The former has two top offensive options in doubt, while the latter could be without a favorite target who was originally expected back in the slot.
While Taylor ranks fifth in quarterback rating (116.1) through the first three starts of his career, Manning is 12th (97.9) but has no interceptions in 108 attempts. Only Tom Brady (133) has thrown more passes without being picked off. Manning has two INTs over his last eight contests after having 39 in his previous 27 games from the start of 2013, eight more than any other player.
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That cutdown on mistakes has the Giants (1-2) tied for fourth in turnover differential at plus-4, and Buffalo (2-1) is tied for second with a plus-5 mark - pleasant surprises for teams with unpredictable signal-callers entering the season.
Taylor has three interceptions, though they all came in a Week 2 40-32 loss to New England, and he followed with his best performance yet. The versatile 26-year-old was 21 for 29 for a career-best 277 yards and had three touchdown passes for a second straight week in Buffalo's 41-14 win at Miami last Sunday. His 74.4 completion percentage ranks fourth and is ahead of Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
He's the first Bills quarterback to complete more than 70 percent of his passes and throw for at least seven touchdowns over the first three games since Jim Kelly in 1991.
"We know he's legit," coach Rex Ryan said. "When the protection holds up, this kid can burn you."
He could be short on weapons with the statuses of running back LeSean McCoy (hamstring) and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf) both uncertain.
McCoy's nagging injury has limited the 2013 rushing champion to 146 yards on 43 carries in his first season with Buffalo, but rookie backup Karlos Williams rushed for 110 yards on 12 carries against the Dolphins. Williams became the first player to score a touchdown in each of his first three NFL games since teammate Percy Harvin accomplished the feat in 2009 with Minnesota.
"We have got plenty of weapons," Ryan said. "But it will be fun once we get everybody about 100 percent."
They might not need that against New York, which has the NFL's lowest-ranked pass defense (335.7 ypg), but the same applies the other way around with Buffalo ranking 31st (326.7).
Giants coach Tom Coughlin is still focused on first stopping Ryan's traditional rushing attack. Buffalo tops the NFL with 458 rushing yards despite McCoy's limited production.
"In games where clearly you have to stop the run, I think that's where it all starts," Coughlin said. "... If it is going to turn into the drop back, two-minute style game, we're going to have to adjust to that as well.
"But we continue to work on these types of things - being a little bit tighter in coverage, for example, doing a better job of recognition underneath, our roles, having our disguise package continue to improve, all those types of things."
New York initially thought it would be able to exploit any of Buffalo's coverage holes with Victor Cruz making his season debut to join the dangerous Odell Beckham Jr. in the receiving corps. However, that's on hold after Cruz was unable to practice Wednesday after feeling some discomfort in his calf.
The two-time 1,000-yard receiver missed the final 10 games last year after rupturing his right patella tendon. He had targeted the season opener for his return, but a calf injury in training camp pushed that back - now possibly for another week after being hopeful Monday of returning.
The Giants, however, probably need more help in their ground game. Over their last 12 games, they've averaged 90.7 yards per contest and 3.46 per attempt, which ranks last. No New York player has totaled 100 rushing yards through three games.
That puts more pressure on Manning, who has only started one season with a 1-3 record or worse (0-6 in 2013). This year began 0-2 with the Giants blowing 10-point leads in the fourth quarter against Dallas and Atlanta, but they led throughout last week's 32-21 home win over Washington.
"Hey, it's a long season, there's a lot of football to play," said Manning, who was 23 of 32 for 279 yards and two TDs. "Our division, it's too early to know and we can't run away with it right now. But hey, you've got to get one win and just keep going. Let's try to get another."
The Giants have won three of the last four meetings, including the last two in Buffalo.