How badly does Buffalo's offense need Owens?

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Everybody knows the Buffalo Bills have engineered a blasé offense for years, especially when they had to throw.

Sometimes it takes a jolting event to help you realize just how bad things are. The arrival of high-profile receiver Terrell Owens has unleashed a flood of numbers from ESPN Stats & Information to describe the impotency of Buffalo's passing game.

  • For the past six years, the Bills have ranked in the last third of the NFL in average passing yards per game. They ranked 22nd last year, their best standing since 2003.

  • Buffalo's 26 passing touchdowns over the past two years are the NFL's second-fewest, ahead of the Tennessee Titans. Owens had 25 TD catches himself in the same span.

  • Buffalo receivers have produced only 15 touchdowns the past two years. Only the Miami Dolphins scored fewer with 12.

  • The Bills' top two red zone targets last year -- Josh Reed and Fred Jackson -- combined for nine catches and one touchdown. Owens had 10 catches, six for touchdowns in the red zone.

  • On third-and-8 or longer, the Bills converted only 17.2 percent of the time and scored one touchdown. That ranked 28th in the NFL. The league average was 24.9 percent and 2.2 touchdowns. Owens had six first-down catches and two TDs on third-and-8 or longer.

Can the Bills really expect Owens to make that much of a difference?

Owens, who signed a one-year deal, probably will be a short-timer. If he doesn't work out, then the Bills won't have him back. If he does work out, then he'll likely earn a more appealing offer to go elsewhere.

But ESPN the Magazine writer Chris Sprow calls T.O. "football's version of a stimulus package" by creating instant offense.

"Economically," Sprow writes, "a stimulus package is an injection of manufactured capital that can have implications for the future, but is designed to affect the here and now."

Sprow researched Owens' impact on previous teams and found the immediate results have been considerable.

The year Owens joined the Philadelphia Eagles, they gained nearly 1,000 more passing yards and scored 15 more passing TDs than the year before.
Owens' influence was less significant with the Dallas Cowboys, but he provided an upgrade. The real upgrade happened after the Cowboys switched from Drew Bledsoe to Tony Romo. Their passing stats jumped again.