Niagara Gazette

Sports

September 2, 2013

Stevie Johnson confident Bills can compete versus Pats; team signs Leonhard

ORCHARD PARK — Self-confidence won't be an issue for Bills receiver Stevie Johnson in preparing to open the season Sunday against Buffalo's long-time nemesis, the New England Patriots.

The ever-colorful Johnson on Monday offered one good reason why he believes the Bills can compete against an AFC East rival they've beaten only twice in their previous 24 meetings.

"I feel like because I'm here," Johnson said, breaking into a smile.

Not stopping there, the Bills' leading receiver then proceeded to provide the Patriots' defense additional bulletin-board material.

"I don't think they've got nobody to stop me for real," Johnson said. "And I think we've got guys in the receiver room that's as good as I am ... if not better. I don't know. I've just got that confidence in my teammates and in myself."

Those are eyebrow-raising words from a player on a team that's had very little success against New England. The Bills are 3-23 since Bill Belichick took over as coach and they've beaten New England only once, a 34-31 win in 2011, in their past 19 meetings.

The oddsmakers aren't giving Johnson and the new-look Bills much respect. The spread has now jumped to 9 1/2 points in favor of New England after opening at 6 1/2.

Johnson has had modest success against the Patriots since becoming a starter in 2010. In six games, he's got 28 catches for 367 yards and three touchdowns.

Johnson did say he has plenty of respect for the Patriots and their defensive secondary, particularly noting cornerback Aqib Talib and safety Devin McCourty.

What boosts Johnson's confidence is the speedy receivers the Bills have added to complement him. It's a group that includes second-year player T.J. Graham and rookies Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin.

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