Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots

Buffalo Bills
New England Patriots
Week 3

Will the roller coaster go back up this week? After a strong opening performance against Cincinnati and a second-half meltdown at the Jets in Week 2, the Patriots will be looking to right the ship this week against Buffalo in their second of three straight games against their AFC East foes. New England has won 13 consecutive games against the Bills and 18 of their last 19 meetings, but this time they’ll do so without valuable veteran Kevin Faulk, placed on injured reserve this week after tearing his right ACL late in the game with New York. The offense will look to a variety of players to fill Faulk’s roles — running back Sammy Morris, receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Aaron Hernandez. Also, recently signed Danny Woodhead might have to step up in key third down situations and serve as a receiving threat out of the backfield. On defense, the Pats will be looking to plug holes and gain some confidence, particularly in the secondary, after getting picked apart in the second half last week.
Tom Brady said this week that the Patriots’ success against Buffalo has been because the Bills are in rebuilding mode. But do teams really need a decade to rebuild? Despite drafting C.J. Spiller in the top 10 this year, the Bills rank last in the NFL in total offense and only 23rd in rushing. Quarterback Trent Edwards got the hook after just two games, and the team will start journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick this week. Fitzpatrick is more mobile than Edwards, a plus with an offensive line as porous as Buffalo’s is.

Keys for the Patriots
• Spread the ball around. One thing stuck out for the Pats’ offense in the second half against New York: Brady was forcing the ball to Randy Moss. Last year, Brady seemed to have eyes only for Moss and Wes Welker. But Brady has had his best success when he was involving five and six receivers. The Pats have three shiny new tight ends on the roster, but thus far only nine of Brady’s 45 completions have been to the tight ends.
• Play for 60 minutes. A disturbing trend has developed for New England over the last season-plus: After halftime, it struggles mightily on both sides of the ball. It could be that other teams are adjusting, or the Patriots just don’t have defensive playmakers like they used to. Maybe, something else is in play. At any rate, they need to figure out how to finish games instead of taking a halftime lead and trying to hold on.

Keys for the Bills
• Look for success on the ground. LaDainian Tomlinson averaged nearly seven yards per carry against the Pats last week, and New England gave up 136 yards rushing. Buffalo should look for the same type of numbers, or better, with Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch and Spiller. Getting results this way can also lead to longer drives, which will keep the ball out of Brady’s hands.
• Stick around. In just two games the Patriots have been outscored 39–14 in the second half, and Buffalo’s two losses to New England last year were by a combined eight points. If the Bills can stay close in the first 30 minutes and not allow New England to take a big lead (which would put the ball almost exclusively in Fitzpatrick’s hands), they may be able to put some points on the board and at the very least make things interesting in the fourth quarter.

Bottom Line
Things are so bad for Buffalo that some of the writers who cover the team are encouraging fans to abandon ship. Patriots, 31–17.




 

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