The undefeated New England Patriots take the field on "Monday Night Football" to face Rex Ryan and his suddenly surging Buffalo Bills (5-4). The Bills are coming off one of their biggest wins of the season over Ryan's former New York Jets and have now won two straight, sitting in the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC.
The Patriots are coming off an emotional victory themselves after escaping New York with a last-second field goal to beat the Giants. Despite the win, the Patriots lost Julian Edelman for at least the rest of the regular season, continuing a trend of significant injuries to their offense in recent weeks. However, the Patriots did get good news this week with tackles Marcus Cannon and Sebastian Vollmer returning to practice. They'll need their protection this week.
Given Rex's history with the Patriots, and the absence of Edelman, this game should be a close one as the Bills look to cement their place in the playoff picture and the Patriots look to move to 10-0.
Buffalo at New England
Kickoff: 8:25 p.m. ET (Monday)
Spread: Patriots -7
Three Things to Watch
1. Bills' Run Game vs. Patriots' Run Defense
The Patriots' run defense had major questions entering the season after losing Vince Wilfork, but they're currently ranked first in rushing yards allowed per game. However, the Bills will be a big test as they're ranked second in rushing yards-per-game. This is where the game will be decided because if New England can shut down LeSean McCoy and company, it will put the game on the arm of Tyrod Taylor. If the Bills are able to get their ground game going their entire offense will spring to life.
2. Containing Tyrod Taylor
The Patriots roared out to a huge lead in the second half against the Bills last time, but the Bills came storming back once Tyrod Taylor starting getting out of the pocket and making plays down the field. New England will do its best to keep Taylor contained, forcing him to beat them with his arm. The later in the down it gets and the more Taylor is allowed to extend the play, the better he is. Expect New England to manage its pass rush with discipline and keep a spy on Taylor to prevent any big runs from him.
3. Patriots' Offense on Third Down
There isn't a better player at beating Rex Ryan's style of defense than Julian Edelman. He has the ability to get open on double coverage (see his touchdown against these Bills in Week 2) and can turn short catches into big gains. He's also Brady's key receiver on third down. Now without Edelman (or Dion Lewis for that matter) the Patriots must find a new chain-mover. Rob Gronkowski is likely to draw a ton of attention, as will Danny Amendola in key spots. If Brady can't find a new option on the money down, the Patriots' offense could struggle. This is the start of a new evolution for Brady and the Bills will need to exploit his lack of targets on third down and get off the field.
The Patriots always seem to find a way to overcome the major injuries that hit them, but the loss of Edelman, especially against the Bills and their style of defense, will put that to the test. Rex always puts up a good fight against Brady, but it's the Patriots' defense that will be the tougher matchup for the Bills. If the Patriots continue to stop the run like they have been in recent weeks and Malcolm Butler takes away Sammy Watkins, the Patriots shouldn't need a ton of points to pull out the win this time.