This weekend the Patriots aim to continue their siege upon the AFC East as they head north to Buffalo.
Weirdly enough this will be only the Patriots’ third division game this season and first against the Bills. Ranking second in the division, the Bills are just above 0.500 at 6-5. They have had a few huge wins coming against the Falcons, Broncos, and Chiefs due to their stingy defense. However, in recent weeks the Bills have looked absolutely lost in some games. They went from beating the Raiders by a 20 point margin to getting manhandled by the Jets, Saints, and Chargers consecutively.
The entire season up until week nine the Bills’ defense only allowed their opponent to score over twenty points twice against the Bengals and Bucs. From week nine to now that stat flip-flopped, and the defense allowed more than twenty points in every game but one. Going into the midpoint of their season (week 9), the Bills had allowed 115 points. From that week to now alone they have allowed 145 points in four games.
The Nathan Peterman experiment dissipated after his unruly NFL debut against the Chargers. Tyrod Taylor is the team’s current answer as signal-caller if the team has playoff aspirations. The Bills are the captain of their own ship, and only head coach Sean McDermott can make it sink. In their first home game since they were annihilated by the Saints’ running game, the Bills are determined to get a statement win against their big brother in the AFC East. The Patriots rolling into town is always a huge game for the Bills, and if they can demonstrate any form of dominance they are very much alive in the wildcard race. Here are three keys to this game for the Patriots in order to rain on the Bills’ parade:
Dion Lewis Needs to Run Rampant
For the first time in his career last weekend Dion Lewis rushed for over 100 yards. With a slippery back like Lewis coming off a hot week the Patriots would be remiss to script their start of this game around him. The Patriots began their game against the Raiders running it down their throats until they tired it out and then took to the air. It worked then and it will work now, especially with the Bills’ rushing defense woes as of late. The Saints were able to post 298 rushing yards with 6.2 yards per run on the Bills with their running back committee of Ingram and Kamara. Dion Lewis could set the tempo of this game if he is able to return to a performance similar to last week against Miami.
It All Rests on Elandon Roberts’s Shoulders
Linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Marquis Flowers, and Trevor Reilly all questionable this week. With these integral parts of the defense potentially gone, Elandon Roberts has tough sledding ahead. All three linebackers were limited in practice this week. Worst case scenario David Harris and Nicholas Grigsby will assume the workload. Regardless, Elandon is tasked with stopping Bills’ workhorse LeSean McCoy. Bills’ offensive starters Kelvin Benjamin out and Jordan Matthews and Charles Clay are questionable this week as well. The Bills’ playbook this week will potentially be run-heavy in their absence. Roberts will be tasked with keeping the one-cut back at bay this weekend.
Watch out for Will, Mike, and Sam
The Patriots’ offensive line needs to protect Tom Brady. Period. The amount of hits Brady took last week against the Dolphins slowly got to him during the game. He began trying to force passes and ended up throwing a rare interception. Marcus Cannon is out and LeAdrian Waddle and David Andrews are questionable, which is not a good sign.
The Bills are aware of the Patriots’ o-line ailments, and will likely go for Brady as much as possible. Lorenzo Alexander will come for Brady’s head on a Sam (strong side) blitz. Ramon Humber will come on a Will (weak side) blitz. The duo will likely aim for the edges of the line if Nate Solder and Cameron Fleming are alone in their positions pending Marcus Cannon’s status. If Ted Karras gets another start this week in David Andrews’s potential absence he will have to look out for a Mike (down the middle) blitz. Buffalo is a difficult place to play in if the Bills’ defense is getting their way.