By: Derek Havens
After a tough victory at home against the Packers in week 15, the Patriots have turned the page to the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have been known to play teams very tough this year, although they have only won four games this season. Typically this could be labeled as a “trap game” for the Patriots but I feel the Patriots will stay focused with the number one seed up for grabs. With so much at stake for the Patriots on Sunday, I expect them to be firing on all cylinders. Although, no one should anticipate a blow out, the Bills always seem to put up a fight when the Pats come to town. Here are a few thoughts about the upcoming game:
Priority one: The most important outcome of Sunday’s game is a win; Plain and simple. That will ensure the Patriots have the AFC’s top seed, an AFC – East division title, and home field advantage for the playoffs.
Staying focused for Buffalo – With the holiday season upon us, fans are not the only ones struggling to stay focused amongst the chaos. Patriots players and coaches have recognized the difficulties of staying focused with this time of year being so family oriented. Belichick said in his Monday morning press conference , “Obviously, it’s Christmas week and all that. It’s an important time of year for all of us and our families and so forth, but with that being said, we’ve got an important job to do and we’ll try to balance those things out this week”.
Teams health down the stretch- At the beginning of the season, the Pats had some unfortunate injuries to key veterans. Throughout the season, however, the Pats have stayed relatively healthy. With two weeks to go in the regular season and on win away from wrapping up the AFC’s top seed, health down the stretch is key. The flu has a few players feeling under the weather, along with some other bump-and-bruises. Aaron Hernandez, Jermaine Cunningham, Dan Connolly, Brandon Deaderick, Mike Wright and Myron Pryor have already been downgraded to out. Getting the top seed will ensure the players get a full week of rest for any and all injuries.
Run the Ball- The Patriots have found some success in the run game this year, but they are not a run oriented team. Facing the 32nd ranked run defense in the NFL, they may want to adjust their game plan. Especially with Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis having success when given the opportunity. With the Bills allowing 158.6 yards per game on defense, he might have another opportunity. Green-Ellis has 824 yards on the year, and he is only 176 yards away from the 1,000-yard milestone. He is also two touchdowns away from tying a franchise record 14 TDs in a season.
Hope “the streak” continues- For coaches and players, personal stats may not be as important as they are to fans. Tom Brady’s current streak of most consecutive pass attempts without an interception is one that many can appreciate. Brady’s play has been at another level for the great part of the 2010 season, which is why he has been atop the list for MVP considerations. His 292 consecutive ass attempts have him ranked third in NFL history and he only needs 17 to become the all time leader.
Overall, the Pats are considered heavy favorites. I expect the Bills to stay competitive through the games entirety but I would not be surprised if the Patriots cover the eight point spread. The Pats injuries are starting to pile up but there is simply too much at stake for the team to stay complacent. Two weeks of potential rest could do these players a lot of good. I think the Pats will do their job and get the much needed win on the road. Patriots – 34, Bills – 19.