Pre-game Thoughts: Patriots at Bills

Derek Havens
September 25, 2011 at 09:30am ET

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The New England Patriots travel to face division foe Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The Patriots have started their season 2-0, but they have a tough challenge against an AFC East rival in week 3. The Patriots have a bit of an injury bug, so their depth could be tested. Here are a few thoughts on the upcoming game -

- Not the same Bills team: The Buffalo Bills seem to be a new team this year. I don't want to get ahead of myself, but they have looked good. They lead the NFL in points per game, with 39.5, and in rushing yards per game, with 193. Ryan Fitzpatrick looks confident and he has opened up the Buffalo offense. The Patriots will need to keep their running game in check and try to drum up some pressure on Fitzpatrick throughout the game.

Second year corner back Devin McCourty looks to get back on track against the Bills Sunday afternoon. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

- Don't expect a lot of defense: In all aspects of this game, I am definitely not expecting to see a ton of great defense. With Belichick's new defensive scheme and the several additions the team made during the off-season, my expectations are higher than the team displayed the last few week's. With both team's possessing some of the most potent offense's in the NFL so far this season, a defensive game would be surprising. I expect both team's to put up points, but whatever defense plays better could be the deciding factor.

- Running game in focus: The Bills have a solid one - two combo with Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller. While Spiller has been disappointing thus far in his young NFL career, Jackson is one of the most underrated running backs in the league. Like I had previously mentioned, Buffalo has rushed for an average of 193 yards per game. The Patriots, who have both Albert Haynesworth and Patrick Chung out for the game, will need to be prepared for Chan Gailey's offense.

On the other side, the Patriots should do well rushing the ball Sunday. I expect Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis to have 100-yards and Danny Woodhead should get his touches as well. Even though Buffalo has Kyle Williams and first round pick Marcel Dareus along their defensive line, they have struggled to stop the run over the past few seasons. This could be the Patriots key to success against their division rival.

Looking for Devin McCourty to step up: After an incredible rookie season, Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty has struggled this season. In week one, he gave up 139 yards to Brandon Marshall and in week 2, another 172 yards to Vincent Jackson. While both of these wide receivers are big and physical, I am expecting more from the defensive captain. Hopefully, the second year defensive back can return to probowl form Sunday afternoon.

With all of these thoughts taken into consideration. I believe the Patriots can win this game, but there are some definite concerns. The Pats are pretty banged up and their injury situation is worrisome. While I believe the Patriots could struggle, I am confident they get the win on the road. My prediction is Patriots – 34,  Bills – 24.

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