By: Russ Goldman
Each week I am hoping to bring a view of the upcoming game from a writer who covers the Patriots opposition, and this week we have Dan Goldman who writes about the Bills for the Daily Messenger in Canandaigua N.Y.
Dan was generous enough to take some time to answer my questions about Sunday’s game, and it’s always interesting to get some insight from someone who writes about the opposing team.
Here are my “Five Questions About The Upcoming Bills Game with Dan Goldman of the Daily Messenger in Canandaigua, N.Y.”
1. The Bills have started the season 2-0, and have been impressive so far in their victories. Do you feel that this team is ready to be a serious factor in the AFC East this season?
That’s the big question right now in western New York. I can say that this is the best offense in Buffalo since 2002 – Drew Bledsoe’s first year in town. However, to compete in the AFC East, the Bills need to be able to beat the Patriots and Jets. Buffalo hasn’t beaten New England since 2003, the Lawyer Milloy game and I’m not going to be convinced this team is for real until it gets a win over the Patriots.
In recent years, the first meeting of the teams has been close and the second has been a blowout. The Bills lost 38-30 last year in Ryan Fitzpatrick’s first game at quarterback and lost 25-24 in 2009 due to a fumbled kickoff by Leodis McKelvin. I think this could be their best chance of the last two years.
2. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a pleasant surprise as the starting quarterback for the Bills. Do you feel after all the years from Jim Kelly, that the Bills have finally found a quarterback that they can count on every week?
There are reports going around that the Bills are discussing an extension with Fitzpatrick, so it seems the front office believes he is the guy for at least a few years. The list of Buffalo quarterbacks since Kelly is long and ugly and I like him much more than JP Losman and Trent Edwards. There is some question as to how much of the offense’s success is due to Chan Gailey’s play calling.
However, Edwards did play awful in the system twice last year before he was let go. Fitzpatrick doesn’t have a cannon and isn’t the most accurate quarterback sometimes, but he seems to run the offense well. Unlike Edwards, he will throw the ball to receivers who aren’t wide open and give them a chance to make a play. This of course does cause some interceptions. If Fitzpatrick proves he can play consistently through all 16 games, then I think he should be the long-term starter in Buffalo.
3. What do you feel are the strengths and weaknesses of the defense?
The strength of the defense seems to be stopping the run between the tackles. Buffalo drafted Marcell Dareus in the first round of the draft and he combines with Kyle Williams and Dwan Edwards to make for a strong front three. Inside linebackers Nick Barnett and Andra Davis are both reliable tacklers.
The defense did struggle with speedy outside runners and screens in the first two games. Despite the addition of Shawne Merriman, the Bills have struggled to generate a pass rush. Terrence McGee is injured, so the cornerback position is pretty shallow. Drayton Florence is good, but Leodis McKelvin frequently gets burned deep. I’m still not convinced the Bills can cover a decent tight end.
4. On offense, the Bills running game has been very strong with Fred Jackson really becoming a dominant back. Do you think running the ball is more important than the passing game on Sunday to beat the Patriots?
I think the run game is vital to the Buffalo offense. Jackson has established himself early in both games so far and I believe that is why Ryan Fitzpatrick had so much success. The run game can also run down the clock and keep Tom Brady and the high-scoring Patriots offense off the field.
However, the Bills are going to need to score points and the Bills do that mostly through the air. I see the Patriots getting in front on Sunday, so the passing game will probably become more important.
5. And finally, what do you feel will be the key match-up to watch between these two teams?
I’d say Buffalo’s front seven vs. New England’s offensive line. From what I’ve seen of the Patriots so far, Tom Brady is going to kill any team if he has time to stand back in the pocket for a few seconds. Past Bills coaches like Dick Jauron couldn’t generate a pass rush and just played a Tampa 2 scheme in hopes of limiting big plays.
I think the Bills need to unleash Shawne Merriman from the outside and hope Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus can collapse the pocket from the inside. When Brady gets rattled he doesn’t play well, but few teams have shown the ability to do that.
Mr. Goldman is predicting a 34-28 Patriots victory.
A special thanks to Dan for taking his time to give his thoughts on this weekend’s match-up. You can also follow him on twitter at MPN_DanGoldman.