By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots (2-0) are coming off of an impressive 35-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers in their home opener, and now are back in action on Sunday to face the the Buffalo Bills (2-0) on the road at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Here’s a preview with my five keys to the game that I hope will lead to a Patriots victory.
WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live Sunday on WBZ-TV Channel 4 at 1:00 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.
GAME NOTES: The Bills were down 21-3 at the half at home last week against the Oakland Raiders. They rallied in the second half to eventually win 38-35 against Oakland. It was an impressive come from behind victory for the home team.
The Patriots beat the Bills twice last season, but in week 3 at Gillette Stadium the visitors gave the Patriots all they could handle. The Patriots eventually got the victory with a score of 38-30, but it was coming out party for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick who has since really established himself as a starter in the NFL.
On defense, the Bills front seven definitely has some talent to deal with. Nose tackle Kyle Williams could be a handful for Patriots center Dan Connolly to contain. The linebackers are lead on the outside by Chris Kelsay and Shawne Merriman. Kelsay has given Patriots trouble to deal with in the past, and Merriman a few seasons ago was a real force rushing the passer with the Chargers.
The Bills could be vulnerable in the defensive backfield. Terrence McGee is injured, and definitely a loss for the Bills. Leodis McKelvin and Drayton Florence are decent cornerbacks, but they could get exposed by the Patriots offense.
On offense, this unit has been on fire to start the season. They are currently 1st in the NFL averaging 39.5 points per game and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has had a great start to the season. In 2 games he has completed 45-71 for 472 yards and 7 touchdowns and has definitely raised his game from last season.
However, the most dangerous player on offense for the Bills is running back Fred Jackson, who has had great games against the Patriots in the past. So far this season, he has run for 229 yards, and averages 6.5 yards per carry which is excellent. The Patriots will need to figure out a way to slowing him down.
The Bills have started the season so far very strong. Their offense is legitimate, and should not be taken lightly. However, I expect Brady to have a field day against their defense, and I do like the Patriots in this game.
Here are my “five keys” which I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.
The Patriots could use a big day from tight end Rob Gronkwoski today. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
1.The Patriots need to contain Fred Jackson. This key is very pivotal in this game and also very obvious. Jackson could really control the game, and the clock with his running. It is important for the Patriots defense to limit him as much as possible, and make Fitzpatrick beat them.
2. Jerod Mayo needs to be very active in this game. This could be the game that the Patriots turn Mayo loose, and allow him to just shoot gaps and get after the quarterback.
He has been asked so far to play a great deal in coverage. I think this changes against the Bills, and we see Mayo all over the field making plays.
3. It is time for Devin McCourty to become the shut-down corner once again. It has been a rough beginning to the 2011 season for McCourty. Stevie Johnson is a decent receiver, and this season so far he has 12 receptions for 162 yards, and 2 touchdowns. It is time for McCourty to put the clamps on this player, and really put more pressure on Fitzpatrick to find an open receiver.
4. Rob Gronkowski needs another big day in the red-zone. Gronkowski is heading home to Buffalo where he grew up. Last season in his homecoming he had 4 receptions and 2 touchdowns. I expect him to be Brady’s main target in the red-zone.
5.Who will pick up the slack for Aaron Hernandez being out? I think the Patriots offense will survive without Hernandez this week who is injured. I am just wondering which players will make up his production in the passing game?
I think this is a perfect situation for Chad Ochocinco to raise his play, and have a breakout game for the Patriots. I would also look for Julian Edelman to be involved in the passing game as well. It might take a few receivers to make up the difference with the loss of Hernandez.
The Bills are playing well, and I expect them to give the Patriots a great game. However, in the end it will be too much Brady, and I am predicting a 38-31 victory for the Patriots.
What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.