By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots (12-3) are coming off of a home victory against the Dolphins, and are back in action on Saturday to face the Buffalo Bills (6-9) at home at Gillette 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 on WBZ Channel 4 at 1:00 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.
The Bills broke a 7 game losing streak with an impressive 40-14 victory against the Denver Broncos. The Bills also beat the Patriots in the third week of the season 34-31 at home.
This is not the same team the Patriots faced early in the season. They have had several injuries including Fred Jackson, their star running back who is out for the season.
On offense, they are led by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick who has tailed off his fine play since the teams first met. He has thrown 22 touchdowns this season, but he also has 19 interceptions. He does have some weapons to throw to with Steve Johnson and David Nelson. Their lead back right now is C.J. Spiller, and he can be explosive as he averages 5.3 yards per carry.
On defense, this unit is average at best. They are 15th in the NFL in passing defense, but are 28th against the run. They also are 27th in the league in points allowed giving up 25.7 points per game. The Patriots offense should be able to take advantage of this defense.
Normally I would tell you that AFC East games at the end of the season would be close games. However, under the circumstances, I do not expect the Bills to give the Patriots much of a fight. I am expecting the Patriots to run away with this game at the half.
Here are my “five keys” which I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.
1. The Patriots offense needs to score early and often. For some reason, the Patriots offense has struggled early in many games this season. It is important to get out early in this game for 2 reasons. I think if they get ahead early, the Bills will just pack it in. Second, I think it is important for their own confidence as they will need to start better in the play-offs.
2. The offensive line needs to show stability against the Bills. Logan Mankins is out for this game, so there could be some serious shuffling on the line again. I feel confident that they will be able to hold up against the Bills. It could give another chance for young players like Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon to continue to improve.
3. It is time to feature Steven Ridley and feed him the ball. Ridley I think has the potential to be a game breaker in the running game. I hope the Patriots establish the run, and that they do it with Ridley.
4. The Patriots need to stop the running game on defense. The last 3 games, the Patriots have not played well against the run. They need to rectify this as they get ready for the play-offs. Honestly, I am not concerned, but I want to see a solid performance as it will help with their confidence.
5. The Patriots secondary needs to limit 20 yards or more pass completions. This key has been an issue all season. I can live with the occasional long pass, but the secondary is giving up way too many of them. It is time to shut down the passing lanes.
Well, if you can’t tell already I really like the Patriots to win this game going away. I think this game will be taken care of by the half. I am predicting a 45-21 Patriots victory against the Bills.
What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.