By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots are coming off of a dominating 45-7 away victory against the St. Louis Rams in London England. They are looking to start strong in the second half of the season on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills 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 Sunday on WBZ-TV at 1:00 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.
GAME NOTES: The Bills are coming off of a 21-9 away loss against theTexans. The visitors are now 3-5, and are at the bottom of AFC East.
On defense, this Bills unit has struggled all season, and is 31st in the NFL giving up over 31 points per game. They will need to give up less if they expect to beat the Patriots.
Defensive Ends Mark Anderson and Mario Williams have both been disappointments. If there is a player to watch for Buffalo, it would be rookie cornerback Stephon Gilmore who shows serious promise.
On offense, the running game is still very strong with C.J. Spiller leading the way with 562 yards, and a 7.2 yards per carry average. The Patriots will have to really contain this dangerous running back.
The real issue with the Bills is at quarterback with Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is very inconsistent, and does have a strong tendency to make a few mistakes a game that hurt his team. He is a gunslinger like Brett Favre, but this mentality can backfire on the Bills.
The Patriots ended the first half of the season positively with a victory, and have an opponent on Sunday that they should handle pretty well. However, they cannot take this team lightly, and will have to play well in all facets of the game.
Here are my “five keys” which I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.
1. The Patriots need to stop the run and make the Bills one dimensional. The Bills are averaging 140.8 yards per game running the ball, and have the ability to control the clock with this part of their offense.
The Patriots rush defense has been excellent, and is 8th in the NFL only giving up 88.6 yards per game. If the Patriots can neutralize the running game, it could force the ball in the hands of Fitzpatrick which could be a recipe for success for the Patriots.
2. The Patriots need to take away tight end Scott Chandler. The Patriots defense, last time these teams played, did a poor job of covering this player. Patrick Chung had a bad game, and whoever has to cover Chandler, needs to do a better job this time.
3.The Patriots should blitz frequently against Ryan Fitzpatrick. In the last game against the Rams, the Patriots did blitz more than they have during the season, and it was pretty affective.
Fitzpatrick is a mistake waiting to happen, and does force the ball. If you can get after him, he could make that costly mistake. The Patriots have not gotten consistent pressure with their defensive line, so I am hoping we see several blitzes from the linebackers in this game.
4. The Patriots need to run as often as possible against the Bills. This defense of the Bills has not improved at all at stopping the run since the Patriots ran wild on them several weeks ago. They are currently 31st in the NFL at rush defense, and I would expect Patriots running back Stevan Ridley to have a huge game.
5. Quarterback Tom Brady needs to take advantage of the middle of the field with Rob Gronkowski. As we saw in the last game for the Patriots, if the Patriots run well, it should open up the middle of the field for Gronkowski. He is a match-up nightmare for the Bills, and honestly I would go to him even if he is covered. Gronkowski should be geared up as usual to play his hometown team.
Now, normally I would be cautious regarding playing an AFC East rival, but in the case of the Bills who have not played well, I am expecting a comfortable Patriots victory. I am predicting a 31-17 victory for the Patriots against the Bills.
What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.
Also, please feel free to listen to a preview of the upcoming game from the radio show Patriots Fourth And Two.