By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots open their season on Sunday on the road against the Bills. As we enter this game and the new season, it will be very interesting to see how the Patriots handle a team that has a new coaching staff, and a brand new starting quarterback. Here are Five Things for you to look for in this match-up.
1. Can The Patriots cover Bills Tight End Scott Chandler? A weakness for the Patriots on defense for several seasons has been the ability to cover the tight end. In two games against the Patriots last season, Chandler had a combined three touchdowns and 127 yards for the Bills.
Who will the Patriots use to try to contain Chandler? This is a great question as it could be someone like safety Steve Gregory, or possibly newcomer outside linebacker Jamie Collins. Whoever has this responsibility, can really affect the game if they do their job by limiting Chandler.
2. Will the Patriots be able to contain running back C.J. Spiller? This running back has really established himself as an elite running back. In the game at Gillette Stadium last season, Spiller only ran for 70 yards, but he showed how explosive he can be. His average rush per carry in that game was 7.8 yards which is excellent.
The Patriots run defense was ninth last season giving up only 101.9 yards per game, and this is a strength of this unit. I expect the Patriots to load up against the run, and force the Bills to throw the ball. The challenge will be to limit Spiller in the running and passing game.
3. Can the Patriots establish the running game on offense? Early in the season, the Patriots could really be putting an emphasis on the running game as the Patriots passing game evolves over time.
The Bills were 31st in the NFL last season giving up 145.8 yards per game, and the Patriots ran crazy in Buffalo last year as Steven Ridley ran for 107 yards, and Brandon Bolden had 137 yards. I think the Patriots could really take charge of the game if they can run the ball like they did last season on the road against the Bills.
If the Patriots can get past the defensive line, they could really see room to run against the Bills linebackers. I really think the Patriots have the advantage in this situation.
4. Can the Patriots offensive line protect Tom Brady? The reason I ask this question has to do with a potential change with the style of defense you could see from the Bills.
The Bills have a new defensive coordinator, and he is Mike Pettine who previously held that position with the Jets. I think you are going to see a very aggressive defense that could be in the style of the Jets with trying to overload one side of the line with blitzes.
So, when you are watching this game, you might feel you are watching the Jets defense. However, I have confidence that the Patriots offensive line can handle this match-up as they have established themselves as one of the best in the NFL. This is just a match-up to watch as the game goes along.
5. Will the Patriots Special Teams be able to step up in this game? Anyone that has watched the Patriots in Pre-Season has seen the special teams look pretty poor. Traditionally the Bills have a very good as a unit, and could offer a challenge to the Patriots.
The concern here would be more on covering kick-off and punt returns as this could be a way for the Bills to really stay in the game. The last thing the Patriots need is to give up a touchdown or very good field position on special teams. This is seriously an area of concern in this game for the Patriots.
Well, these are things I will be looking for, and we will see if they have an impact on the game. I have confidence that the Patriots will have a comfortable victory, but there are parts of the game to really concentrate on.
If you are looking for more of an extensive preview of the season and this game, please take a listen below to Patriots Fourth And Two.