Ryan Turned Around Season, Can They Maintain It?
The Patriots go back out on the road to take on the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon in Buffalo. Kickoff is slated for 1:00 p.m. The game will be televised by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV.
The Patriots (6-1), beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-16 and currently have the best record in the AFC. Tom Brady threw for 222 yards and two touchdowns and LeGarrette Blount ran for 127 yards and two scores. Malcolm Butler had an interception and three passes broken up.
The Bills (4-3), lost to the Miami Dolphins 28-25 as the Fins made a furious 4th Qtr comeback, to take the game away from Buffalo who had an 11-point lead. LeSean McCoy reinjured his hamstring in the game and was held out in the second half. The Bills had one won four in a row and with a loss in South Beach lost a chance to be playing for the division lead this weekend. Rex Ryan up to this point hasn’t had the usual bombastic quotes coming into this game but it is still early in the week.
Here are our Five First Impressions of the Bills:
McCoy’s Status Up in the Air This Week: Regardless of what was put out this week in Miami, obviously, RB LeSean McCoy reinjured his hamstring. He first hurt it in practice a week ago but then attempted to play thru it in Miami. The Bills reported that he felt some pain and they shut him down, but that it wasn’t a re-injury. The smart move would have been to sit him for Miami and be ready to face the Patriots. Now after just eight carries against the Fins, his status for the Patriots won’t likely be known until game time.
He’s the guy that makes the Bills offense go, he is a very talented runner who is also dangerous out of the backfield in the passing game. The Bills are a ground and pound team and are second in the NFL with 152.3 yards per game average, The Cowboys lead the league with 161.2. But it is McCoy who drives the train. His 598 yards on the ground and a 5.3 yard per carry average lead the team.
While Tyrod Taylor and Mike Gillislee are talented runners they aren’t the game breakers that McCoy is. Especially considering his versatility as a pass receiver and how slippery he is to bring down. The last game in Foxboro was a testament to that.
Taylor is the Wildcard but Still Not “The Guy” at QB: Tyrod Taylor was given a big contract extension (6 years, $92 Million), this spring but with the exception of the week against the Patriots where he threw for 246 yards and a touchdown, he hasn’t performed like a franchise QB. Like we mentioned above, the Bills are primarily a running team, but if they’re going to take the next step and become a playoff team, they’ll need a QB who can at least occasionally put the team on his shoulders at crunch time.
So far, Taylor hasn’t been that guy. With the score either tied or within one possession in the fourth quarter, Taylor’s record is 2-7. In those games, his 4th quarter completion percentage is just 45.2, with two touchdowns and three interceptions with a passer rating of 50.3. Those aren’t franchise QB numbers.
Taylor is an exciting and at times dangerous player, especially when he gets free and can make plays with his legs. He throws an excellent deep ball but is still iffy when forced to throw from the pocket and using the middle of the field. The Patriots treated him like Russell Wilson in the first meeting and took a very passive approach. That cost them dearly. Don’t expect that kind of mistake again.
The Bills will have an interesting decision to make in the spring. Will they kick in their team option for $15.9 million against the cap for Taylor for 2017? There is still a long way to go in the season. However, if they remain the #31 team in throwing the ball, averaging just 175 yards a game…they may decide to pass.
Zach Brown Will Be the Player to Watch on Defense: The Bills defense has been going thru a resurgence since the Jets game and the big story has been Lorenzo Alexander who has nine sacks thru the first seven games. While the 33-year old Alexander is making the splashes, the guy the Patriots should account for would be LB Zach Brown.
Brown was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week when the two teams met a month ago. He made 18 tackles, had a sack and forced two fumbles. He was all over the field and was the best player for either team on the field that day. He’s the fourth rated linebacker in the league according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). He’s up there guys like Luke Kuechly, Bobby Wagner, and the Pats’ Jamie Collins
The Patriots could only gain 90 yards on the ground against the Bills in Foxboro. They’ll be looking to do much better in that department this time around. The first guy that they’ll have to account for is Brown. He was never known as a playmaker before this season but is enjoying a big breakout season.
Who’s on First? Bills WRs Hit Hard by Injury: The Bills skill-position players are being bitten by an injury bug epidemic right now. Sammy Watkins is already on IR with a foot issue, he’s their best receiver. Greg Salas, ditto. Robert Woods is their best WR on the roster right now and has 25 catches, 240 yards, and a touchdown. But he’s been bothered by a sore foot all season, it caught up with him last week and he missed the Miami game.
Marquise Goodwin is the Buffalo deep threat, the former Olympic hopeful has 12 catches for 258 yards, good for a 21.5-yard average and three touchdowns. But right now, he’s in the concussion protocol after last week’s game in Miami. He went up for a deep ball and as he fell to the turf, he hit his head hard and appeared to briefly lose consciousness.
With Watkins on IR until at least early November, and Woods in a walking boot a week ago, Goodwin in the concussion protocol, that leaves the Bills with, for now, only three healthy wide receivers, Justin Hunter, Brandon Tate, and Walt Powell. On Tuesday, the Bills elevated Ed Eagan from the practice squad to the active roster. They’ll hope that Woods will be able to make it back on the field this week.
Special Teams Units Have Questions: The Patriots aren’t the only ones with a Special Teams’ unit that is struggling. The Bills, normally one of the NFL’s best STs’ units have been scuffling along as well. Dan Carpenter has missed two field goals (9-11), and two extra points (20-22). Their punting unit with Colton Schmidt is about in the middle of the road in terms of net punting average.
But in Miami, they had a strong game. Returner Brandon Tate returned a punt 30 yards, his second return of 30+ yards on the season. Schmidt had a punt downed at the one-yard line and the Bills blocked a punt in the 2nd quarter. Their coverage units have been solid, especially the punt coverage unit. They’re allowing only 3.2 yards per punt return.
Like New England, they’ve been good in their kickoff coverage unit as well. They’re allowing only 19 yards per kickoff return. This one may come down to special teams and both teams could use a boost from the specialty units.
Check back with us later in the week as we’ll break down the key matchups for the game right here on PatsFans.com.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 NFL Season 2016 Patriots season Bill Belichick Brandon Tate Buffalo Bills LeSean McCoy Lorenzo Alexander Mike Gillislee New England Patriots Rex Ryan Rob Gronkowski Robert Woods Sammy Watkins Tom Brady Tyrod Taylor Zach Brown