The Patriots head back out on the road for the next three weeks and begin their road trip in Buffalo to take on the Bills. The games there are always loud and raucous and with playoff implications for both teams for a change, this one takes on added meaning.
This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, November 19 at 1:05 p.m. and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines.The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.
The Patriots (9-2) are coming off a 35-17 blowout of the Miami Dolphins at home. Tom Brady passed for four touchdowns, Dion Lewis rushed for 112 yards as the Patriots as a team rushed for 196 on the day. The defense forced three turnovers and held the Miami offense to just 10 points.
The Bills (6-5) snapped a three-game losing streak with a big 16-10 win in Kansas City to put them back into the playoff race. Tyrod Taylor returned to the starting lineup and tossed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Zay Jones while the defense smothered the Chiefs offense, holding them to under 250 yards and 2 for 13 on third down
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.
The Patriots and Bills history go back to the earliest days of the AFL in 1960. Sunday will mark the 115th meeting between the two franchises. Overall the Patriots hold a 70-43-1 edge, including a 34-22-1 record in Buffalo. The Patriots have dominated in the Bill Belichick era, taking 29 of 33, including 12 of the last 13 games in Buffalo. Last year the teams split the series with Buffalo shutting out New England with Jacoby Brissett at QB 16-0. The Patriots then took the final game in Buffalo 41-25.
Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.
First up is the Patriots offense:
Patriots RBs vs Bills Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots running game had its best game of the year last week gashing the Dolphins for 196 yards, Dion Lewis led the way with 112 and Rex Burkhead chipped in with 50 of his own.
The Bills run defense was excellent during the first seven weeks of the season. But during their recent three-game losing streak they allowed 638 yards rushing. Last week they righted the ship and allowed the Chiefs only 55 yards on the ground. So who shows up this week the unit that got gashed or the one that allowed only 616 yards rushing in all their other games?
I look for the Patriots to try to continue with what they’ve been doing, spreading out opponents and try to run inside. The key for the offensive line is whether or not they can move Buffalo’s big men inside, Adolphus Washington and Kyle Williams on the interior line and Preston Brown at linebacker. It seems like the Bills stopped the bleeding there in the run defense, so it may be tough sledding for the running game this week. Especially with two starters on the offensive line that may be missing again as well as the top swing tackle.
Patriots WRs vs Bills Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots passing game despite missing key receivers has continued to hum along averaging just under 300 yards per game. Again, the key is the health of the offensive line and if they can hold up to a defense that hasn’t gotten many sacks this season but will probably be aggressive this week.
Buffalo’s pass defense has been ok against the pass, they’ve allowed a good amount of yards but have been ball hawks, especially when they’ve won, they’ve generated a ton of turnovers. They’ll be looking to do exactly that this week to give their offense a boost and keep the score close.
The key here is the quickness that Tom Brady gets rid of the ball and Rob Gronkowski. Gronk had shredded the Bills, especially in Buffalo, his hometown. In six career games, Gronk has 35 catches for 583 yards (97.1 yards per game) and seven touchdowns. Over a full season that would come out to 1553 yards and 17 touchdowns. Look for Brady to try to get Gronkowski involved early. It will be a big matchup against Micah Hyde this week, who was the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for November.
Next up the Bills offense:
Bills RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Buffalo
The Bills running game still goes thru LeSean McCoy and he leads the team with 758 yards although his yards per carry is way down (for him) to 3.9. The Patriots will have to be aware of Taylor scrambling as well. The Bills offense works best when he’s making plays with his feet.
The Patriots run defense has struggled inside in 2017, with Malcom Brown injured and Vincent Valentine and Dont’a Hightower on IR, the middle of the line has been suspect. Alan Branch will be playing against his former team this week and we’d expect him to turn his game up a notch this week.
Look for Buffalo to test the edges with Taylor and McCoy this week, that is an area where the defensive line has struggled at times this year in setting the edge. They’ll want to dictate the pace, keep NE’s defense on the field and limit the chances for Tom Brady and the Patriots offense to score.
Bills WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England
Buffalo’s passing game has been middling along about 15th in the league averaging just 182.5 yards per game. Taylor doesn’t turn the ball over, he likes to roll out where he can see the field in front of him and make the safe pass. A key this week will be getting outside the pocket and making plays with his feet.
The Patriots pass defense has been vastly improved the past five games. They’re allowing just 217 yards per game in the past five contests. The secondary play has been much, much better, although because of a mobile QB, they will be playing more zone this week, which isn’t their strength.
Look for Taylor to try to make plays with his feet. They’ll lean on McCoy as well in the passing game. This is a “Big Nickel” kind of week for the Patriots defense with three safeties. Containment of Taylor in the pocket is essential.
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski has been having a very good season. His short kickoffs coupled with outstanding coverage has put the Patriots in excellent field position defensively every week. He’s been very steady in the kicking game and has scored 111 points already. Ryan Allen’s punting has been okay this year. But the coverage units, the field goal, and punt blocking units have been very tough.
The Bills Special teams have been very good as well Stephen Hauschka has been money from beyond 50 yards, making 14 in a row. Colton Schmidt has had a very good season as well. With the high level of play the New England STs have been performing it is tough to give anyone else the edge. But the loss of Nate Ebner, and the injuries to Trevor Reilly and Marquis Flowers will bear watching to see if it affects the Special Teams this week.
Next up, who wins and why…
This one will have a playoff-type atmosphere this week because it essentially is for the Bills. They need to win and keep winning to get into the playoffs. The crowd will be loud and rowdy (as always) and the Bills will be playing for something in December for the first time in a very long time.
The key from the Patriots perspective is getting off to a fast start and forcing the Bills to play catchup, which is not their strength. With all of the injuries facing the team, however, they may be hard-pressed to take advantage of their edge in many positions. Brady will have to be aware of where Hyde is, he’s been the Bills’ biggest ballhawk. But the Patriots just have too many weapons for Buffalo this week. Look for the backs to get involved early as well in the passing game. Having time to throw will be a big factor in whether or not Brady and Brandin Cooks attempt to stretch the field this week. It is going to be close, probably a lot closer than many Patriots fans expect but I think this one goes down to the wire in a close divisional matchup. Brady will make more plays than Taylor and the Patriots hold serve with a big divisional win and will head to South Beach at 10-2. Patriots 28-20
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Tags: 2017 Patriots Season Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Dion Lewis James White Malcolm Butler New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady Trey Flowers