The Patriots find themselves in uncharted waters for the first time in a very long time. They are two games behind Buffalo in the loss column and are in danger of falling completely out of the AFC East picture on Sunday with a loss. Three losses in a row, injuries to key WRs in an offense that already has had trouble throwing the football is not a good recipe for turning things around this week.
This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Dan Fouts as the color analyst. Evan Washburn 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 have beaten Buffalo seven times in a row but that streak is in danger of coming to an end this week as the Bills are off to a very good start this season.
The Patriots (2-4) were blown out by the San Francisco 49ers 33-6. Cam Newton threw three interceptions and was benched in the 4th quarter. Jarrett Stidham came in and also threw a pick. The Niners gashed the Patriots defense for 197 yards on the ground
The Bills (5-2) beat the New York Jets 18-10 as Tyler Bass accounted for all of Buffalo’s scoring hitting on 6 of 8 field-goal attempts. Josh Allen threw for 307 yards while running for 61 more.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2020 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.
So, here is our 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 was knocked out of the game more by the score getting away from them than anything else. Then after the game was completely out of hand, they did run the ball a bit in garbage time. But this week, they have the opportunity to try to recreate some of the success they had earlier this year, against a Bills team that has uncharacteristically been struggling against the run this year.
We’re looking for the Patriots to return to the zone-read run options for Cam Newton. Unlike in past years, the Bills won’t be playing any two-deep safety looks this week. Look for Jordan Poyer to be playing down in the box to try to take away the run.
In the zone-read option run, the linebackers have to fill the gaps while the defensive ends have to set the edge and not crash down. That’s something to watch for.
Patriots WRs vs Bills Secondary – Razor’s Edge Buffalo
The Patriots passing game was already a mess and now Julian Edelman had knee surgery and is out and N’Keal Harry is out with a concussion. That leaves Cam Newton with three healthy wide receivers; Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd, and Gunner Olszewski. That isn’t going to keep Leslie Fraizer up nights.
This week they may dress all three tight ends and they may have to use all three just from a need perspective but even if they do, they’ve been reluctant to include the tight ends in the passing game. Now they may have no choice. Newton will have to get running backs James White and Rex Burkhead heavily involved this Sunday.
The Bills are short-handed in the back seven, Micah Hyde is expected to miss this game, Matt Milano is hurting with a pectoral injury. But look for Buffalo to come after Newton, as they’re blitzing more than they have in recent years. Regardless, they’ll have to account for Jerry Hughes who had a monster game against the Jets.
The weather may impact the passing game for both teams this week. The forecast for Sunday is 51 degrees and rain, with sustained winds of 20-30 mph with gusts into the 40s.
Next up the Buffalo offense:
Bills RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Buffalo
The Patriots run defense has gone from a concern to a big red flag after they’ve been run roughshod over the past few weeks by KC, Denver, and San Francisco. They’ve done a less than stellar job of setting the edge which is why Chase Winovich has seen his snaps decrease over the past few weeks. But it isn’t just him, the outside linebackers all have to do a better job at setting the edge.
Buffalo has Devin Singletary and Zach Ross and with the smaller fronts that New England has run (will Beau Allen finally make an appearance?), those two should find plenty of room to run against a suddenly very leaky run defense. Josh Allen brings the added dynamic of being able to scramble (61 yards against the Jets). The Patriots don’t have a linebacker on the active roster (paging Josh Uche), who is athletic enough to run with him.
Bills WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots secondary had arguably their worst two games in recent memory back to back. Although the red-zone defense against Denver was stellar, they were easily able to move between the 20s. The Niners shredded them easily. However, this is too talented a group to play like that and they have the depth and versatility to matchup well against a very talented group of skill position players.
Allen has Stefon Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley, with intriguing rookie Gabriel Davis at wide receiver with Dawson Knox and Tyler Kroft at tight end. It will depend on who they decide to match Brown and Diggs against but Beasley against Jonathan Jones in the slot is going to be a key matchup this week. He’s become a great weapon as OC Brian Daboll has used him much like the Patriots traditionally used Edelman.
The Patriots have in the past been able to confuse Allen, but he’s made big strides in the past year from the one-read-scramble to going through his progressions. It will be interesting to see how he does this time. One thing that has to improve is the pass rush which has been largely missing lately.
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots get the slightest of advantages here, very slight. Nick Folk has solidified the kicking situation and is getting into a nice rhythm. Tyler Bass kicked 6 of 8 FG attempts for the Bills last week against the Jets. Jake Bailey gets a slight nod over the strong-legged Corey Bojorquez in the punting game. It will be interesting to see if the weather forecast remains true how it will affect the kicking game.
Andre Roberts gets the nod over Olszewski in the return game but the Patriots, who blocked a kick last year in Buffalo have been getting pressure lately. And Justin Bethel partially blocked a PAT last week. Look for them to try it again. Both teams coverage units are very good.
Next up, who wins and why…
This is a game that the Patriots HAVE TO win if they’re going to entertain any semblance of hope of winning the division for a 12th straight season. A loss to Buffalo would put them 3.5 games back with the Bills getting the tiebreaker. With a win, they’re right back in the mix with just a game back in the loss column.
Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:
Stop the Turnover Bleeding– The Patriots have been uncharacteristically a turnover machine lately with nine in the past three games. That is completely unacceptable. A similar turnover ratio this week won’t just result in a loss but an absolute blowout. They have to tighten up there in a big, big way. And it starts with QB play.
Let Newton Be Newton – Yes, we’re talking to you Josh… Stop trying to fit Newton into the Tom Brady-style of offense. Go back to what was successful for him in Week 1 & 3 and in Carolina. You have to tailor the offense around what Newton does well, isn’t that been the mantra of the Patriots the past 20 years. And this week, they’re going to have to trust Newton to throw on first down to open up the running game. Short quick passes on early downs will keep Buffalo from stacking the box. And let Cam run…
Mix up Coverages in the Secondary – The Patriots secondary as we mentioned has the players to compete well with the Bills talented receiving corps. I think they’ll be competitive against Brown and Diggs. But in the slot and against the tight ends is where this matchup will be won or lost. If they can mix up some coverages as the Chiefs and Titans did, perhaps they can force a turnover or two of their own on Josh Allen. The pass rush as we mentioned above has to be much better this week. This is a big week for guys like Winovich and Simon to influence the play and force Allen to get rid of the ball early.
I’ve been going back and forth on this one all week. Initially, I had the Bills in a blowout as the Patriots passing game, which was already bad, was dealt two more blows in losing Edelman and Harry. But with the weather possibly affecting the passing game, this may be the opening the Patriots need to stop the bleeding. If and it is a big if, the coaches play to Newton’s strengths this week, they could control the ball, the clock and keep the Bills offense off the field. I’m going to drink the Kool-Aid one last time this year, and say Belichick finds a way.
The running game led by Newton has a nice day, and a late turnover on defense seals an ugly but needed win on the road. Patriots 16-13
Posted Under: 2020 Patriots Season
Tags: Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Cam Newton Cole Beasley Damien Harris Dawson Knox James White Jerry Hughes John Brown Josh Allen Julian Edelman New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rex Burkhead Stefon Diggs Stephon Gilmore