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MORSE: Week 13 Preview – Patriots at Bills

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
2 months ago at 4:22 pm ET
Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season

MORSE: Week 13 Preview – Patriots at BillsBob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills will be the best team the Patriots have faced all year.  They are playing in Orchard Park, on the Monday Night Football national stage, and in temps that will be below freezing with a 50% chance of snow.  This is a must-win game for the Bills if they want to win the Eastern Division.

Offense
STARTER 2ND 3RD 4TH
QB Josh Allen Mitchell Trubisky
RB Devin Singletary Matt Breida Zack Moss Taiwan Jones
WR Stefon Diggs Gabriel Davis Marquez Stevenson
WR Emmanuel Sanders Jake Kumerow
WR Cole Beasley Isaiah McKenzie
TE Dawson Knox Tommy Sweeney
FB Reggie Gilliam   Q
LT Dion Dawkins Spencer Brown Bobby Hart
LG Ike Boettger Jamil Douglas Jon Feliciano IR
C Mitch Morse Ryan Bates
RG Daryl Williams Cody Ford Ike Boettger Jon Feliciano IR
RT Spencer Brown Daryl Williams Tommy Boyle O

The Bills Offense is outstanding led by Josh Allen.  They are ranked 2nd in Points Per Game (PPG), 2nd in 3rd Down efficiency, and 3rd in Red Zone scoring.  In comparison, the Pats are 3rd in PPG, 6th in 3rd Down efficiency, and 24th in the Red Zone.

QB – Allen is one of the top QBs in the league right now.  Currently, under ESPN’s Quarterback Rating System, Allen is No 6. And  Mac Jones is 14th.  Through 11 games (Buffalo already had their BYE week), Allen is 274 of 410, (66.8%), for 3,071 yards, 25 TDs to 10 INTs. His 10 INTs match last year’s total.  Don’t sleep on Allen’s ability to scramble and extend plays and drives.  He has run for 383 yards, 69 carries for a 5.6 avg, 3 TDs, and 4 fumbles.  In his last game on Thanksgiving Day, he threw for 4 TDs.  Mitch Trubisky is the backup QB, and if Buffalo has to go to him, they are in real trouble.

RB – The Bills are a pass 1st offense, but they can run the ball and do it very effectively.  They are 5th in the league with an average of 4.6 yards per carry and rush for an average of 118 .3 yards per game.  Devin Singletary is their top back.  He has run for 459 yards on 98 attempts, 4.7 avg, 2 TDs, and 2 Fumbles.   Next up is Zach Moss with 265 yards on 75 carries, 3.7 avg, 4 TDs, and no fumbles.  Matt Brieda the former Miami and San Fran 49er has been playing well of late for the Bills.  He has 21 carries for 109 yards. 5.2 Avg., for one TD and one fumble.  Breida also is an excellent receiver out of the backfield with 6 catches on 7 targets for 67 yards, 11.2 avg, 2 TDs, and 0 fumbles.

OL – On the Offensive Line you will not find any superstars, but they are a tough, efficient, and real lunch pail bunch that brings it every game.  Left Tackle Dion Dawkins is a very reliable player that plays all the downs.  He has given up just 4 sacks all year, but two came on Thursday vs New Orleans.

Right Tackle has been Daryl Williams who has played all 11 games at various positions, will probably stay in the lineup at Guard when Spencer Brown returns.  Bobby Hart also returns this week and gives them a solid backup.

Ike Boettger has been a rock at Left Guard, holding the line together.  Mitch Morse is a very underrated Center.  The former starter from Kansas City is a very physical player.  He has played nearly every snap and is as good a run blocker as he is a pass blocker.

Jon Feliciano has been designated to return from IR and may end up in the starting lineup.

WR – Everything is keyed off Stephon Diggs.  He is hard to handle.  JC Jackson has tried and failed at covering him one-on-one.  Diggs has 67 catches on 107 targets for 847 yards, 12.6 avg, and 7 TDs.  He is well on his way to a 1000 yard season.  I should expect him to be double-teamed in man coverage, freeing up Jackson for single coverage on a lesser WR.  Last season he made Jackson look slow on crossing routes.

Cole Beasley is a great possession receiver that was signed as a Free Agent from Dallas in 2019.  He has 62 catches on 79 targets for 530 yards 8. 5 avg, 1 TD.  Beasley is one of the most reliable receivers in catch percentage in the league. He is especially tough on third down.  The comparison to Julian Edelman is quite accurate.

Emmanuel Sanders came by way of Free Agency from New Orleans.  He has 36 catches on 61 targets for 559 yards, 15.5 avg, and 4 TDs.  Sanders will occasionally run the Jet Sweep which he has done twice this year for a 15.5 avg

Gabriel Davis is a big receiver at 6’2” 210 lbs out of the University of Central Florida.  He was a 4th round pick in 2020 and, has 17 catches on 27 attempts, 312 yards, 18.4 avg, and 2 TDs.  Davis is a big-play receiver opposite Diggs.

TE– Dawson Knox is emerging as a top-line TE in the league.  Not only is the former Ole Miss Rebel known for his blocking, but his pass-catching has also come a long way.  Knox has 31 catches on 41 targets, 415 yards, 13.4 avg, and 7 TDs.  A long way from his college days when the walk-on had zero TDs in his college career.  He did have an 18.4 avg on his 15 catches in his Junior season which prompted him to apply for the draft.  Buffalo snatched him up in the 3rd round of the 2019 draft.

Former BC TE, Tommy Sweeney is his backup.  Sweeney is more of an inline player than Knox.  Sweeney was also taken in the 2019 draft, in the 7th round.

Defense
STARTER 2ND 3RD 4TH
LDE Greg Rousseau AJ Epenesa Efe Obada
LDT Ed Oliver Vernon Butler
RDT Star Lotulelei Q Harrison Phillips Justin Zimmer IR
RDE Jerry Hughes Mario Addison Boogie Basham Bryan Cox Jr. IR
WLB Matt Milano Q Andre Smith
MLB Tremaine Edmunds Tyrel Dodson
SLB A.J. Klein Tyler Matakevich
LCB Taron Johnson Dane Jackson Tre’Davious White  IR
SS Jordan Poyer Damar Hamlin
FS Micah Hyde Jaquan Johnson
RCB Levi Wallace Siran Neal Cam Lewis

The Bills overall Defense is #2 in Points Per Game Allowed (Patriots are #1).  They are 3rd in 3rd down efficiency and 7th in the Red Zone.  The Buffalo Rush defense is #2 in the league, giving up just 3.7 yards per carry.  Their 96.6 yards against is 6th in the league.  The Bills Defense is 2nd in Takeaways with 24 (Pats are 3rd with 21).

DL – The Bills are stout across the line with pass rushers Greg Rousseau and Jerry Hughes and Interior run stuffers Star Lotulelei and Ed Oliver.  They are the number one team in the league on getting pressure on the QB and,  have 21 sacks as a team.

Rousseau was the team’s 1st round pick this year out of the University of Miami.  He has 37 tackles including 3 sacks and an INT.  Hughes is a 12-year veteran that is more like an OLB than DE.  He can be run at and, has just 9 tackles in 11 games, 6 of those were sacks.  Lotulelei is an immovable object.  At 6’2 “, 315 lbs he is short and compact.  Lotulelei is back for this game.  He makes it difficult for O-lineman to handle one-on-one, keeping the LBs clean to make plays.  Ed Oliver was the 1st Round number 9 overall pick in the 2019 draft out of Houston University and has 22 tackles and 4 sacks.  He is extremely hard to handle and can cause havoc if the line is not up for his brand of football.

LB – Tremaine Edmunds is back for this game.  Without him, they are a different team.  He leads the team in tackles with 63 despite missing two games.  The 6’5”, 245 lb Inside LB from Virginia Tech was their 1st pick in 2019.  He is just 23 years old and is one of the best players under 25 in the league.

Matt Milano, a former BC Eagle inside LB, plays the Weakside LB.  He was a Free Agent this year and resigned with the Bills, the team that drafted him.  He is third on the team in tackles with 57.

A.J. Klein is a 9-year veteran that was originally drafted by Carolina in 2013.  The Iowa St Cyclone has 31 tackles this year.  They are pretty thin at the backup linebacker position.

DB – You have to start with the loss of CB Tre’Davious White.  His loss to a season-ending ACL injury last week is huge.   He had 41 tackles. 6 pass breakups and 1 INT.  He was the leader of the secondary.  Dane Jackson should be the replacement, but look for him to be picked on if left in man-to-man coverage.  Taron Johnson is listed as the number one LCB, but I see his role more as the nickel corner.  He will see plenty of playing time.  Levi Wallace is the starting Right Cornerback.  He has 40 tackles on the season and 2 INTs.  Safety Jordan Poyer is the thumper in the secondary.  He has 58 tackles, and 5 INTs on the year.  The other safety is no slouch either.  Michah Hyde will take your lunch money if you are not careful.  Hyde chipped in with 44 tackles and 3 INTs.  They are opportunistic ballhawks.

Special Teams
STARTER 2ND
PK Tyler Bass
P Matt Haack
H Matt Haack
PR Isaiah McKenzie Marquez Stevenson
KR Isaiah McKenzie Marquez Stevenson
LS Reid Ferguson

Tyler Bass was the kicker I wanted the Patriots to draft rather than the unforgettable Justin Rohrwasser.    The Georgia Southern kicker is 23-24 on FGs and 34 of 34 on Extra Points.  He has been kicking in Buffalo now for two years and has adapted well to the weather in Buffalo.

Matt Haack is the punter that replaced Corey Bojorquez, the former 2018 Undrafted Free Agent signee of the Patriots.   Ironically, Bojorquez is the #9 ranked punter and Haack is 23rd.  Jake Bailey is #6.

Isaiah McKenzie is both the Kick and Punt returner.  He is ranked 4th in the league on Kickoffs with a better than respectable 24.9 average.   On Punts, he is 15th with an 8.7 average.  Patriots hold a big edge there with Gunner Olzsewki as the #2 punt returner in the league with a 12.52 average.  Marquez Stevenson only returned punts for one game.

Bottom Line  Who is going to dominate the trenches?  Who is going to impose their will on their opponent?  Can the Patriots establish the run game and out physical this team.  Some in the media have called Buffalo soft, especially after the Indianapolis loss at home.  The Patriots can beat this team, but they must win the turnover battle.  That means have Mac Jones play within the offense and not risk turnovers.  Play mistake-free football with no stupid penalties.  Take advantage of Tre’Davious White’s absence. The Pats must run the ball effectively in order to set up the play-action passes.  Look for screen passes to offset the Bills pass rush. They can’t settle for FG in the Red Zone

On Defense continue to do what they have been doing the last 6 weeks.  Be opportunistic and the more physical team.  Force Allen to be one-dimensional by taking away the run game.  Allen will make mistakes.  CBS Sports Levan Reid called Allen an arrogant arm.  He thinks he can make every throw.  Make him cough it up.

I am looking forward to this matchup and what should be a terrific  Monday Night game for 1st place in the division.


Posted Under: 2021 Patriots Season


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