The New England Patriots are heading off to Buffalo and facing the Bills in a prime-time Monday Night Football matchup. They have a chance to enter the halfway point of the season at 6-2, which is pretty impressive considering the 1-2 in September.
This week’s game will be broadcast by ESPN and can be seen locally on WCVB-TV Channel 5. Joe Tessitore will handle play-by-play duties with Jason Witten as the color analyst. Booger McFarland and Lisa Salters 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 (5-2) defeated the Bears on the road 38-31 last Sunday in a rare 1:00 p.m. start. They’ve won four in a row. The Special Teams scored 14 points on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and a 95-yard kickoff return. Tom Brady threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns.
The Bills (2-5) lost to Indianapolis Colts 37-5. Derek Anderson, the 14-year veteran took over for the injured Josh Allen and threw three interceptions and also had a fumble as the Buffalo offense continues to struggle.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.
The Patriots and the Bills are meeting for the 117th time and the Patriots have dominated overall 72-43-1. But since Bill Belichick took over in 2000, the Patriots have won 31 of 36 games between the two teams.
Tom Brady’s record against the Bills in games where he’s started and finished the game is 28-3. With a win on Monday Night, he will become the QB with the third most wins in Buffalo behind only Jim Kelly and Joe Ferguson.
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 Buffalo
The Patriots running game has been outstanding for the past month but they lost Sony Michel who has been the catalyst behind it all, to a knee injury against the Bears last week. The Bills have been good defensively, their issue has been the defense has been on the field far too long this season. They allow an average of 110 yards per game and have the big men inside, Star Lotuleilei, Kyle Williams, Jordan Phillips, with LBs Tremaine Edwards, and Lorenzo Alexander to make things difficult.
The Pats will go with James White and Kenjon Barner again this week but without Michel the running will be a bit harder to come by. They’ll look to pass first to get the running game going this week. The Colts gashed the Bills on the ground last week, so that will bear some watching here.
Patriots WRs vs Bills Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots passing game is looking more and more potent and last week, they were going much more vertical in their passing concepts than we’ve become used to. The good news is that Rob Gronkowski is expected to be back for this week’s game and his presence helps out the offense attacking the middle of the field.
The Bills pass defense is their strength and have not allowed a 300-yard passer in 15 consecutive games dating back to last year. The pass rush is improved with Jerry Hughes having a solid season and a very good secondary. The Bills have two good safeties in Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde which will bear watching as the middle is where the Patriots like to attack offensively.
Look for Tom Brady to continue targeting Josh Gordon more and with him matched up with Bills talented corner Tre’Davious White, it promises to be a great matchup to watch. But with the outside receivers going more vertical, it should open things up for the Pats to work underneath with Julian Edelman and James White.
Next up the Buffalo offense:
Bills RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
The Bills have a pair of talented running backs that New England knows well in LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory. McCoy has been in the concussion protocol but will probably play this week. It will be interesting to see how Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll who knows the Patriots well will look to attack this week.
The Patriots run defense has been much better of late during the four-game winning streak. Last week’s numbers were skewed by scrambles by QB Mitch Trubiski who ran for 81 yards. Bears running backs averaged less than 3 yards per carry.
With their passing game dormant, the Bills need their running game to give them a boost and help get things jump-started. This will be a big matchup for the interior linebackers (Dont’a Hightower and Elandon Roberts) this week. Hightower showed up on the injury report with a knee injury so that will bear watching.
Bills WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England
The Bills passing game is a total mess right now averaging a league-low 129.4 yards per game thru the air. Top draft pick Josh Allen won’t play this week, he’s down with an elbow injury and journeyman Derek Anderson gets the nod. But the real problem is the Bills offensive line, which has been porous, allowing 29 sacks thus far. The Patriots pass rush has to be a difference maker this week. Zay Jones, Kelvin Benjamin, and tight end Charles Clay are decent enough weapons, but no Bills QB has had time to throw.
The Patriots pass defense has been good with the cornerbacks covering wide receivers but they’ve had far too many breakdowns in the safety play, allowing big plays. They’ve also had issues containing mobile QBs which shouldn’t be an issue this week.
Look for the Pats to continue their recent trend of being more aggressive in the pass rush against a bad Buffalo offensive line. Anderson isn’t the most mobile of QBs and A-gap pressure may be in the cards this week. Look for Anderson to target Clay early and often in this one. Watching the tape of a few of their games, they like to hit Clay with passes over the middle where he finds open spots to roam. That’s been an issue with New England and Buffalo has watched the tape,
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots seemed to have turned the corner in their special teams play last week. Patterson returned one kickoff for 95 yards and a touchdown. In the second half, he nearly had another, going 38 yards and almost breaking it again. The Patriots also had a punt block for a touchdown, and with Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen, they have a very solid kicking game.
The Bills had a punt blocked against Houston and had their own issues with muffing punts and kickoff returns. We will finally get a chance to see punter Corey Bojorquez on the field after he spent all of training camp with the Patriots. He and kicker Stephen Hauschka are solid, but the Pats get the nod here.
Next up, who wins and why…
This one will require the Pats to get off to a good start. Buffalo hasn’t hosted a Monday Night Football game in a long time. The place will be rocking and the Bills will be looking to start quickly and get the crowd even more amped (lubed?) up.
The Patriots should take a page out of the Bills opponents this year, they’ve outscored Buffalo 110-40 in the first half. They need to start fast, get the people sitting on their hands and force the Bills to have to rely on Anderson to get them back in the game.
Brady may not have eye-popping numbers this week, but look for him and the offense to be efficient. That is, to convert third downs, score touchdowns in the red zone and take advantage of opportunities given to them. And there should be plenty to be had. Patriots 38-14