The Patriots head out to upstate New York to take on the Buffalo Bills in the team’s third division game in a row. With both teams coming in undefeated, the optimism is sky-high in Buffalo for Sean McDermott’s team to take the next step.
This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, September 29 at 1:00 p.m. 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 (3-0) beat the New York Jets 30-14. Tom Brady passed for 306 yards and two scores while the defense held the Jets to just 105 total yards.
The Bills (3-0) beat the Cincinnati Bengals 21-17, Frank Gore powered in from the one-yard line with just three minutes left to give them the win.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2019 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 have been playing each other since 1960 and this will mark the 119th time the two teams have faced each other.
The Patriots have swept the season series the past two years and have won five in a row against the Bills. The Patriots have dominated the season series against the Bills 74-43-1 and since Bill Belichick took over the team in 2000, the Patriots are 33-5 against the Bills.
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 mediocre in the first three games of the season, the offensive line hasn’t been able to get any kind of push against their opponents. Last week against the Jets, they were getting pushed backward especially in short-yardage situations. And that isn’t just the new tackles but the interior guys including Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney.
Sony Michel has been struggling to get past the line of scrimmage and is averaging only 2.4 yards per rushing attempt so far. Rex Burkhead has outgained Michel [112-105] and is averaging 4.7 yards per attempt, so we may see more of Burkhead, who has shown some nice cutback ability so far. James White will return this week after missing the Jets game when his wife gave birth to a son. James Develin is on IR so, Jakob Johnson is now the fullback.
The Bills rush defense has been solid thus far allowing just 88 yards per game, good for eighth in the league, although they allow a 4.4-yard average on rushing attempts. Like New England, they use the big men up front, Star Lotulelei and rookie Ed Oliver to slow up the offensive line which allows linebackers Tremaine Edwards and Matt Milano to clean up. Kyle Peko was elevated to the 53-man roster after Harrison Phillips was placed on IR [ACL tear].
The Patriots have to find a way to get the running game going as thus far they’ve played poorer teams that haven’t put any pressure on them as the games were all lopsided wins. That may prove to be tough this week. Don’t be surprised if Josh McDaniels decides to ride the hot hand and get Rex Burkhead the bulk of the work this week. But the Bills front seven will make the going tough this week.
Patriots WRs vs Bills Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots passing game gets the edge here with the caveat that Julian Edelman is able to play this week. Edelman has traditionally been a thorn to the Bills defense, especially in Buffalo as they’ve had a tough time matching his quickness off the line. Last season in Buffalo on Monday Night Football, Edelman had nine catches for 104 yards. Tom Brady will look to Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Phillip Dorsett outside with Jakobi Meyers sprinkled in a bit. With James White and Rex Burkhead out of the backfield. Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo haven’t had a lot of production at tight end.
The Bills boast an outstanding pass defense that has allowed just 211.7 yards per game through the air, but as wet blankets have said about New England, they haven’t played anyone yet. But that defense was solid a year ago and will be again. Tre’Davious White is an under the radar corner who is one of the better ones in the league. The Bills safety tandem of Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde is terrific. The Bills pass rush has produced seven sacks thus far and will be looking to test the new look Patriots offensive line.
** Interesting Stat** Buffalo’s front seven has 15 passes defensed this year, they are knocking down a lot of passes at the line of scrimmage. This could be a factor on Sunday.
Edelman is the big question mark this week, and the Patriots are hoping that he can play. He’ll test the Bills down low, but regardless, this may be a big James White kind of day. In Buffalo last year, Brady targeted White 13 times, connecting on 10 for 79 yards. He and Burkhead may see a lot of passes directed their way. Dorsett and Gordon will have to produce and keep the Bills perimeter busy or it will be a tough day for the offense.
Next up the Bills offense:
Bills RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots front seven has been outstanding against the run thus far this season allowing just 36.7 yards per game, best in the NFL. That will get tested this week as this game should be much closer which means the Bills won’t have to abandon the run as the previous three opponents have had to do. But the big men in the middle Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler, and Michael Bennett have been terrific. They’ve stuffed opponents at or behind the line of scrimmage and allowed the linebackers to make plays.
The Bills running game has the ageless Frank Gore, who has definitely given them a boost and exciting rookie Devin Singletary who is averaging 12.7 yards per rush. The Bills have rushed for an average of 151.3 yards per game, fifth-best in the league. The offensive line play has improved in 2019. And of course, Josh Allen is always a threat to scramble out of the pocket.
With right guard Jon Feliciano held out of practice with a neck injury, sustained last week and Singletary nursing a balky hamstring, both could miss this game, which would be a blow to the Bills running game. If he can’t go, they may look to use T.J. Yeldon more in this one, he had a big day against New England a year ago. Look for the Patriots linebackers to limit Gore’s yards in this one as the Patriots are able to slow down the Bills’ rushing attack.
Bills WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England
The Bills passing game with Josh Allen has greatly improved this season as offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has utilized Cole Beasley in much the same way the Patriots use Julian Edelman. Beasley has 17 catches for 171 yards as they now are employing a shorter, quicker passing game than the past. Allen’s completion percentage is now 64.2 compared to about 52 percent last year. John Brown has been excellent and has 18 catches for 246 yards. Zay Jones and TE Dawson Knox are also very much in the mix.
The Patriots secondary has been outstanding this season, Stephon Gilmore has continued his All-Pro play and will be the matchup for Brown. While Jason McCourty will draw Zay Jones. But the biggest matchup to watch Sunday will be Beasley going against Jonathan Jones who has been excellent through the first three games. The Patriots pass rush already has 13 sacks this season, they’ll be looking to create pressure and force Allen into making a mistake.
Third downs will be key here, as the Patriots defense is allowing opponents to convert on only 13 percent of third downs this season. They’ll be looking to pressure Allen while keeping him in the pocket and prevent his scrambling for first downs. This should be a great matchup to watch.
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge Buffalo
The Patriots Stephen Gostkowski continues to struggle as he missed his first extra-point attempt on Sunday. He then hit his last three and a field goal to end the game on a higher note but this issue needs to be resolved. Jake Bailey was the AFC’s Special Teams’ player of the week after his big game against the Jets. The return game has been so-so and Gunner Olszewski muffed a punt against the Jets giving them a touchdown. The coverage units have been solid.
The Bills Stephen Hauschka has been solid, his only miss was a 62-yard field goal against the Bengals. Former Patriot punter Corey Bojorquez has been good with a 41.9 average with five punts downed inside the 20. They also boast the dangerous return man Andre Roberts who is now healthy. Their coverage units are excellent.
Next up, who wins and why…
The Patriots and Tom Brady have enjoyed incredible success against the Bills [30-3] and since Brady became the starter in 2001, he has more wins in Buffalo during his time in the league than any Bills QB during the same time frame. Let that one sink in for a second. Sean McDermott is still looking for his first win against Bill Belichick and the Patriots, but they believe they have the team to compete…and win against New England now.
Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:
Eliminate Big Plays – Look for the Patriots to try to force Allen into moving the ball down the field a small chunk at a time. Despite his much better play this season, he’s still prone to making mistakes, he had a pick last week that nearly cost them the game against Cincinnati. But he turned it around and led a nice game-winning drive. Will he stay patient all game long? The Patriots are hoping to force him into bucking that trend.
Third Downs Key – With both defenses playing excellent thus far this season, this one may come down to who converts more on third down. Daboll has tried to make things easier for Allen by providing him with a much better third and manageable range. With Gore converting many of those third and short runs, look for the Bills to try to catch the Patriots cheating up and hitting one of their signature plays. Watching the tape so far this season, the Bills like to play action pass and hit Brown with a quick slant, usually to Allen’s right side.
For the Patriots, Edelman [if he’s available] and White are going to loom large on converting those third-down attempts. They have to keep the sticks moving and keep the Bills defense guessing. The Patriots’ third-down defense [13.6 percent] and the Bills [32.5 percent] are #1 and #8 in the league.
Continue the Script – What does this mean, you ask? Well in the past five games dating back to last season’s playoffs the Patriots have shut out opponents and put them behind the eight ball. The defense has 13 sacks, 10 QB hits, and 27 hurries so far. If they can continue that type of play and trend, it will put the Bills offense in a mode where Allen, as he has shown on occasion, will try to do too much.
Offensively, the Patriots need to be patient and mix the run and pass up to keep the Bills coaches guessing. And nobody is better at that than Brady. Both teams want ball control drives and this has been a hallmark of the Brady-Belichick era. The Bills have scored all eight touchdowns this year on drives of at least 70 yards.
This should be a tough, physical contest… and a low scoring one and even lower if Edelman can’t play this week. Buffalo, as always will be a raucous place as the fans are excited that both teams come in 3-0 and will be playing for control of the division.
Brady and Co. have been here before, they won’t let the moment get too big for them. And the Patriots defense continues to rise up for the occasion. The Pats defense gets a couple of big turnovers and stops and they win a tough road game. Patriots 23-13
The “Knocking on Sevens’ Door” tour heads back out on the road next week as they travel to the nation’s capital, well Landover, Maryland, to take on the Washington Redskins next Sunday.