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Patriots – Bills Week 4 Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 26, 2019 at 8:44 am ET

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.

Series History:

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…

Prediction:

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.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and breakdown game analysis

Patriots-Bills Week 16, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
December 21, 2018 at 7:35 am ET

Patriots-Bills Week 16, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

The New England Patriots are sailing in some uncharted waters this week. When we looked at this game on the schedule back in the spring, we expected that the division would be wrapped up and this game would only figure in whether New England was still playing for the top seed. And….we were wrong.

This game is extremely important to the Patriots this week because the division isn’t wrapped up and they need a win to do just that. The team can still get the #2 seed and a bye but now they no longer control their own destiny. They need to win their final two games at home this week against Buffalo and the Jets next week and hope that the Texans lose to either the Eagles or the Jaguars. Uncharted waters indeed.

The Patriots (9-5) lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10 last week as the offense only scored 10 points and made a ton of mistakes. Dropped passes on third down, penalties (14) and breakdowns at key times was the story as they dropped their second in a row.

The Bills (5-9) beat the Detroit Lions 14-13 as Josh Allen hit Robert Foster with a 42-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to come from behind.

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.

Series History:

The Patriots and the Bills are meeting for the 118th time and the Patriots have dominated overall 73-43-1. And since Bill Belichick took over in 2000, the Patriots have won 32 of 37 games between the two teams.

Tom Brady’s record against the Bills in games where he’s started and finished the game is 29-3. The Patriots won the last meeting between the two teams 25-6 on October 29 as the teams met on Monday Night Football.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, December 23 at 1:00 p.m.and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Greg Gumbel will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green and Bruce Arians as the color analysts. Melanie Collins will work from the sidelines.

The game will also be broadcast on the Patriots flagship station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci doing the play-by-play, with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.

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 sputtered the past two weeks on the road as the play of the offensive line has been consistently, inconsistent. Sony Michel is leading the way for the Patriots along with Rex Burkhead and James White. Fullback James Develin has been getting the ball more in short yardage and goal line.

Buffalo is 10th in the league allowing just 104.8 yards per game on the ground and just 4.0 yards per rush.  It starts up front with the big men, Kyle Williams, and Adolphus Washington with the linebackers, Matt Milano and Preston Brown being very active. However, with Milano suffering a broken fibula against the Jets, it is a blow to the defense.

In the first meeting, the Patriots didn’t have either Sony Michel or Rex Burkhead who were both out with an injury. However, look for the Bills to put pressure on the Patriots on early downs to try to force them into third and long situations.

Patriots WRs vs Bills Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game just lost a huge piece as Josh Gordon’s mental health issues are forcing him away for the game, possibly for good this time. He averaged 65 yards per game receiving in his 11 games with the Patriots and it won’t be easy to just say, “next man up” as they have around here in the past.

In the first meeting, Tom Brady threw for 324 yards in Buffalo. It will be difficult to throw for that much this time around despite still having Julian Edelman, James White, Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, and Phillip Dorsett.

The Bills defense is #1 against the pass allowing just 187.4 yards per pass play. They’re getting very good play from their corners and linebackers and safeties in coverage. The Bills have 31 sacks on the season.

With Gordon gone Brady will have to lean on everybody else now to pick up the slack. I would expect him to go both Julian Edelman (9-104) and James White (10-79) as he did in the first meeting to keep the chains moving.  The Bills did a good with their safeties on Rob Gronkowski in the first meeting and I’d expect more of the same. Buffalo is outstanding at not allowing big pass plays and I’d expect Brady to keep the ball in the short passing game.  

Next up the Buffalo offense:

Bills RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

As yes as strange as this sounds I expect the Patriots run defense which has been awful for the past few weeks to be better this week. The Bills running game has been struggling with their backs running the ball. LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory have averaged just 3.3 and 3.4 yards per rush respectively in 2018. Part of the reason is the offensive line was bad earlier in the season but has been playing better of late.

However, Josh Allen has transformed the running game. He’s rushed for 506 yards on the season and without him, the Bills rushing average of 124.7 would transform to just 90.9 yards per game.

With the issues the Patriots have had stopping the run, I’d look for Danny Shelton to make a return this week. Buffalo has the 31st rated pass offense and they want to run the football. The Patriots need a player over the nose that can two-gap. He’s been a healthy scratch the past few weeks but this week, I’d expect him back.

Bills WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

The Bills passing game has been really struggling as Josh Allen has struggled in his rookie season. But he’s gradually learning his craft and he’s cutting down his mistakes. But overall, they average just 168.7 yards per game, 31st in the NFL. He has Robert Foster who is becoming the Bills big play WR, he’s averaged 25-yards per reception this year. Zay Jones is their leading receiver with 49 catches.

The Patriots pass defense is currently 23rd allowing 256 yards per game, however, the secondary has been playing quite well and it seems that they’ve found another quality UDFA in corner J.C. Jackson. The Patriots don’t generate a ton of sacks but are tied in the league at pressuring the QB without blitzing.

The Bills like to run deep crosses using a rub route to get Foster open deep across the middle of the field. For the Patriots, they’ll look to bring pressure and force Allen to throw from outside the pocket without allowing him to run…More of this below.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots tandem of Stephen Gostkowski and Ryan Allen have a slight edge over Stephen Hauschka and Corey Bojorquez in the kicking game, especially being at home. But their numbers are pretty similar. But with Cordarrelle Patterson in the kick return game, the Patriots get the edge in there, although in the first meeting Micah Hyde had a 31-yard punt return.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one will be closer than people are predicting. The Bills defense is tough and knows the Patriots well. They played them very tough in the first meeting back in October. I would expect this game to be much of the same.

Three keys to the game from a Patriots perspective include:

Win the Turnover Battle:

The Bills are -8 in the turnover department. Buffalo QBs have thrown 20 interceptions this season, with Allen tossing nine of them. They are the 31st team in the league in scoring averaging just 15.4 points per game. They don’t have the kind of offense that can afford to give away points. If the Patriots can play a clean game, they will put pressure on the Bills offense to take some chances.

Force Allen to Throw From Outside the Pocket:

Allen has played better of late as his pass protection has improved. But if the Patriots can generate pressure while keeping a spy on Allen and not allowing him to run, his numbers throwing outside the pocket are not good. ESPN’s Mike Rodak just posted some stats when Allen is forced to throw outside the pocket.
Completion percentage- 20 (33rd in the league)
Passing Yards per Attempt- 3.1 (30th in the league)
Off Target Throws- 40 % (most in the NFL)
Interception Percentage – 6.9 % (4th most in the NFL)

If the Patriots are successful in getting some pressure on Allen, they’d need to put a spy on him. I really don’t believe that their linebackers are fast enough to do the job…possibly Kyle Van Noy. But one possible piece would be to go to their “Big Nickel” with Obi Melifonwu substituting on obvious passing downs. He’d have the speed to keep up with Allen.

Spread the Ball Around:

The Patriots are at their best when Tom Brady spreads the wealth equally among the players. They need to run the ball better and will need a lot better effort from the offensive line. I’d expect to see the uptempo offense with the Pony formation with Burkhead and White a bit on passing downs.

This one will be close but eventually, the Pats will pull away and they’ll finally be able to break out the Hats and T-Shirts. Patriots 27-17

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots-Bills Week 8, Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
October 26, 2018 at 6:54 am ET

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.

Series History:

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…

Prediction:

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

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Bills  Part II Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge

Steve Balestrieri
December 22, 2017 at 9:44 am ET

The Patriots return home for the final two regular-season games of the 2017 NFL Season. They’ve been on the road for five of the last six weeks and finished that difficult part of their schedule 5-1 and although injuries have ravaged the team, are in prime position to win the top seed in the AFC. If the Patriots take care of business the right way, they won’t have to leave Gillette Stadium again unless they travel to Minneapolis.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, December 24 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 (11-3) are coming off a stunning 27-24 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road. The Patriots scored the final 11 points of the game and then had to make a stand inside the 10-yard line where Duron Harmon intercepted Ben Roethlisberger to seal away the win.

The Bills (8-6) have won two in a row since losing to the Patriots on December 3 and last week beat Miami 24-16. If the playoffs started today, the Bills would be the #6 seed in the playoffs as they hold the tie-breaker with the Ravens.

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.

Series History:

The Patriots and Bills history go back to the earliest days of the AFL in 1960. Sunday will mark the 116th meeting between the two franchises. Overall the Patriots hold a 71-43-1 edge, including a 36-21 at Foxboro. The Patriots have dominated in the Bill Belichick era, taking 30 of 34, and since Tom Brady became the QB of the Patriots, the Bills have only beaten NE in Foxboro once, in the season finale in 2014. New England rested many of their starters and Brady played only the first half.

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 one its best games of the year against the Bills a few weeks ago, rushing for 191 yards with Dion Lewis leading the way with 92 yards and Rex Burkhead with a pair of touchdowns. Lewis will probably continue to get the lion’s share of the carries with James White and possibly Mike Gillislee getting some work this week. The offensive line did a good job in the running game three weeks ago.

Buffalo’s run defense has been as problematic as the Patriots have. The two teams have nearly the identical yards per game average allowed on the ground. Last week, Miami ran 21 times for 100 yards.

Look for New England to run the ball hard again at the Bills front seven. Lewis is having a fantastic year and has taken over the top back slot in the New England offense. They’ll miss Burkhead who’ll be out until at least the playoffs begin and hopefully have him back by the divisional round. Gillislee, having been a healthy scratch for a month and a half, could play a key role this week.

Patriots WRs vs Bills Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game is banged up at the wide receiver position. Chris Hogan missed last week’s game with a flare-up of his shoulder injury. Hopefully, he’ll be back this week to go along with Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, newcomer Kenny Britt and Phillip Dorsett. But the wildcard is Rob Gronkowski. He torched the Steelers for nine catches for 168 yards last week. Three weeks ago against the Bills, he had nine catches for 147 yards and despite being held on a few plays that went uncalled, was the big “X” factor of the game. James White and Lewis add to the weapons that can be brought to bear in the passing game.

Buffalo’s pass defense has created a ton of turnovers. Last week, they forced four fumbles against Jay Cutler and picked him off three times. Led by Tre’Davious White, they’ve stiffened their pass defense on the perimeter. Safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer have made a tremendous difference in the middle of the field.

Look for Brady to spread them out and look for favorable matchups. Last time Cooks was held to just 17 yards on two catches. That isn’t going to get it done. Look for Brady to get him involved early. Britt could be a factor in the red zone and of course, Gronkowski remains the man the Bills have to stop. Brady will look for him to attack the seams. If Hogan is recovered from his setback which was supposedly related to a bad reaction to meds, it will be a big bonus for the offense.

Next up the Bills offense:

Bills RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Buffalo

The Bills running game goes thru LeSean McCoy and the last time the teams played, he ran for 93 yards on just 15 carries. But once the Bills fell far behind, they had to abandon the running game in an attempt to catch up. Look for McCoy to get a lot of looks early in this one. Buffalo will be taking a page out of the Pittsburgh playbook and try to keep Brady and Co. on the sideline. Tyrod Taylor is always a threat to run and can keep the chains moving with his feet.

The Patriots depleted front seven continues to struggle badly against the run. No Dont’a Hightower, Alan Branch and Kyle Van Noy among others have left them struggling for solutions. Branch is definitely out this week and it remains to be seen if Van Noy will be ready to come back although he was seen practicing…with the secondary this week.

Look for the Bills to test the Patriots at the edge, where they’ve been really struggling. Eric Lee has been targeted by opponents as well as Deatrich Wise. Without Van Noy, the edge has been a sore spot. Linebackers David Harris, Elandon Roberts, and Marquis Flowers have to do a better job at run support.

Bills WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

Buffalo’s passing game (171.2 YPG average) is predicated on getting the running game going and then having Taylor roll out and make plays with his feet. His two biggest targets are McCoy out of the backfield and tight end Charles Clay. The production from Kelvin Benjamin who’s been hurt and Zay Jones has been inconsistent.

The Patriots pass defense, specifically their secondary has been much better the second half of the season. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots opt to defend McCoy this week. Look for Pat Chung to draw Clay. In the last matchup, they held Taylor and Nathan Peterman to 82 yards net passing.

Look for the Patriots to try to contain Taylor in the pocket. Early downs will tell the tale here. If the Bills are in third and long, their offense will struggle big time having to pass for their first downs. They’ll be looking for those third and short where Taylor can run/pass option for short gainers.  

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski is having an excellent 2017 season, his extra point miss last week was the result of a rare bad snap/hold from Joe Cardona and Ryan Allen. But his kickoffs and outstanding coverage have pinned opponents deep all season.

The Bills Special teams have been good, but not great. Stephen Hauschka has had a very solid season Colton Schmidt has a 44.4 yard average with a 40.6-yard net. The punt coverage units are very solid.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

This one has playoff implications for both teams. If the Patriots win this week and next, they’ll have home-field advantage for the playoffs as the AFC’s #1 seed. Buffalo is the #6 seed right now and would break their streak of no playoff years at 17. They are tied with but hold the tiebreaker with Baltimore.

Tom Brady has only lost to the Bills at home once, in the 2014 finale with most of the starters sitting and Brady playing a half. Overall since 2000, the Bills have won in New England only twice, in 2014 and last year against 3rd string QB Jacoby Brissett. That is a huge obstacle standing in front of them.

Look for the Patriots to keep things balanced offensively and running the ball much like they did the last time but attacking the Bills vertically as well. This one will be close for the first half, but New England pulls away and goes to 12-3.  Patriots 31-17

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Patriots  Week 13  Report Card, Patriots Pummel the Bills 23-3

Steve Balestrieri
December 5, 2017 at 8:30 am ET

The Patriots took care of business in Buffalo on Sunday afternoon using a running game that gashed the Bills for nearly 200 yards behind Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead and the defense which held the Bills woeful passing game to just 85 net yards and three points.

Rob Gronkowski had nine catches for 147 yards and was uncoverable. He also committed a stupid, flagrant cheap shot after the whistle in the fourth quarter that will cost him. If he serves his one-game suspension, he’ll probably miss out on the final of his bonus incentives in his contract which will be expensive.

Simply put, the Patriots outplayed and outcoached the Bills again. Brady improved his record to a ridiculous 27-3 against the Bills and the team clinched a virtual tie for the division. Any Buffalo loss or New England win in the next month clinches the division again for the Patriots. Every spring and early summer we hear the “will this be the year that the Patriots are dethroned in the AFC East?” and this season, even after a slow start, it is essentially wrapped up with four games to go.

With the win, they improve to 10-2, and more importantly, they keep the pressure on the Steelers who will have to win against Cincinnati later tonight to keep pace as the top team in the AFC.

So, we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.

Quarterback: B-

Tom Brady wasn’t sharp, especially in the first half but he and the team heated up in the third quarter and they scored on two impressive drives and put this one away early. Brady ended up with pedestrian numbers (for him), 21-30, 258 yards with zero touchdowns and an interception. The pick was the play that Rob Gronkowski was flagged and suspended for and should have been a penalty (two actually) on TreDavious White.

But Brady missed a wide-open Phillip Dorsett on a deep incompletion to Brandin Cooks, which ignited a mini-brouhaha with Josh McDaniels, but he made a couple of really nice throws to Gronkowski. Brady also slides in the pocket and steps up better than anyone in the business. He has the innate ability to feel the rush and when to step up and slide left or right.

Running Backs: A

The Patriots two-headed monster of Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead gashed the Bills defense badly. A week after holding the Chiefs to less than 60 yards on the ground, the Patriots ran for nearly 200 yards.

Burkhead ran 12 times for 78 yards with two scores and added three catches for 25 yards in the passing game. Lewis ran 15 times for 92 yards. Each broke a long gainer as the running game and the Bills were powerless to stop them.

James Develin and James White both were pressed into support status this week but each played a role and the Patriots running game is getting better and better each week. White had five carries for 18 yards and four catches for 32 more. Not bad production for the third man in the rotation this week.

Wide Receivers: C-

The wide receivers this week were a non-factor in the game. Buffalo’s secondary did a great job of bottling them up and taking away the deep chunks and the sideline routes of the wide receivers.

Brandin Cooks had just receptions for 17 yards, Danny Amendola had just two catches for 34 yards. Dorsett wasn’t targeted, however, he was wide open for that big gain where Brady missed him all alone down the left sideline.

Tight Ends: A

Rob Gronkowski once again tortured the Bills defense in Buffalo. He caught fire in the second half and they don’t have anyone that can match up with him. He caught nine passes for 147 yards despite being held and hit downfield on seemingly every snap. But what followed after the pick was inexcusable.

We get that the frustration of seven years is taking its toll on the big guy, but he frankly has to be smarter than that. And while part of the blame has to fall to the referees who let every team clutch and grab Gronkowski on every down, while if he breathes on an opponent an OPI flag is thrown, it doesn’t excuse what he did…at all. Nuff said.

Dwayne Allen had one catch for three yards but has really improved in his run blocking and provided good support in the running game. Jacob Hollister had one target in the passing game and plays a regular role on Special Teams.

Offensive Line: B

The offensive line was missing right tackle Marcus Cannon again as well as swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle and had Cameron Fleming in there this week. Center David Andrews returned this week. The pass protection was a bit iffy this week again. Buffalo, who came in with just 17 sacks, had three on the day and was getting good pressure on Brady.

The running game was clicking again. The Patriots offensive line was winning the battles there and opened up big holes for the backs to exploit. They were getting to the second level and keeping the linebackers off the runners.  

Defensive Line: B

It was a mixed bag for the offensive line who gave up a whopping 183 yards to LeSean McCoy, Tyrod Taylor et al. but it seemed every time they needed a big stop they were getting it. McCoy had just 30 yards in the second half. And the Bills ended up with a total of three points in their own building. The pass rush was once again very good, the Patriots were getting a good push from everywhere. Malcom Brown had a really solid day in his return from injury with a sack, a pair of quarterback hits and a couple of run stuffs.

Eric Lee was victimized a little bit early in the running game, but he ended up having a big day, with an interception inside the red zone, 1.5 sacks, 3 QB hits, a tackle for a loss and two passes defensed. His interception was set up with nice pressure from Alan Branch who pushed his man into Taylor, possibly effecting the throw

Linebackers: B-

Kyle Van Noy who injured his calf in the game against Miami, seeming re-aggravated it in the third quarter and didn’t return. He did have a half sack, a QB hit, and a pass defensed. Elandon Roberts and David Harris had some issues in run support this week, as they got washed out on a few of the Bills running plays.  They struggled a bit in pass coverage as well. Harris had some good pass rushes in the interior and had 1.5 sacks and a QB hit.

Secondary: A

Stephon Gilmore had an outstanding day again. The Bills tried to attack him in his return to Buffalo this week. It failed miserably. Gilmore blanketed Zay Jones all day. Overall the Patriots secondary was outstanding. Buffalo had just 115 yards passing with a net of 85 and 3.4 yard per pass average. The Bills longest play of the day thru the air was 14 yards. Tyrod Taylor, Nathan Peterman, and Joe Webb were a combined 15 -34 for 115 yards.

The Patriots secondary had their best game of the year. And the good news was that they got Eric Rowe back in the lineup after missing seven weeks with a groin injury. Rowe shook off the rust and had a pass defensed.

Special Teams: B

There wasn’t a heckuva lot to complain about here. Stephen Gostkowski is on a roll, he kicked all three field goal attempts despite having the wind be a factor in the kicking game. His kickoffs and the resultant excellent coverage by the Special Teams units kept Buffalo deep in their zone all day.

Newly signed Bernard Reedy returned one punt for 11 yards and Geneo Grissom replaced Nate Ebner on the STs roster. For a unit short Ebner, Trevor Reilly and Matthew Slater, they didn’t miss a beat.

Coaches: A

Bill Belichick raked Sean McDermott over the coals in their first AFC East meeting on Sunday afternoon. McDermott didn’t come off remotely ready to challenge the Patriots for the division and when they needed to come up with an answer, they chose the Wildcat. That’s how you’re going to beat Belichick and the Patriots? By running the Wildcat? The team was focused, ready to go and had a good game plan that was effectively put into operation.

Josh McDaniels stayed patient with the running the football, and they took what was there. Matt Patricia’s unit gets high marks on Sunday. Buffalo’s best drive was their first one, and they came away with zero points.Overall very good marks for the Patriots. We’re on to Miami.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.