The 9-0 New England Patriots have had the number of multiple teams since the dawn of the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady era. However, no team has been dominated more by the Patriots than the boys from western New York, the Buffalo Bills. With new head coach Rex Ryan, the Bills have more confidence now more than ever that they can finally knock off the defending Super Bowl champions.
In week two the Bills put up a valiant effort against the Patriots, but could not finish off a 24-point fourth quarter comeback losing to the Patriots 40-32. This Monday night, the Bills will travel to Foxborough to take on the undefeated Patriots, and Rex Ryan has been quoted in saying, “Our team will be ready Monday night.”
So here are the keys to a Patriots victory…
Feed Gronk: With Julian Edelman and Dion Lewis out for this game (season), the Patriots need to feed their biggest playmaker in Rob Gronkowski. Buffalo defensive players have been harping all week about their game plan to shut down Gronkowski. However, history says that Rex Ryan’s defensive plans have not worked out t0o well against Rob Gronkowski. In ten games, against Rex Ryan led defenses, Gronkowski has 57 receptions, for 682 yards, and seven touchdowns. The Patriots offensive game plan needs to be focused around number 87, because he is their offense right now with all the injuries.
Throw it all over the yard: The likely return of Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon is one that will go greatly appreciated by Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels. In the past few weeks with the lack of stability on the offensive line, the Patriots passing game has been watered down because they could not afford to take any risks. Buffalo has the seventh ranked rush defense and the 18th ranked pass defense. The Patriots offensive line has been awful when it comes to running the ball, and it won’t get any better this week. This could very well be a week where Tom Brady tries for the big plays with Aaron Dobson and Brandon LaFell, because he should have the time to throw.
Don’t get burned by the big play: The Patriots defense has prided themselves of late by not getting beat by the big plays. Nevertheless, last week the Giants offense picked apart the Patriots defense with the big play. This week, the Bills offense presents a challenge because of their insane speed. Tyrod Taylor, Lesean McCoy, Robert Woods, and Sammy Watkins are all players on the Buffalo offense that have phenomenal breakaway speed. Malcolm Butler did a superb job in shutting down an elite receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. last Sunday. This week he will have a very similar challenge in defending Sammy Watkins. If he can limit Watkins and not give up the 15-yard plus plays, the Buffalo offense will struggle. If he can’t it will be a tough ball game for New England on defense.
Get after Tyrod Taylor: Without Jamie Collins, the Patriots pass rush has significantly slowed down. This week, the team won’t have Collins on the field again as he recovers from his mysterious illness. However, they will still need to get after Tyrod Taylor and force him into turnovers. This means that Chandler Jones needs to generate pressure on his own by winning his one on one match ups, and not just slipping past lineman on the backs of Hightower and Collins. This is a week where he will truly need to earn his money.
Make plays on special teams: Last week the Patriots biggest play of the game came on special teams when Danny Amendola sparked a fire under the offense with his 80-yard punt return. The Patriots are the top-ranked NFL special team’s unit, and they need to prove so this week. They need to get solid field position on returns going up against a very tough Buffalo defense, and they also need to contain the likes of Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods in the return game. Furthermore, this could be yet another game where Stephen Gostkowski’s clutch kicking will be much needed.
In the end, this game will be much tougher than the week two match up where the Patriots had control for most of the afternoon. The injuries on offense mixed with the tough Buffalo defense will provide an obstacle for the Patriots. However, they are a team that has faced many obstacles before and they should win this one in a low scoring contest by a touchdown.