This quite possibly could be the most hype heading in to a Buffalo Bills-New England Patriots matchup in recent memory. The offensively skilled Bills will try and take it to the offensive juggernaut Patriots in their battle on Sunday.
And while the Patriots are a very, very good team, they do have some weaknesses to exploit. Let's take a look at five things to watch during the Bills matchup against New England.
1) Air Raid
- I don't think there is any question what the Patriots are going to try to do on offense. They have three explosive targets through two games (Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski) that are healthy, one player that is trying to get back to where he once was (Chad Ochocinco), and even a young burner that can be utilized at times (Matthew Slater). Against the Bills, expect Tom Brady and company to go after Leodis McKelvin all day and night on the left side of the field. McKelvin and George Wilson are liabilities after their first two performances this season. But Ryan Fitzpatrick and his seven touchdowns can do some damage against a banged up Patriots secondary, too. Cornerbacks Ras-I Dowling (hip) and Kyle Arrington (concussion) have been limited in practice all week, and starting safety Patrick Chung is out according to the Boston Herald. With injuries to those key players, Fitzpatrick and his wideouts can get their mojo working early on if they want to. This game could turn in to a shootout.
2) Attack the Rookie
- With starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer missing the entire week of practice due to a back injury, he is out for this contest. That means first-round pick and rookie Nate Solder will be in the starting lineup at right tackle. While he performed well at times against Miami's Cameron Wake in their opener, Wake was still able to get the upperhand later on in the game. If Solder is in the lineup, I think that's a matchup that can be exploited with the likes of Shawne Merriman rushing at him. If the Bills are able to put pressure on Brady and make him feel uncomfortable in this game, they have a shot. But if they just let Brady sit back there and pick them apart like Jason Campbell did last weekend, it could be a long Sunday for the defense.
3) Ball Control
- What we may see is the Bills trying to slow down the clock. Maybe we'll see a bit more running plays from the Bills than we have in the first two weeks. The less Brady is on the field, the better chance it is to limit how many points he can put up through the passing attack. If the Bills elect to go this route, the contrasting running styles of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller will be important with how effective the Bills are on offense.
4) Who's Covering Welker?
- With Terrence McGee out, the top three cornerbacks are Drayton Florence, Leodis McKelvin and Aaron Williams. So the question is which of those three draw the Welker slot assignment? I doubt they'll put the rookie Williams on the experienced Welker. That's just too much for him to handle this young in his career. I think the ideal matchup for them would be to have Florence cover Welker. Drayton is easily their best cover corner at this point, and knows how Welker operates from past contests.
5) Woodhead a Pass-Pro Liability
- We touched a little bit on the rookie Nate Solder, but backup running back Danny Woodhead can be taken advantage of when he's in the backfield blocking on a passing play. His frame indicates that he wouldn't really have the strength to do it, and so he tries to make up for it by lunging at players. That often times leads to a miss, and Brady has to adjust. When Woodhead is on the field, I wouldn't be shocked to see the Bills send a bit more heat than most plays. While he's an effective spell running back and good with screens, if you can catch him in pass-protection, Buffalo's pass rushers could be in business.
New England OUT: TE Aaron Hernandez, OT Sebastian Vollmer, DE Mike Wright QUESTIONABLE: S Patrick Chung, CB Ras-I Dowling, LB Gary Guyton, DT Albert Haynesworth, LB Jerod Mayo, P Zoltan Mesko, WR Taylor Price, C Ryan Wendell
PROBABLE: CB Kyle Arrington, S Josh Barrett, CB Leigh Bodden, LB Dane Fletcher
Prediction: New England 45, Buffalo 37
- Tom Brady is just too hot to handle at this point of the season. Even without Aaron Hernandez in the passing attack, Brady is going to eat the Bills' weak secondary alive. The Bills will get their points, but I just don't think it will be enough this time around. Their offense can't bail out that secondary in this one. Unfortunately, I think the streak continues.