Earlier this week, I laid out the Bills running game stats and how much success they have had through three games running behind each specific player along the line.
Now, let's examine exactly how - and where - the Bills may have success attacking the New England Patriots defense Sunday. But also how and where they may want to avoid the defending AFC champions' while trying to move the ball.
Once again, these stats were gathered from the NFL's official Statistical Information System, which provides the NFL game book reports.
First, the Pats are a much better team against the run than they are defending the pass. They've only given up 82 yards a game on the ground (7th best in the NFL), but have given up 262 yards a game through the air (24th in the league). So let's start there. As well as the Bills have run the ball, the stats show that will be a lot tougher to do against New England than it has been the first three games. They may have to rely more on Ryan Fitzpatrick and the passing game in this one -- especially, obviously, if Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller are both out or are extremely limited.
If Chan Gailey does opt for that plan of attack, or is forced into it due to the score or flow of the game, here are where the Patriots are most and least vulnerable defending the pass:
According to the statistical analysis, of the 109 passes attempted by the Patriots opponents through their first three games, 24 of them were considered "deep" (over ten yards) and 85 of them were considered "short" (ten yards or less).
Of the 24 "deep" passes against them:
New England is most vulnerable when teams attack to the offensive left (the right side of the Pats defense). They are 22nd in the NFL allowing 57.14% completions to that area. They're a bit better, but certainly not good, at defending the deep middle (allowing 50% completions, 17th in the NFL) and deep right (36.36%, 17th).
Of the 85 "short" passes against them:
The biggest area of weakness - not only in the short passing game, but overall - comes in the short-middle pass defense for the Patriots. It's a tough area to defend for most teams, but the Patriots are dead last in the NFL (32nd) defending that part of the field through the air, allowing an extremely high 87.50% completions against them. To the short right they're giving up 68.29%, which is 19th in the NFL.
Where not to go with the ball:
The area the stats suggest the Bills will struggle if they try to go there against New England is the short left. The Pats are only allowing 60% completions to that vicinity, which is 4th best in the NFL. Also, when teams do complete the ball to that spot against them, they are holding offenses to a an extremely low 2.55 yards per completion, best in the NFL for that spot.
Wrapping all of this up and determining the Bills best and worst chances for success against the Pats Sunday, the stats and tendencies say their best chances to complete passes (in order) are:
1. Short Middle (32nd in NFL defending that area)
(Extremely high success rate for opposing offenses here)
2. Deep Left (22nd)
3/4. Short Right (19th)
5. Deep Right and Deep Middle (17th)
6. Short Left (4th)
(Extremely low success rate and yardage gained for offenses here)
And just incase you're wondering, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been very steady in the short-middle passing game so far this season, completing 73.33% of his passes to that area, good for 9th overall in the NFL so far.
I'm sure Bills fans will take a win any way the team can get it done. But when taking to the air Sunday, these are the ways the stats say the Bills will be most - and least - successful.
I'll have more tomorrow on my Football Friday Flurry here on the blog.
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