The task? Beat the New England Patriots on the road.
As the heavy underdogs of the contest, the Bills will need some breaks to go their way to have a chance at doing the unthinkable. However, the Patriots are not a perfect team, leaving some areas that the Bills can exploit.
Let's take a look at some key things to watch for:
1) Bothering Brady
- Earlier in the week, Buffalo Bills General Manager Buddy Nix called it "amazing" to watch Tom Brady operate the New England offense on a weekly basis. With several question marks regarding the Bills defense, whether it be at cornerback or with the pass rush, it could be yet another week where Brady has another "amazing" performance. The Bills will have an interesting dilemma on their hands. Do they blitz and hope pressure gets to Brady quickly enough, or do they drop back seven players and hope their front-four is good enough to make him sweat a little bit. When the Bills signed Mario Williams and Mark Anderson in the off-season, they had hoped the defensive end duo would be able to give some clarity to that conundrum. With Williams not yet a consistent factor and Anderson on the sidelines, it adds even more weight to the decision they'll have to make. If they don't guess correctly, Brady will just be Brady once again.
2) Establishing C.J. (…and Fred)
- Following the Houston game, there was a big outcry to get explosive third-year runner C.J. Spiller the ball more than just six carries and five receptions in a single game. His attributes as a running back have many believing that he could be the next big thing in the NFL. The Bills will find some room to operate on offense and that could mean huge yardage for Spiller if he gets the ball enough. Even to a larger degree, Fred Jackson didn't get the ball much against the Texans either. For some reason the Bills have a tendency to abandon the run game in the second half when a team shows a different look to help limit that game. Adjustments will need to be made, and the Bills' running backs have to get the ball in their hands in order for the Bills to have a chance to keep pace with the Patriots offense.
3) Different Defensive Personnel Looks
- For the first time, the Bills saw an opponent forgo matching personnel with their offense to attempt to limit the amount of room on the ground they can have. While the Bills did rip off a couple of big runs, this approach indeed held them at bay. Based on the way Buffalo refused to operate their run offense against that look, it would be fair to expect they'll be seeing it again this weekend. The Bills might give some different defensive looks to the Patriots as well. A big story following the first loss to New England circled the Patriots taking advantage of a smaller personnel on the field by running it straight at them. It caused Kelvin Sheppard and then starter Arthur Moats to see limited snaps. Once again, it would be fair to expect that trend to change and for the bigger personnel to stay on the field at times.
4) Fitz and Stevie linking up
- Over the past two games, Ryan Fitzpatrick has limited turning the ball over through the air to just one time. Of course, the Bills didn't win either one of those games and the lone interception may have ultimately done them in. However, he's been much more accurate and efficient as of late and is starting to gain a bit of confidence back. Stevie Johnson has been starting to look like his normal self again, and has a chance to have his best game of the season against a Patriots secondary that gives up a ton of yardage. It would be one of the best ways for the Bills to stay in this one.
5) No Bolden? No problem
- The Patriots ran all over the Bills in their first meeting. Stevan Ridley was expected to get the carries, but Brandon Bolden was a bit of a surprise. Both ended up going for over 100-yards, leaving the defensive players in Buffalo scratching their heads. With Bolden suspended for the next four games, the Patriots still have another running back that's gained some steam as the season has progressed. Ridley will once again be highlighted, but look for Shane Vereen to fill the role that Bolden assumed in their first meeting. The Bills will have to prove that they can stop the run before any pressure gets taken off them in that respect.
OUT: CB Aaron Williams, DE Mark Anderson
QUESTIONABLE: DE Shawne Merriman, DT Kyle Williams, DE Chris Kelsay, DT Spencer Johnson, WR Stevie Johnson, G Kraig Urbik
PROBABLE: WR Brad Smith, G Andy Levitre, CB Stephon Gilmore, C Eric Wood, CB Leodis McKelvin, HB C.J. Spiller, DE Mario Williams, DT Marcell Dareus, T Chris Hairston, CB Justin Rogers
OUT: HB Brandon Bolden, LB Tracy White, DE Trevor Scott
QUESTIONABLE: S Patrick Chung, WR Wes Welker, TE Rob Gronkowski, C Nick NcDonald, LB Dont'a Hightower, G Logan Mankins, LB Brandon Spikes, WR Brandon Lloyd, T Sebastian Vollmer, CB Kyle Arrington, DT Ron Brace, TE Aaron Hernandez, S Steve Gregory, LB Jerod Mayo
PROBABLE: DT Kyle Love, WR Julian Edelman
Prediction: Patriots over Bills
- Too much fire power for the New England Patriots on offense and too little amount of ways to help limit them for the Buffalo Bills on defense will ultimately be the undoing of the Bills in this one. While the offense will get some yardage and points, I expect the Patriots to run away with this one and increase their AFC East division lead.