The 1-2 New England Patriots are set to take on the Buffalo Bills today in their first AFC East game of the season. The Pats are coming off of a narrow 31-30 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, while the Bills are at home and fresh off of a victory over the Cleveland Browns
Kick-off time is set at 1:00 p.m. ET in front of an estimated crowd of nearly 74,000 at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The game will be broadcast on CBS, and fans in Boston can watch the game on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf will be calling the game, and you can listen in to 98.5 The Sports Hub if you are not able to catch the game on television.
The Patriots will be without star left guard Logan Mankins, while Fred Jackson is expected to play for the Bills and C.J. Spiller is likely out.
Patriots Pass Offense vs. Bills Pass Defense
The Buffalo Bills love to press opposing receivers in coverage, as both Aaron Williams and Stephen Gilmore are significantly better in press coverage. Gilmore has struggled so far as a rookie, so his inexperience is something the Pats will be able to take advantage of. Slot corner Leodis McKelvin is the weak link in the secondary, and that’s a matchup that Tom Brady will no doubt take advantage of.
With Julian Edelman out for today’s game, Wes Welker is going to be getting a high amount of targets thrown his way. He had 142 receiving yards last week against a better Ravens secondary, so expect Welk to go off today with more targets heading his direction.
The Bills, however, have one of the top safety duos in the league in George Wilson and Jairus Byrd. The latter player will be especially key, because Lloyd should be able to burn the aggressive Williams a couple of times in this game. Byrd is a great ball-hawking safety who has a high amount of importance to Buffalo, and that value will be on display in his ability to effectively bracket him and also cover Rob Gronkowski if needed to.
Although Buffalo’s pass rush hasn’t fully woken up yet, they could explode in any given game with a nasty front four that features the dominant Kyle Williams. Second-year player Marcell Dareus is an explosive player, and Mario Williams was a huge offseason signing who will provide us with an interesting battle against right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. At RE, former Patriot Mark Anderson will go up against second-year LT Nate Solder, with both players specializing in run defense and run blocking respectively. The Bills have one of the best defensive lines in the league, and expect Kyle Williams to take advantage of the absence of Logan Mankins with a big day.
Patriots Run Offense vs. Bills Run Defense
While the Bills secondary will lose their battle against Brady and the Pats top trio of receivers, their run defense is well-equipped to stop Stevan Ridley and the Pats. Williams and Anderson are a lockdown duo on the right side, which is a mismatch for the Patriots. While Solder is a great run blocker, the Pats are missing their best run blocker in Mankins. To make that absence even worse, backup Donald Thomas will have to block Williams, who is one of the game’s best DTs. Thomas is a solid backup, but this is a matchup that the Bills star DT will win.
The Bills have one of the best 4-3 linebacker duos in the NFL against the run in Arthur Moats and Nick Barnett. Moats has really broken out early on this year and will primarily be on the strong-side of the field. Barnett has always been one of the league’s premier downhill run-stoppers, and both outside linebackers will give Ridley fits.
My suggestion for the Patriots is to avoid running the ball towards the left side, because that’s where Williams, Anderson, and Barnett usually play. Vollmer, Connolly, and Wendell have easier matchups against the run, but we should expect this game to be all about the pass. And hopefully the Pats give up on handing the ball off to Danny Woodhead. It didn’t work against the Ravens, and it will be even worse against Buffalo. Let’s see if Shane Vereen is finally healthy, because Ridley can’t do it all alone. The Bills run defense will “win” this matchup, but I don’t expect Ridley to average under 3.5 yards per carry again.
Continue reading for my thoughts on how the Patriots defense stacks up against the Bills offense, as well as my final prediction for the game.