Bill Pass Offense vs. Patriots Pass Defense
As with every passing attack, things start
at the quarterback position up front, and the Buffalo Bills offensive line has been the best “front” this year. Left tackle Cordy Glenn is the true offensive player giving Robert Griffin III a run for his money for the OROY thus far. I can’t wait to watch our own ROY candidate, Chandler Jones, face off against him head-to-head. Glenn has been nearly perfect in pass protection this season, but Jones holds an advantage over him in run defense.
The left side of the line is, as a whole, a very strong side for Buffalo. Left guard Andy Levitre has always been one of the premier pass-blocking guards in the league, and Eric Wood is as steady as they come at center. While the right side of the line is weaker than the left, both Kraig Urbik and Erik Pears have put in a solid three weeks for the Bills.
It all comes down to Jones and Glenn when looking at the pass rush, because Jones is clearly the Patriots best pass rusher up front. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick makes plenty of mistakes when under pressure, so it will be interesting to see if the Patriots decide to blitz a linebacker, safety, or nickel corner significantly.
Stevie Johnson is clearly the Bills top receiving weapon, but Patriots corner Devin McCourty is at his best against possession receivers like Johnson, who caught seven passes in his last game. McCourty has shut down both Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin in his past two games, so he is in a good position to have a similarly strong game against the Bills No. 1 WR. Let’s just hope his two fourth quarter drops don’t come back to haunt him.
Bills Run Offense vs. Patriots Run Defense
Ray Rice was able to rush for over 100 yards against a Patriots run defense that is one of the best in the league; a unit that shut down their first two opponents of the season. Although Fred Jackson isn’t fully healthy, he has a similar skill-set to Rice and is also one of the best backs in the league. A notorious Pats-killer, New England’s run defense will have their hands full against him.
We’ll see if C.J. Spiller is able to play, but, even if he isn’t, the Pats will have to be on their toes against the Bills rushing attack. Tashard Choice won’t be a problem, but the offensive line has done a good job of creating holes for their running backs and the blocking downfield has been exceptional. Brandon Spikes had a rare off game last week, but my concern lies in another DROY candidate in Dont’a Hightower.
Last week, I came away disappointed with Hightower’s play against the Ravens, and I think he was the most suspect player on the Pats against the run. Worst of all, he didn’t look aggressive and didn’t look at all like the same player who lit up the Tennessee Titans in Week 1. Hightower will need to be more consistent in this game, but the Patriots run defense is too good to lose this matchup against an injured Bills stable of running backs.
At the end of the day, I can’t see the Patriots going 1-3; especially not against an AFC East rival like the Bills. I know some people want to act like this will be an easy victory with the Bills dealing with injuries to their two best offensive players, but their front seven is just so talented. The pass protection has been nearly flawless, and this game has the potential to be a shootout if the Pats secondary has a repeat performance of last week.
But here’s the thing. If it comes down to a shootout, then there isn’t a way the Bills keep up with the Patriots. For as many question marks as the Pats secondary has, there is more talent in our secondary and more talent in our group of pass-catchers. There’s also the fact that Fitzpatrick just won’t be able to keep up with Brady if it come down to it.
It’s going to be a great game, but this is going to be a game in which the Pats get back on track and win 40-27 in a high-scoring game. The scoreline will likely flatter the Pats, because I think it’s going to be one of those games that’s close until Brady pulls ahead in the fourth. That is, if the secondary doesn’t implode again.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.