January 1, 2012; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington (24) is tackled by Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller (28) Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
The 2013 season opener at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY will be like many games before it. It’s a new season, and both teams have undergone considerable change in the off-season. There has been much speculation about how the Patriots will be vulnerable this season due to the loss of 300+ catches with the departure of Welker, Hernandez, and Lloyd. Also, Rob Gronkowski will be sidelined as he recovers from off-season surgeries. However, the song remains the same. Belichick and Brady are too talented and too prepared to lose to an inexperienced Bills team in the opener.
The Bills have some serious play makers on offense in C.J. Spiller and Steve Johnson. Their rookie quarter back E.J. Manuel looked very promising in preseason, but is coming of a minor knee injury to get the start.
This game will be close in the first half as the Patriots get their rhythm and Bills benefit from the energy of their home opener. However, the young Patriots defense is going to overwhelm the Bills offense in the second half and come up with sacks from all angles after some key half-time adjustments. Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, and Brandon Spikes all figure to put a lot of heat on the quarterback. I expect to see at least one interception and one strip-sack, creating a turn-over advantage to the Patriots. Look for Shane Vereen and Zach Sudfeld to both have big days in the red-zone, keyed off the strong running of Stevan Ridley.
The Patriots running game and diversified passing attack will dominate the time of possession and create a familiar result, as the Patriots hand the promising Bills their first loss of the season. Assuming the Bills can stay reasonably healthy this season, I expect them to be competitive and finish second behind the Patriots in the AFC East.
Prediction: Patriots 36 – Bills 21
Most teams fare out better when facing rookie quarterbacks, but the Patriots are statistically even better against rookie signal-callers. E.J. Manuel is healthy and his debut signifies a new era in Buffalo, but he will have a tough test ahead of him in Week 1. The Patriots will likely face a heavy dose of C.J. Spiller, but we all know how excellent this run defense is. Spiller is such a talented rusher that he should be able to have a good game against the Pats, but I don’t think it’s going to be enough for the Bills offense to top the Patriots offense. Stevie Johnson is in line for the biggest day of anyone on the Bills, because the Bills will be lining him in the slot in three-wide sets in order to create more mismatches. His day depends on how the Pats game plan for him, but I would expect him to be a top performer.
Nobody should be sleeping on the Patriots passing attack, and it seems like some people are just lazy and simply write off the Pats passing offense due to all the new faces. Aaron Dobson probably won’t make much of an impact as a rookie, but Kenbrell Thompkins and Zach Sudfeld could be posed for two big seasons. Ignore the UDFA in front of the “rookie”, because the Patriots wisely don’t care about that designation either. Stevan Ridley should be able to have a big day, and Tom Brady will carve up a secondary bereft of their shutdown corner and possibly their star safety. The Bills chances of upsetting the Patriots are very slim, but I don’t think they will end up getting completely blown out either.
Prediction: Patriots 37 – Bills 20
Stevan Ridley continues his strong play against the Bills & the defense makes enough plays for the Pats to win comfortably. Don’t be surprised if the Pats rush for 200 yards as a team.
Prediction: Patriots 34 – Bills 20
Topics: Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, NFL, NFL Week 1