The Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots will get their seasons started today at 1 p.m. ET in a rivalry game that has usually been quite one-sided. In the last 25 meetings between these two teams, the Patriots have been 23-2. However, you can’t take the Bills too lightly, and this is statement that goes a tad beyond the whole “any given Sunday” thing. Rivals have a tendency to play closer games than the gulf in talent between them, and it only takes a glance at last year’s overtime victory over the New York Jets in October to see an example. But the Bills have also provided examples to the Patriots of this, as the Pats came off of a bye week last year and barely scraped by the Bills in a 37-31 victory. And in 2011, the Patriots lost what a Pats Pulpit reader/commenter termed as a “WTF” loss. While I clearly don’t anticipate the Patriots losing this game, talking too much trash can get you in trouble.
An estimated 72,498 fans will be set to watch this encounter at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and New England Patriots fans living in Boston can watch this one on WBZ-TV CBS Boston. Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf will be calling this game, so you might as well just watch this one without volume or something. Buffalo Bills fans can watch the game on their local CBS affiliate as well. If you are in the car while the game is in progress, then you can tune into 98.5 FM The Sports Hub to listen to Scott Zolak and Bob Socci call the game via radio.
New England Patriots Pass Offense vs. Buffalo Bills Pass Defense
The Buffalo Bills secondary is in dire straits with Stephon Gilmore out for five or six games with a wrist injury, and his injury was a huge blow to the Bills defense. Gilmore is not only the Bills best corner, but he’s also set to blossom into one of the league’s finest CBs. Leodis McKelvin will be the Bills No. 1 corner with Gilmore out, and that’s not ideal for a player who is really just a No. 2 corner. I like McKelvin (more so than a number of people), but the Bills have major issues at CB and lack depth there. Free safety Jairus Byrd is doubtful with plantar fasciitis after he was initially expected to play through the pain, and his absence would leave the Bills very vulnerable against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots passing attack. The Patriots have a new-look wide receiver corps, but they are deeper at receiver than they were last year and have enough talent around Brady.
For the Bills, the two receivers to watch for the closest are definitely Danny Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins. Those two are clearly the best wideouts the Patriots have, and Amendola could very well end up with ten receptions on Ron Brooks. It will be interesting to see how much the Bills key in on Amendola, because they could get away with it. However, Kenbrell Thompkins looks set to have a very good day against the Bills. Thompkins has the talent, a pretty good matchup, and he should get the targets. Tight end Zach Sudfeld and versatile running back Shane Vereen are two intriguing weapons on the Patriots side of the ball that will need to be accounted for, and I could see Vereen being a real secret weapon for the Patriots in this game. I don’t see anybody on the Bills defense with the speed to cover Vereen on screens (or even when the Pats split him out wide to try and create mis-matches).
Patriots Rushing Offense vs. Bills Run Defense
I’m not sure how much the Buffalo Bills run defense has improved since last season, but I do know that they were atrocious against the run last year. The Bills gave up the third-most yards per carry in the NFL, and they allowed both Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley to run for over 100 yards apiece the first time these two teams played last season. In the second meeting, Ridley had a good day with 98 rushing yards. Bolden is out today, so the Bills won’t have to worry about him. However, they will have to worry about LeGarrette Blount, who is an explosive back. He’ll have a number of subpar runs before blowing open a big one, and that’s the kind of running back Blount is. Ridley is clearly going to get a high amount of carries in this one, so we’ll see if the Bills are up to the task of stopping him. Kiko Alonso already looks like a difference-maker as a rookie and is somebody to keep a close eye on, but the Patriots offensive line and Stevan Ridley are just too good not to win this matchup.
Continue reading for my thoughts on how the Bills offense stacks up against the Patriots defense.