Buffalo Bills Pass Offense vs. New England Patriots Pass Defense
I am interesting in seeing how T.J. Graham has improved over the offseason, because I was thoroughly unimpressed with his play last season. Not only did he average under 11 yards per reception, but he also caught a poor percentage of the targets he was afforded. Graham has reportedly made strides this offseason, and I expect him to be more of a factor. But how much of a factor will he be? I’m pretty sure Robert Woods will do a solid job as a possession receiver and we all know how great Stevie Johnson is, but Graham’s performance could be an X-Factor for the Buffalo Bills offense. If he can play well today and stretch the field, then he could end up being someone the Patriots really have to account for. More importantly, he would also alleviate pressure off of Stevie Johnson, and that could affect the Patriots gameplan significantly.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver T.J. Graham (11) runs with the ball against the Jets. The Buffalo Bills beat the Jets 28-9. Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
I have confidence that Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, and Devin McCourty can do their jobs effectively, but strong safety is a question mark with Steve Gregory. Kyle Arrington is a solid slot corner, but the Bills want to play Johnson in the slot in three-wide sets. Do the Pats keep Arrington in the slot and hope he can hang with Johnson given some safety help? Or are the Pats not comfortable with sending safety help and would they rather kick Talib inside to cover Johnson? The latter option would cause Arrington to play on the outside where he proved to be a tremendous liability last season. The Patriots should be able to get in E.J. Manuel’s head by getting some pressure on him, but how much pressure will they get? That’s a big guy, and the Patriots have a lot of questions to answer as far as game-planning goes when it comes to blitzing and covering Johnson.
Bills Ground Attack vs. Patriots Run Defense
C.J. Spiller is an incredibly talented running back, and he is clearly going to be the focal point of the Buffalo Bills offense this season. He’s going to be used even more in today’s game with a rookie quarterback making his debut whilst also coming off of an injury. Spiller is the Bills best player and playmaker on offense, and the Patriots can expect to see a heavy dose of him. Bill Belichick knows this, Vince Wilfork knows this, and the rest of the run defense is definitely going to be prepared. The Bills won’t be splitting carries between Spiller and Fred Jackson anymore with Jackson on the downswing in his career, but Jackson should still have a solid day when called upon. The last time these two teams faced, the Bills running back duo combined for 150 yards on the ground and took advantage of some sloppy tackling. The Patriots have an incredible run defense with a secondary that is adept at stopping the run, an elite group of linebackers, and a stout defensive line. But Spiller is such a talented back that he could have a big day against the Patriots, especially if the Pats allow him to get into the secondary. The easiest way for the Bills to win this game is to get some big runs from Spiller, because that’s really the only way to beat the Pats run defense. The Pats need to be at their best in containing Spiller, and it all starts with solid tackling, especially from the players in the secondary.
Continue reading for our prediction.