Vs. Patriots: Not For the Faint of Heart

<B>Where to begin:</B> <P> This game is a "second home opener" of sorts following a bye week and a chance therein to regroup. The Bills used the break to reassert the original notions of expectations of the coaching staff, Donahoe, and even QB Drew Bledsoe that the problems on this team were very correctable as well as downplayed. As such, the team had better put up or realize that the issues of this team run much deeper than Donahoe and Mularkey along with the rest of the coaches' thought.

While the Bills had a dichotomy of games last season winning their home game 31-0 while losing their road game by the same score, this is clearly a team playing much more like that which lost the second game than won the first one. As well, these Pats will not come into Buffalo this year looking as if their preference is to step right back onto the bus and head home dejectedly following an enormous player issue. Instead they come to the Ralph seeking and focused on obtaining a win that would lead to their league tying 18th consecutive win.

The Patriots are a better team than the Bills from every angle. Both lines, QB, defensive backfield, linebacking, special teams, and last but not least, coaching. The only two areas where the Bills match up favorably is in the RB department and perhaps in WRs although the Patriot WRs are underheralded due to their youth and their spread out passing game placing Brady at the top of the league's QB spectrum contrasted with Bledsoe's five year downward spiral into the abyss of "has been" QBs. The reason why the Pats get more from their skill position players than the Bills do is because their line is superior.

How important is this game for the Bills:

This game's importance is monumental! If Donahoe's and the coaches' season expectations are to be met, which are a winning record and playoff competitiveness, then the Bills absolutely must be competitive in this game. In fact, a loss here, barring an extremely competitive game otherwise, would necessarily entail someone at One Bills Drive answering some very serious questions.

The problem is that Bill Belichick has also had two weeks to prepare, which is not good. Giving Belichick two weeks to prep is like giving the hare a head start in a race vs. the tortoise. It is doubtful that the hare will halt to rest until the final whistle blows in this one however.

The fans are on the edge of their seats getting ready to get a jump-start on the mutiny to ensue should the Bills lose this game by playing poorly. As well, my prediction of Bledsoe getting booed out of the city in this game still stands. The fans will not sit still for one or two early sacks on key plays, poor throws, or bad decision making from their multi-millionaire QB. There may be few options to make this team competitive, a management issue really, but this will not prevent the fans from venting their disgust should Bledsoe not turn an "acceptable" game. If this happens it could very well represent the wheels coming off the cart.

What to expect:

A disaster! Keep the Aspirin handy Bills fans. The closest team to this season's Patriots that the Bills faced last season was the Chiefs. ‘Nuff said!

While Clements and Wyche are on the sidelines talking about Bledsoe's "foot placement", Weiss and Belichick will be discussing how to best exploit a defense that has no pass rush without a blitz. This is simply not a good matchup for a passing game as spread out as the Pats' passing game.

This is arguably the league's worst offense going up against one of the league's most creative offenses led by one of the best and most efficient QBs in the game today behind a top grade line and this season offset by a running game that should be characteristic of the Bills if top management and coaching were to have been believed. It will also be a great test for this Bills defense. Last season's performances vs. similar offensively talented teams is not a good harbinger for the Bills.

This game is all but a winnable game for the Bills. Contrary to statements otherwise, the Patriots will come into this game with absolutely no respect for Bledsoe, blitzing frequently using looks that will make Tom Clements' head spin no doubt. They will stuff the box and dare Bledsoe to go deep where one-on-one matchups will rule the day enticing and daring Bledsoe to go deep realizing that they are more apt to capitalize on a big play than the Bills are to do the same offensively. If the Bills win this game it will likely have been on big plays, some fortunes such as defensive breakdowns which rarely characterize the Pats, or officiating miscues favoring the Bills, which frankly, are overdue.

The matchups favor New England in speed and experience. That is if Bledsoe even has time to set up and go deep. Again, the answer here is a solid short game. The problem, Bledsoe and a sub-mediocre offensive line, both of which Donahoe, Mularkey, Clements, and Wyche confidently insisted were not issues heading into this season. This game should provide a good gauge as to their judgements in these areas.

The Patriots bring the spread out passing game of the Raiders and the rushing game of the Jags all in one package now. Defensively, they'll bring a Raider type of D except better and coached by the master himself. They will once again bring looks that confuse Bledsoe before he gets off the bus.

I have been warning of an overrated Bills defense and the evidence for this will pop up vs. the Pats who sport the first well-rounded offense that the Bills face on the season.

Once again, my preseason prediction has the fans booing Bledsoe out of the city in this game.

Key Players and Matchups:

Patriot defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel vs. Bills head coach and offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and Tom Clements. Crennel is going to throw the book at Drew and the Bills' offensive line daring them to beat what will be some nice man-to-man matchups. Don't believe any of the "Drew's dangerous" hype in the media. The Pats know that he's an error-filled bonanza for them if properly pressured.

The Bills will not be able to afford to rush five or six defensive players or Tom Brady will slice up the Bills defensive backfield. The rub is that the Bills are seemingly not good at generating a viable pass rush unless they use five, often six men. Ergo, Tom Brady should have all day in the pocket.

Bills WRs, Moulds, Reed, Evans vs. the Pat DBs, Law, Poole, Harrison, and Wilson. There will be few matchups for the Bills to exploit if any. The Pats matchup very well man-to-man here and perhaps own these matchups. Throw in some pressure on Drew, hard to believe I realize, and this passing game will be fortunate if it generates more than 150 yards on the game other than perhaps in prevent mode late. Expect numerous sacks and even several INTs.

Patriot TE Daniel Graham vs. the Bills linebackers led by 5'9"/5'10" Fletcher who struggles in such coverages. When Spikes is on the coverage the matchup will be better. At some point however Fletcher will be seeing Graham coming over the middle and will have to pick him up. The Pats will utilize Graham effectively and the Bills in general struggle in coverage against dominating TEs.

The Bills offensive line vs. the Patriots solution in their 3-4. What that solution is remains to be seen but likely features rookie Vince Wilfork given that Traylor has not played well thus far. The Bills only chance in this game is if their sub-mediocre line can step up and pave the way for anything resembling a solid running game let alone a "power running game" that has been promised this season yet which has yet to come anything close to making an appearance.

The Patriots also have much better depth to rotate in to keep their defense fresh. The Bills will not be effective on three or four WR sets in this game. The plan had better include a lot of 2 TE or 2 RB sets and stick to the rushing game regardless of how tempting it may be to try to allow Drew to try and make big plays deep.

Hint for Coach Mularkey: Even if you end up down by 21, run, run, run the ball. Throwing vs. this Pats team will only make matters worse. Work McGahee in to spell Henry. If the holes are not there, see ya next week!

Summary:

I was about to alter my last week's summary. I reread it however just prior to deleting it and figured I would simply change the names.

Once again the biggest matchup will be the Patriot defensive line vs. the Bills offensive line. The only way the Bills win this week is if they can establish this legendary "power rushing game."

This week's game will be a much better test for the Bills line and for the offense. The Patriot D under experienced coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel will be throwing more defensive looks at the Bills and likely more blitzes of varying sorts. The run defense does not figure to be as tough as the Jags rush D, so this will be a prime opportunity for the Bills to showcase this much talked about power rushing game which has yet to make an appearance. If they cannot do that here, given the absence of it during the preseason, it would stand to reason that someone's assessments were off.

The outcome of this game may very well come down to Bills rookie offensive coordinator Tom Clements and his Steeler roots vs. very seasoned and accomplished Patriot defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. The last time the Mularkey/Clements tandem met the Patriots under Crennel, the results were similar to what one might expect in this game. The Patriots generated three interceptions, recovered two fumbles, held the Steeler O to 74 yards rushing on 3.1 per carry, generated five sacks (on Kordell Stewart who has legs) for a loss of 38 yards, and held the Steeler passing game to 125 net passing yards through 57 minutes and until the final drive where the Pat D was in prevent mode.

If the game comes down to Bledsoe needing to make the big plays, just as in 2002, the edge will shift to the Patriots easily. The more that Bledsoe drops back to pass and has the ball in his fingers, the worse for the Bills. The Bills should once again attempt to establish this power running game and should be able to do so to a greater extent than they were against Jacksonville and the Raiders. If they cannot, then it is time to begin asking some very serious questions of those who have assessed this current season for the team.

Bottom line: There are far too many issues for this Bills team to all correct at once vs. the most well-rounded offensive and defensive team that they will face to date and possibly on the season. Any single one of these issues, coaching, discipline manifested in dumb penalties, poor rushing, poor pass blocking, poor overall line play, the inability of the Bills to move the ball consistently, the inability of the Bills to generate a pass rush other than when using five, six, or seven man blitzes, Bledsoe's "foot planting" issues among other issues, poor kicking are enough to doom a game. All together they present an insurmountable conundrum heading into this game against the world champs.

Prediction: Patriots 34, Bills 13.

I had this at 34-6 originally. But this offense can't be flat forever. Right!

Comments: mweiler.billsreport@cox.net


Buffalo Football Report Top Stories