Patriots - Bills: Game Preview

The (1-1) Patriots host the (0-2) Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. Game Preview with news, notes, injury updates and more...

Buffalo Bills (0-2) at New England Patriots (2-0)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 9/26/10
VENUE: Gillette Stadium
LOCATION: Foxborough, Mass.
SURFACE: FieldTurf
WEATHER: Foxboro
TV: CBS (Kevin Harlan, Solomon Wilcots)

PREDICTION: Patriots 41-17

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bills haven't defeated the Patriots since 2003. That won't likely change here. The Patriots are incredibly strong at home and the Bills are a work in progress. Coach Chan Gailey turned to Ryan Fitzpatrick earlier in the week as his new starting quarterback. Whether that breathes life into an offense with a shortage of talent is uncertain. WR Randy Moss and QB Tom Brady might hook up often -- the Bills aren't getting to the quarterback, and Brady will heave it deep when Moss has extra time to extend routes and uncover. There's no obvious answer to the Patriots' rotating wheel at tailback. Without Kevin Faulk, it'll be interesting to see how the third-down void is filled.

FAST FACTS: The Patriots are 43-14 vs. the AFC East since 2001. ... The Bills haven't had a 300-yard passer in 58 games.


   First it was running back, then quarterback, now wide receiver.

   Two weeks into the NFL season, coach Chan Gailey is showing that he's not afraid of change.

   Wide receiver Steve Johnson has confirmed that he has been replaced in the starting lineup by Roscoe Parrish when the Bills use a two-receiver set. Johnson dropped a couple passes in last week's loss to Green Bay, one that set up a Packers' touchdown.

   Johnson, who had a poor training camp but managed to earn a roster spot, wasn't surprised by the move.

   "No, because we made changes throughout the team, from line to running back, to receiver," he said. "I had a change in my role. Now quarterback is no surprise. Coach Gailey is trying to find the best fit because we're trying to win games."

   When the Bills go to a three-wide formation, Johnson will be the outside man and the smaller Parrish will shift inside.

   The Bills have used mostly three- and four-wide looks this young season.

   It's peculiar that Gailey would view the smallish Parrish as a better option opposite Lee Evans, who isn't a big receiver either. Parrish has been productive, however, with four catches for 69 yards (17.3 average) and one touchdown playing from the slot.

   Johnson has six catches for 71 yards.

   The numbers don't show it -- yet -- but the Buffalo Bills upgraded their rushing attack during the offseason with the addition of first-round draft pick C.J. Spiller, who has joined an already-crowded backfield that also features Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson.

   Through two games, the Bills are ranked just 23rd in the league in rushing, but the Patriots aren't taking anything for granted as they prepare to host Buffalo on Sunday in an attempt to get back into the win column.

   "I'll tell you what, they've got three good backs -- Spiller, (Marshawn) Lynch and Fred Jackson," nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. "They're all tough runners, so we're going to have our hands full. They've been running the ball successfully and we have a big, big challenge ahead this week in trying to stop a three-headed monster."

   Last week, the Patriots got torn apart by the Jets' rushing attack in the second half, though they're still ranked among the middle of the pack in run defense. The push starts with Wilfork, who plays an integral role as the anchor of New England's 3-4 defense.

   "Most of the time you hear about two guys, or one good back, but they really have three good backs who can run the ball very, very well," Wilfork said. "It's just about getting back to the basics, playing good technique, communicate well, and execute well. If we do that we'll be in good shape."

   Depending on what looks the Patriots show defensively, the Bills might try to establish the run early, especially since quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is making the start over Trent Edwards, who's been benched after two poor showings this season. Spiller and Lynch are the focal points of the rushing attack while Taylor plays more of a secondary role.

   "They're both very good, explosive guys that can take the ball the distance," coach Bill Belichick said. "I'd say, Lynch really can play on all downs and all situations. I don't really see anything he can't do and do well -- run inside, run outside. (He) runs around and through tacklers. (He) catches the ball well.

   "Spiller is more of a space player. He's better out in the open field. He's real good out in the open field returning, screens, draws, loose plays and things like that. He's very fast, very dangerous, very elusive. Lynch is a powerful guy. You see him breaking tackles by defensive lineman, running through them, not just DBs. He runs through a lot of tackles on everybody. Pound for pound he's got to be one of the strongest players in the league with good balance."


   --QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will start Sunday's game at New England, faced the Patriots last year. He completed 17 of 25 passes for 178 yards, one TD and one interception and was benched briefly in favor of Trent Edwards who wound up quickly getting injured.

   --RB Marshawn Lynch, who started last week's loss at Green Bay and ran well, will start Sunday at New England only if the package the Bills want to open with involves Lynch and his powerful north-south running style. Gailey is being non-committal about his running backs, saying Lynch, Fred Jackson or rookie C.J. Spiller could get the nod any given time.

   --OG Andy Levitre practiced Thursday and is on track for playing Sunday at New England. He suffered a neck "stinger" in last week's game at Green Bay, but appears to be fine.

   --S Cary Harris, who sat out last week's game with a hamstring injury, is practicing fully this week. He'll be available if needed Sunday at New England and would help the team's special teams.

   --SS Donte Whitner said opponents have mocked the Bills for their play on the field in recent years. The Packers did it last week and this week's opponent, the Patriots, have done the same thing in the past. New England has won 13 games in a row against Buffalo. "The Green Bay Packers were laughing at us. Aaron Rodgers and a lot of those guys were laughing at us towards the end of the football game, and that never feels good," Whitner said. "We can't keep allowing that to happen because guys go out and they work too hard."

   --LT Demetrius Bell, who has had his snaps monitored coming off knee surgery last year, was able to play all but three plays against the Packers and appears close to 100 percent.

   --RB Fred Taylor was limited in practice Thursday due to a toe injury. While there's no word yet on the severity of the injury, the Patriots are hopeful he can play considering their sudden lack of depth at running back.

   --WR Julian Edelman was limited in practice Thursday for the second day in a row with a foot injury. Edelman will most likely be a game-time decision, though another week on the sideline wouldn't be a surprise.

   --WR Taylor Price was limited in practice Thursday due to an ankle injury. There's no immediate word on the severity of the injury, though Price should be able to play Sunday against Buffalo.

   --OL Nick Kaczur missed practice again Friday with a back injury. Kaczur has yet to play this season and has been ruled out for Sunday.

   --CB Terrence Wheatley missed practice for the third day in a row with a foot injury and will sit out Sunday for the third week in a row.

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