New England Patriots
Journeyman DB Ross Ventrone was
again a casualty of the transaction
wire as the Patriots released him early this week to make room for
newly acquired FB Lousaka
Polite. Ventrone was subsequently re-signed
to the practice squad -- the 21st transaction he's been a part of this
Ventrone joins DE Aaron Levarias, who was also added to the practice
The moves made this week don't reflect much of
what's going on in the locker room, though Polite could be a key
addition if the Patriots implement a few new blocking schemes to
compensate for the loss of offensive linemen Matt Light and Logan Mankins.
Polite hasn't played in four months, but is
practicing with the team this week and could be on the active 45-man
roster for Sunday's finale against Buffalo.
Brady did not practice Wednesday, but his
absence was not injury-related, which means he'll likely return by the
end of the week and be ready for Sunday's season finale.
--OL Logan Mankins missed practice Wednesday due
to a knee injury sustained last weekend and is a safe bet to miss
Vollmer missed Wednesday's practice
due to back and knee injuries and will likely sit out another week with
the hope that he'll be ready for the postseason.
--OL Matt Light participated in a limited portion
of Wednesday's practice, which is slightly positive considering he was
a late scratch Saturday. There's a good chance Light will be ready for
Chung appears to be closer to
returning to the lineup now that's he practicing on a limited basis
despite a foot injury, but the jury is still out since he's been
practicing recently and yet hasn't been in the lineup.
This is a matchup fit for a team like New England
that can seemingly score at will. The Bills rank near the bottom of the
league in the two most important defensive categories -- points allowed
per game and yards allowed per game.
With the Patriots in position to wrap up the No. 1
seed in the AFC, it's hard to imagine Buffalo posing much of a threat
defensively. This is a chance for Tom Brady to work on getting off to a
better start, especially after last week's near-debacle in which the
Patriots trailed by 17 at halftime.
The Bills are susceptible over the middle, which
means there will be plenty of opportunities for either Aaron Hernandez
or Rob Gronkowski
to get open and make big plays. With some questions
on the offensive line, Gronkowski could take on more of a blocking
role, which means Hernandez would wind up the target of choice.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Patriots' LB Jerod Mayo vs.
-- With Fred
Jackson out of the lineup, Spiller
has become the lead running back in Buffalo. In the last two games,
Spiller has rushed for a combined 202 yards and two touchdowns. The
Patriots had problems with Reggie
Bush last weekend. Spiller brings a
different set of skills to the table, but the early returns Sunday
could be similar if the Patriots don't establish their defensive
presence from the get-go.
Dolphins' DE/NT Marcell Dareus vs.
Patriots' LG Donald
Thomas -- Injuries to Matt Light and
Logan Mankins forced the Patriots to insert the untested Thomas at left
guard. The experiment had its moments; barring a quick return by
Mankins, Thomas will either get another start Sunday or least play
significant minutes to alleviate some of the pressure. This is an
important match-up against the Bills' defensive line, particularly
Dareus, who can line up as an end or play nose tackle.
Patriots' CB Devin McCourty vs. Bills' WR
-- Some would argue that David Nelson is
more consistent receiver in Buffalo's lineup, but Johnson is the most
dangerous big-play threat. With that in mind, McCourty becomes a big
target this weekend due to his struggles throughout the year. Until he
comes up with a few plays here and there, opposing quarterbacks will
continue to throw in his direction.
The Bills will enter next season with three starting offensive linemen
coming off serious leg injuries.
Wood sustained an ACL tear earlier this year
and went on injured reserve. Last week vs. Denver, guard/center Kraig Urbik and
left tackle Demetrius
Bell sustained what coach Chan Gailey
confirmed were serious injuries that likely would require surgery.
Urbik and Bell will not play in Sunday's season finale at New England.
What's it mean heading into next year for a unit
that has generally performed well, tying for the fewest sacks allowed
in the NFL with Tennessee with 21 with one game to go?
"I'm much more concerned about this game than I am
next year," said Gailey. "I want to make sure that we get the five guys
that are on the field knowing what to do and execute. It's a great
opportunity for the guys that are going to play now to get some
experience and show what they can do. That's what this last game's
about. I'm not concerned about next year. I'm much more concerned about
this ball game."
Brown will start at center and rookie Chris Hairston at
--C Kraig Urbik and LT Demetrius Bell will miss
the regular-season finale at New England, putting second-year pro Colin
Brown and rookie Chris Hairston into the starting lineup. It's a tall
task for Hairston, who will square off vs. the Patriots pass rush which
included sack artists Andre
(10 sacks) and Mark
Anderson (9.0) off the right edge of the Pats
defense. With Carter out, look for more of Rob Ninkovich playing off
The Bills can't expect Ryan Fitzpatrick
big plays with Tom Brady for a second time this year. Fitzpatrick was
marvelous in rallying the Bills from a 21-0 hole in Buffalo's big
September upset. But he's mostly struggled the past two months and Chan
Gailey would be wise to run the ball often and more often against New
England's 32nd-ranked run defense. Second-year pro C.J. Spiller has
emerged as the weapon they hoped he'd be when the Bills drafted him
ninth overall in 2010.
Defensively, the Bills forced Brady into four
interceptions the first time around, but he also carved them up with
four TD passes. If they don't find a way to slow down Wes Welker and
Rob Gronkowski, Brady (4,897 yards so far) will easily join Drew Brees
in eclipsing the 5,000-yard barrier. New England ranks third in points
scored at 30.9. The Bills could also use a big play from special teams
and rookie kick returner Justin
Rogers and punt return man Leodis McKelvin
have been spectacular of late.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Bills SS George Wilson, who has had a
nice season, vs. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, who has had a brilliant
season with 15 TD catches -- Gronkowski burned Buffalo with
seven catches for 109 yards and two TDs in the first meeting.
Bills CBs Drayton Florence
or Aaron Williams
vs. Patriots' WR Wes Welker, who has 116 catches for
1,518 yards -- Sixteen catches and 217 of those yards came against
Buffalo in September.
Bills offensive line, which
will feature two more new starters due to injuries, vs.
Patriots multi-faceted pass rush led by Mark Anderson (9.0)
and LB Rob Ninkovich
Bills WR Stevie Johnson
catches, 964 yards, 6 TDs), who needs a big finish heading into free
agency, vs. Patriots CB Kyle
Arrington, who has
- Bills Game Thread
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