Sunday will have a different feel as the Patriots are basically playing to wrap up their schedule and get some work before they begin their playoff run. The Bills on the other hand want nothing more than to finish the season with a winning record and also to pick up a win in Foxboro. Let's take a look at the Weekly Five Questions to determine who comes out on top tomorrow afternoon.
1. How will the Patriots move the ball?
Buffalo has been excellent defensively in 2014, especially against the pass. The Bills are ranked 3rd in the NFL, only allowing 209.9 yards per game, and one of the main reasons is their relentless pass rush, which is led by Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus. Buffalo only allows 18.7 points per game, which ranks them 5th in the NFL. The Patriots have already clinched home field in the playoffs, but there is a concern that the offense hasn’t been playing well enough and it would be good to get the starters some reps to get them going. Here is my response to that- No thanks! Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman- BENCH THEM; remember 2009 when Wes Welker blew out his knee making a cut in Houston? Nobody wants to see anything like that happen in a meaningless game. With that said, Jimmy Garoppalo is going to get his chance to shine, but he’s going to have to do it with backups and no Jonas Gray, who is out with an injury. Josh Boyce was signed from the practice squad and added to the roster, which is a clear sign we’ll see Team B tomorrow. Buffalo will be looking to finish strong so it could be a very long day for the Patriots offense tomorrow.
2. Can the Bills score against the New England defense?
Again, it all depends on who plays for New England tomorrow. Dont’a Hightower has been dealing with injuries all year, so don’t expect to see him tomorrow. Also, do you rest Revis or let him play? I think its very simple- anyone who you absolutely can’t afford to lose heading into the playoffs should sit. If that’s the case, Revis might not even dress. New England still has good depth on defense and the Bills have been pretty bad offensively this season, which is the reason they’re only 8-7. Buffalo may be facing a lot of defensive backups tomorrow, but I still expect New England to shut them down.
3. Who has the edge in the coaching match up?
Doug Marrone has had a pretty good season considering his offense is lacking a legit quarterback and they’ve had injuries at the running back position all year. Marrone vs. Belichick will be closer simply due to the Patriots treating this game for what it is- a meaningless game. Marrone has a team hungry to finish the season with a winning record and he won’t be resting anyone. Marrone has the advantage due to personnel, but I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if the Patriots coaching staff has Garoppalo ready to play. Advantage: Bills.
4. Will the Bills find a way to give Brady fits?
If Brady was to play the whole game, no question this excellent defense would give him problems, but this week Garoppalo gets to deal with them, at least for the majority of the game. Dan Connolly is dealing with an injury and will most likely be held out for a second straight week, and Marcell Dareus is going to take full advantage of it. Josh Kline played in place of Connolly last week, but Jordan Devey may be active for the season finale. Either way, Dareus is going to spend a lot of time in the backfield tomorrow. Nate Solder will also have his work cut out for him, but he needs to play because he needs the work. Solder has been awful in 2014 and if he can do anything to help his confidence, the Patriots should be all for it. Solder will have to deal with Jerry Hughes, who has 9.5 sacks on the season. In the last meeting, Solder did ok with Hughes, but when Hughes did get to Brady, he had a few questionable hits. Sebastian Vollmer will have his hands full with Mario Williams (13.5 sacks) but he’ll have help from tight end Matt Mulligan and also don’t be surprised to see Marcus Cannon lined up as an extra blocker to keep Williams out of the Patriots backfield.
5. Who wins the game?
In what should be a low scoring game, the team that makes more big plays is going to come out on top. If Darrelle Revis only plays a minimal amount, that will give Sammy Watkins opportunities, and when given those chances, he’s produced. Chandler Jones is probably going to play to knock the rust off, and he has been known to make a play or two defensively. On the other side of the ball, the Patriots will rely on Danny Amendola, Brandon Bolden, Brian Tyms, Josh Boyce and Tim Wright to produce points, but against the Bills defense, that is going to be very difficult to do.
Predicted Score: Bills 17, Patriots 14
Statistics Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com