Week Eight Preview: Patriots vs. Bills

For this week, we will preview the second meeting of the season between the Patriots and Bills in week eight.

As we approach week eight now, we will see a rematch of week four between the Patriots and Bills. The Patriots travel up to Buffalo to face the Bills in New Era Stadium after being shut out at home in week four, which hadn't happened in 23 years before then. Undoubtedly, New England will come into this game with a chip on their shoulder after winning three straight games following Tom Brady's return following their loss to Buffalo in week four. The Bills are coming into this game reeling a little bit after losing to the Dolphins last weekend and will be without LeSean McCoy today due to his hamstring injury. But even so, the Bills are 4-4 and still a team not to take lightly.

After missing out on Brady for the first four games of the season due to suspension, he has helped lead the Patriots to three straight victories over the Browns, Bengals and Steelers. In that span, the team has scored 95 points, over 31 points per game. That average would be second in the NFL behind only the Falcons. The Patriots have also held opponents to only 46 points during that span as well, just over 15 points per game. They currently are fourth in the NFL, allowing only 15.3 points per game. They have held opponents to under 20 points in six of their eight games this season, including six straight games with that streak. 

Looking into the Patriots offense a bit more, they are seventh in the NFL with 383.6 yards. They are 10th in the NFL with 260.9 passing yards per game, but that number is affected by Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett starting the first four games of the season. They are sixth in the NFL with 122.7 rushing yards per game, led by LeGarrette Blount. The Patriots also have a plethora of weapons on offense at their disposal including Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, James White and Martellus Bennett to name a few. The Bills defense will have their hands full this time as opposed to their previous match-up where Gronkowski was still limited and Brady wasn't behind center.

For their defense, the team is relatively healthy minus Woodrow Hamilton. They were at near full strength last time but Hightower and Collins were both dealing with injuries. They also didn't have the emergence yet of Elandon Roberts as well. The Bills are without McCoy and Sammy Watkins, their two main offensive weapons. They will rely on Mike Gillislee and Robert Woods to help pick up the slack, despite both being injured coming into this game. Tyrod Taylor will be expected to do a lot in this game to make sure the Bills contend for the entire game, if they can help it. They bolster an above-average offensive line that has helped them have the second best rushing attack with 152.3 yards per game. If the Patriots can shut down the running attack of Buffalo, the Bills wide receiver group may find themselves being heavily relied on, which isn't ideal for Buffalo.

The Patriots will have to watch out for the Bills defense, that includes the NFL's leader in tackles (Zach Brown) and sacks (Lorenzo Alexander). The Bills are also eighth in the NFL with allowing only 18.7 points per game as well. The Bills identify as a strong defensive team, as seen by their shut-out of the Patriots in week four. The team will likely need extra attention up the middle and on the edge with play-makers in their front seven. The Patriots can do this with utilizing a tight end as an extra blocker on run and perhaps pass plays while also employing James Develin as a lead blocker on runs up the middle as well, to hopefully negate someone like Brown from making a play. The Bills will also have Marcell Dareus back for the first time this season as well, who is arguably their anchor along the defensive line. 

Overall, this will be an interesting match-up despite the "revenge" narrative for the Patriots entering this game and the injuries that the BIlls are currently dealing with. The Patriots offense against the Bills defense will be one to watch while also seeing how the Bills cope with the loss of their two biggest play-makers against a tough Patriots defense. It's still a division game and nothing can be taken for granted, so this will be one to watch still.

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