Preview: Buffalo Bills - New England Patriots

The New England Patriots will play their first divisional matchup of the year as they play host to the Buffalo Bills on Sinday night. The Bills had an opportunity to take sole posession of the AFC last week, but were unable to get the job done falling to 3-4 on the year. The Patriots welsome back Tedy Bruschi in what is expected to be an emaotional game for the veteran linebacker. Game Preview, fast facts, prediction and player notes inside.

Buffalo Bills (3-4) at New England Patriots (3-3)
By NFL Scout

KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:30 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/30/05
TV: ESPN, Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann, Paul Maguire, Suzy Kolber

SERIES: 90th meeting. Patriots lead the series 49-40-1. New England had won five consecutive games until Buffalo's shocking 31-0 victory in the 2003 regular-season opener at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Ex-Patriots Drew Bledsoe and Lawyer Milloy led the way. Bill Belichick and Co. had the last laugh, though, paying back the Bills by the identical score in the season-finale in Foxboro. That game capped a 6-10 year for Buffalo and was the last coached by Gregg Williams.

2005 RANKINGS: Bills: offense 30th (12th rush, 31st pass); defense 16th (31st rush, 3rd pass). Patriots: offense 3rd (27th rush, 2nd pass); defense 26th (25th rush, 24th pass)

PREDICTION: Patriots 30-21

KEYS TO THE GAME: QB Kelly Holcomb has led the Bills to a touchdown on the opening drive in each of his three starts, but Buffalo has been outscored 131-72 after the first quarter this season. Reversing the trend starts with running the ball, which has been difficult for the Bills in New England, where they have been out-rushed 565-278 in their past four trips. But the Patriots' rush defense is far softer this season and as long as the Bills can keep it close, RB Willis McGahee should have success. Patriots ILB Tedy Bruschi might suit up, but doesn't figure to play much of a role in his first game back from a stroke. New England's own running game has been sporadic at best this season, something the team worked on during its bye week. The Bills are allowing a league-worst 5.1 yards per carry, which is a fatal flaw on the road.

FAST FACTS: Bills: Have 16 turnovers during their four-game losing streak at New England. ... CB Terrence McGee has a kickoff return of at least 40 yards in four consecutive games. Patriots: Have won the past three meetings by a combined score of 91-23. ... Are 20-6 in AFC East games since 2001.



--QB Kelly Holcomb will be looking to test a New England secondary that is ranked 24th in the NFL but will be much healthier after a bye week. In their past four appearances in New England, all losses, Bills quarterbacks have been sacked 14 times and the team has committed 16 turnovers.

--RB Willis McGahee was held to 37 yards on 14 carries in his first game ever against the New England Patriots, a 29-6 loss in Foxboro last season. The Bills want to establish the run on the road but were unable to do so a week ago in Oakland when the line was manhandled and this Sunday, McGahee could be playing without starting RT Mike Williams (ankle).

--WR Eric Moulds, who his averaging just 8.4 yards per catch, hasn't registered a 100-yard game in more than a calendar year. He'll be looking for more big plays against New England's 24th-ranked secondary on Sunday.

--WR Roscoe Parrish, the top draft pick who broke his right wrist in training camp on Aug. 10, made his NFL debut in Oakland last Sunday and returned one punt for 10 yards. He's likely to see more duty in the role against the Patriots, who rank 30th in punt coverage and last year gave up a 70-yard TD to the Bills.

--G Chris Villarrial, who suffered a concussion in last week's loss at Oakland, is fine and will start Sunday night in New England.

--T Mike Williams, who missed three starts earlier in the year with a bad ankle sprain, re-injured the foot in the Oakland loss and remains questionable for the New England game. The Bills desperately need him in the lineup against Ty Warren and Willie McGinest with backup Greg Jerman (ankle) ruled out of the game. Second-year man Jason Peters, a converted TE who has never started a game, would get the call if Williams can't go.


--RB Corey Dillon said of the ankle injury that kept him out of the Patriots' last game before their bye week: "The company line is I'll get back as soon as possible. Hopefully sooner than later." Dillon returned to practice on Thursday, though he is listed as questionable on this week's injury report.

--S Arturo Freeman appears primed to start at strong safety this week in place of injured rookie James Sanders. Freeman would be the Patriots' fourth starter at that position this season, following Rodney Harrison (injured reserve), Guss Scott (injured reserve) and Sanders.

--FS Eugene Wilson missed practice on Thursday with the flu. He is listed as questionable on the injury report.

--DEs Richard Seymour (knee) and Ty Warren (hip) were not on the field Thursday during the time the media was allowed to view practice. Both are questionable on the injury report. Warren was added to the list on Thursday.

--C Dan Koppen is expected to make his 38th consecutive start, the second-longest streak on the team behind QB Tom Brady's 68.

--WR Troy Brown, still 3 yards shy of moving into second place on the team's all-time receiving yardage list, is expected to miss his second straight game with a foot injury. Brown did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.

--K Adam Vinatieri has made seven consecutive field goals against the Bills dating to the 2003 season.

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