the Patriots have to do on Sunday
An Insiders perspective from Buffalo.
By Bills Buzz Staff
Three things the Bills have to do on Sunday in order to get the win.
While guessing who will win this game may seem tantamount to guessing which would win a footrace between a Cheetah and a toad, stranger things have happened. But for the Bills to win the Sunday Night nationally televised matchup with the Patriots, the Pats would have to lapse while the Bills would have to have a near perfect evening, something that simply has not happened this season or last for the Bills.
For the Patriots to win this ball game, three things are necessary:
1) Protect Tom Brady:
First, Brady must make it through the game intact. Not that there's an increased likelihood in this game for injury over other games, but losing Brady would certainly put the game in the winnable category for the Bills. Brady can carve up a good passing defense with the utmost of surgical savvy. The Bills do not have a good passing defense however. It is average on a good day. They have struggled in coverage vs. receivers such as Doug Gabriel, Michael Jenkins, Justin McCareins, and Donte Stallworth.
While their defense is ranked highly, 3rd entering this week allowing just over 150 yards-per-game, this is largely due to opponents rarely having to take to the air vs. a sieve defense allowing nearly 160 per game on the ground. This distinction has often been vs. well below average RBs such as Lamont Jordan last week turning a top performance. If the Pats can get their rushing game going via Dillon, Pass, or whomever their banged up RB cadre features, then it will simply be a bonus, but not necessary as the Bills cannot generate enough pass pressure without incessant blitzing to any viable extent. So the only thing that can hinder a Pats offense from putting up enough points to easily win this game is Brady having an uncharacteristically bad evening or an injury forcing him from the game.
2) Keep the score down:
The second thing that the Pats must do is simply prevent the Bills from running up any kind of score. This shouldn't be much of a problem for a defense having shut the Bills out of scoring no offensive touchdowns in the last two matchups at Foxboro. Granted, the Patriot D that has shut out the Bills in the last two meetings in New England is not exactly the D that takes the field tonight. However, neither is the Bills' offense which is struggling to find an identity between a self-proclaimed "best RB in the league" apparently predicated not on pro achievements, but rather due to collegiate affiliation, a strange recipe for such statements indeed.
Nevertheless, this game may be a footrace to victory if the Patriots allow the Bills to score often. The Pats should expect the Bills to open up some in the air game with the team's leadership seemingly perplexed and in "grasp at straws" mode while watching the season [read their young careers] get flushed down the can. But Kelly Holcomb likely doesn't scare a Belichick-led Pats team too much in spite of dubious play at the safety positions and a dicey overall secondary. The Bills' offensive line is bad enough that the passing game should easily be able to be taken care of by simple pressure on the Bills whether in pass mode or run mode.
3) Stop buffalo's ground game.
Thirdly, and related to the prior item, the Pats must contain Willis McGahee. McGahee only runs well vs. bottom third rushing defenses, which is the Bills "dirty little secret" regarding Willis, "the self-proclaimed best RB in the league." But the truth be told, the Patriot defense has not exactly mimicked the Steel Curtain of the '70s in shutting down the run this season putting them, statistically at least, in the range of rushing defenses that Willis can "crack."
Even a strong game by McGahee, apart from more than the typical Holcomb effort thus far on the season, will not be enough to allow the Pats to slip to a loss. They must contain McGahee however if they would like to put this game away by the 3rd quarter or early 4th however. Otherwise the Bills may be motivated to play hard for 60 minutes, something that simply has not happened thus far this season in any game for the Bills.
So in summary, if Brady does not lapse or get injured, if the Patriots can keep this game from turning into a shootout, and if "the league's best RB" can be relatively contained, then the Pats should win this one going away. Throw in a bye week's worth of rest, extra planning time for Belichick & Co., and an emotional evening promising to rev up an already "festive" crowd, and this game all but promises to be a Pats blowout pending some very serious lapses.