The Patriots will square off Sunday against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Buffalo Bills have struggled the past several seasons to find a starting caliber QB, but this year they hope they’ve found their Franchise in rookie EJ Manuel. Manuel will make his first NFL start this Sunday against the Pats. Rookie QBs are 4-13 against Belichick’s Patriots. Since 2000, NFL rookie QBs have a .421 winning percentage.
1. The Run Game
The Patriots need to establish a running game on offense and stop the Bills rushing game. The Patriots have rushed for over 100 yards against the Bills in seven straight games. In 2012, New England rushed for a total of 247 yards against the Bills in a 52-28 beatdown. New England needs to set up the run to take pressure off their young receiving core in their first game.
On the other side of it, The Bills are bringing a very capable rushing attack in CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson. In their second meeting last season, the Bills came within 6 points of beating the Patriots. The runningback duo of Jackson and Spiller combined for 150 rushing yards. Spiller added 61 yards receiving as well. The Patriots can not let that happen this Sunday. They need to stop the run game of the Bills and make them one – dimensional, and they also need to watch for Spiller in the passing game.
The Bills need CJ Spiller to a have huge game against the Patriots. Spiller will be active in the run and passing game for the Bills. EJ will look to get the ball out quickly to his playmakers, and they may not be a better one on the field than Spiller. If the Bills can get Spiller involved in this game both running and receiving then this could spell trouble for New England.
2. Tight End Scott Chandler
Can the Patriots defense stop Scott Chandler? In two games against the Patriots last season, Chandler had a combined three touchdowns and 127 yards for the Bills. The Patriots have struggled in the past few seasons covering the opposing team’s tight end, but this year, that has to be fixed if they want to make it far. Steven Gregory, or Jamie Collins will most likely be called upon to slow down Chandler.
The Bills need Scott Chandler to help out his rookie QB and give the same spark against the Patriots like he has in the past. If Chandler plays the way he did in the last two meetings, the Bills could make this a close one.
3. The Offensive line
The offensive line play for both teams Sunday will be crucial.
The Patriots have to protect Tom Brady against the Bills pass rush. Stopping Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus will be a must for New England. Brady is lights out with no pressure around him, and can be shaky when he is under constant pressure, like most quarterbacks. The Patriots will win if they can keep a clean pocket for Tom brady.
The Bills need to protect EJ and open holes for their running game. The Patriots have a very stout run defense with Wilfork anchoring it, and now Tommy Kelly, but the pass rush of New England is in question. It is thought to be improved but we still won’t know until we see it in action, but the Bills offensive line need to stop Chandler Jones, and Ninkovich. They will also need to pick up the Patriots blitz packages, and stop Mayo, and Hightower from getting to the QB. Hightower is a dangerous pass rusher, and with the secondary being better than last season, Hightower should get more rushes at the QB. The Bills have no easy task by any means in stopping the Patriots pass rush, but if they can, they might be able to take advantage of New England across the middle.
Winner: Patriots 38 – Bills 17