All the Patriots have to do is beat the division rival Bills and they clinch their 2nd seed playoff spot. If Denver loses to Oakland then New England would have home field advantage throughout.
I will go out on a limb and say Denver takes care of things against the Oakland Raiders so New England needs to take care of things against the Bills so they can have that 1st round bye.
Normally I don’t care about seedings because the wildcard team usually wins the Superbowl but this year I do – injuries. Way too many injuries and close calls for New England in the past few games makes me think they badly need an extra week of rest for their players. Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Steven Gregory, Kyle Arrington, Shane Vereen, and Devin McCourty all need the extra week off. Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, and Tom Brady, all need a week off too to ensure they stay healthy. This team, this year, could use that bye week.
Just because the Bills haven’t been amazing this year they are coming off of a big win against the Miami Dolphins last week with QB Thad Lewis. They can still line up and beat you anytime so New England can’t take them lightly.
I would love for New England to jump way ahead of Buffalo before the 3rd quarter so maybe key players don’t have to finish the game because I’m all about saving the main guys if we can.
But WHO will play a crucial part in New England winning against Buffalo? I break that down RIGHT NOW.
1. Safety Duron Harmon/Tavon Wilson
– Devin McCourty will most likely miss after suffering a scary concussion Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. Which means Duron Harmon and Tavon Wilson will play key roles in New England’s backfield with Steven Gregory.
McCourty was preventing big plays from happening Sunday against the Ravens before the injury occurred so whoever comes in for him will need to be able to do the same.
Tavon Wilson came in for McCourty and had a pick 6 late in the game but Harmon has been ahead of him on the depth chart all season. But we may get a good look at Wilson this Sunday because he can play free safety. Duron Harmon is more of a SS and I don’t know if he could play FS, although he has been pretty good in coverage.
Harmon, Wilson, and Gregory need to bring their A game against the Bills weapons. They have more than just Stevie Johnson that can go deep. Marquise Goodwin is a guy who can stretch the field and against bad safety play or average safety play, he will burn the secondary for big scores or big gains. Robert Woods was having a great game against the Dolphins before he was ejected for throwing a punch. Woods is a deep threat and good route runner, but as you can see the Bills are not lacking for weapons with or without Johnson.
The safety play without McCourty will be interesting to watch and very important to the game.
2. RB LeGarrette Blount
– When the Patriots are running the ball their offense is so much better. Blount was running great against the Ravens with Ridley last Sunday. The Ravens had the 4th best run defense and the Patriots ran the ball on them and scored in the redzone against the 4th best redzone defense. The Bills have the 23rd ranked rush defense so New England shouldn’t have a problem running the ball if and when they want too. The Bills pass defense is ranked 5th so New England needs to run the ball.
If they can run the football they will win the game.
Right now Blount is leading the backs on the ground and he will look to continue his momentum heading into the playoffs.
Ridley is starting to get a lot more carries since the Broncos game and will look to continue to earn more touches for postseason play.
3. WR Julian Edelman
– Edelman and Amendola have been on a major role lately for New England’s passing game so it will be interesting to see how Buffalo plays them.
The Ravens tried the same defense they have played against New England in the past which is lining up close to the scrimmage and jamming them but they were not very successful against Edelman and Amendola. Edelman and Amendola have the ability to be great slot guys but also stretch the field so you can’t line up close to the Pats receivers.
In the first meeting the Bills couldn’t stop Danny Amendola before his groin injury and then they couldn’t stop Julian Edelman when he took over for the injured Amendola. This time they will face them both at the same time. Can’t wait to see how it all works out this Sunday for the two main receivers and the Bills defense.
The biggest thing that has to change is how well can New England protect Tom Brady. Last meeting, the Patriots could not protect Tom Brady very well and he took a beating. In return, the Pats struggled to score and the game was tight till the finish. So the Patriots will need to protect Brady as well as getting Amendola and Edelman in the game early.