Weekly Xoom Trivia Contest: Win four (4) suite tickets and one (1) parking pass to the Buffalo Bills game on October 9, 2011. Suite does not include food and beverage.
Top 3 Individual Matchups
Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage – Pass game – New England ranks so low against the pass in part because their opponents have been forced to throw being behind on the scoreboard. However, the Patriots secondary has surrendered the second most completions per game (29.5) and ranks 26th in yards per completion allowed (13.46). Add in the fact that they are nicked up with a few injuries and Buffalo’s five-wide sets could be a major problem.
Best advantage – Red zone – Buffalo leads the league in red zone touchdown percentage (80%) punching it in for six on eight of the 10 times they’ve been inside the opponents’ 20-yard line this season. Though they were better last week against the Chargers, the Patriots rank in the middle of the pack in red zone defense (T-14th).
Bills Number 1 Must
Third down conversions – Buffalo is off to a good start this season converting 44 percent of their third down opportunities (11-25). That number will need to be closer to 50 percent if they are to keep New England’s high octane passing game off the field. The Patriots are converting at a 62.5 percent clip and don’t come off the field often without putting up points. The Bills can’t allow the Patriots to have more possessions than them in this game if they want a shot at pulling off an upset.
Short a tight end
The Patriots are not expected to have TE Aaron Hernandez available in their lineup against the Bills on Sunday. The athletic tight end had seven catches in each of his first two games this season and had six receptions for 65 yards in New England’s first meeting with Buffalo last season (he missed the second meeting). Almost a quarter of Tom Brady’s completions have gone to Hernandez this season (22%) so that production in the passing game will have to surface somewhere else.
New England could also be without tight end Dan Gronkowski, older brother or Rob Gronkowski, who has a hamstring injury and was limited in practice this week.
Pats secondary banged up
New England’s secondary is nicked up a bit with five defensive backs on the team’s injury report. Starting safety Patrick Chung, who had thumb surgery this week, is already being reported as out for Sunday’s game by several Boston media outlets. Though starting CB Leigh Bodden (thumb) and S Josh Barrett (thumb) look as though they’ll be available Sunday, the status of rookie Ras-I Dowling (hip) and CB Kyle Arrington (concussion) are very much up in the air for Sunday’s game.
Arrington is coming off a concussion. New England’s defensive backfield has shifted to more man-to-man coverage early this season, but that could change knowing how much New England’s coaching staff likes to change things up.
Tom Brady dictates tempo as well as any quarterback in football. He’ll quick snap a team before they’re set. He’ll break the huddle and rush the team up to the line with 30 seconds left on the play clock and sit there and survey the defense for 20 seconds.
In the first two weeks however, New England has used no huddle about 40 percent of the time and in Week 1 really caused some problems for the Dolphins defense in terms of getting personnel groupings on and off the field in between plays.
Chad Ochocinco might be a recognizable name among the new additions the Patriots made in free agency, but to this point he hasn’t been a factor in their offense. Reports out of Boston indicate that Ochocinco doesn’t have a firm enough grasp of the offensive scheme to execute at New England’s up tempo, no huddle pace. As a result the veteran receiver has only been on the field for about a third of the offensive plays in the game.
Whether his playing time increases knowing Hernandez is unlikely to play remains to be seen.
Four man front
They began morphing into a four man front on defense last season and now in 2011 the Patriots have gone all the way. Gone is their traditional 3-4 of their Super Bowl years. Instead New England lines up Vince Wilfork and Albert Haynesworth in the middle with Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter on the ends.
Sometimes their spacing looks more like a 3-4, but they are essentially a 4-3 defense now. They may flip back into a 3-4 look from time to time, but through two games they’ve only done that on four plays.
Patriots’ punter Zoltan Mesko suffered a knee injury in the third quarter of New England’s Week 2 game against San Diego when safety James Ihedigbo was pushed back into him while blocking on a punt. Mesko has been limited in practice all week.
The Patriots worked out a pair of free agent punters as a failsafe with Matt Dodge, a former seventh-round pick of the Giants (2010) and Jeremy Kapinos (four-year NFL vet) the two candidates that were brought in by New England.
Mesko finished a very respectable 12th in net punting last season with a net average of 38.4, although he did have the fifth-fewest punts among NFL regulars in 2010.
Quote of the Week
“They’re a great team and have established themselves as a great team. But we feel like we’re a good team too. It’ll definitely be a good way for us to go out and establish ourselves as one of the best teams in the league.”
Stat of the Week
The Bills are 8-1 when Fred Jackson rushes for 100 yards or more.
Milestones in reach
With a touchdown reception, Stevie Johnson will have scoring plays in each of the first three games this season. He enters Sunday’s game having scored 12 touchdowns in his last 16 games.
The Bills have 16 players on their roster that weigh 300 pounds or more, the most of any team in the NFL.