Top 3 Individual Matchups
Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage – 3rd down offense – The Bills are a middle of the pack offense when it comes to converting on third down ranking 16th in the league. New England defensively ranks 25th allowing opponents to convert at better than 42 percent (42.6%). Taking it a step further Buffalo ranks second in the league in 3rd-and-medium conversions (61%).
Best advantage – Pass game – Buffalo’s passing game this season has struggled to even be average at times, but against the Patriots it thrives.
Bills Number 1 Must
Run defense – The Bills run defense was more fundamentally sound last week against Houston in terms of gap control and tackling. Buffalo’s worst tackling game this season was the Week 4 matchup with New England. With better tackling and some scheme changes for the Patriots’ run game against Buffalo’s nickel personnel the Bills need to solidify this area of their game to have a chance to win.
Pats down a back
In the first meeting with the Bills this season Brandon Bolden was prompting ‘Who’s that?’ comments from the stands at Ralph Wilson Stadium after he rumbled for 137 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries in New England’s 52-28 victory. Bolden averaged 8.6 yards per carry, but he’s not looking good for Sunday’s game after suffering a knee injury in Week 6 covering a kickoff against Seattle. He’s missed the last two games and the bye week for the Patriots this past Sunday apparently was not enough down time for Bolden to return. He did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday.
If he can’t go on Sunday, change of pace backs Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen would back up starter Stevan Ridley.
The exploits of New England’s passing game are well documented and has long been the bread and butter of the Patriots’ offensive attack. Their newfound ground game led by the aforementioned Ridley has led to a more balanced New England offense enabling them to control the clock more effectively.
New England ranks 10th in the league in time of possession with almost 31 and a half minutes of possession time per game (31:23). They also rank second in the league in 10-play scoring drives with a total of 19 in their first eight games.
One area where the Patriots have been sorely lacking is in defending the big pass play. Last year New England finished last in the league in pass plays given up covering 20 yards or more with 79 total. Halfway through the 2012 campaign the Patriots are again last in the league in 20-plus yard passing plays surrendered.
They’ve given up 42 in their first eight games, 10 of which have gone for touchdowns. Buffalo has been one of the primary beneficiaries this season. Back in Week 4 the Bills had seven pass plays of 20 yards or more four of which went for touchdowns.
New England has been nicked up in their secondary, but three starters who have all missed time due to injury should be back in the lineup this week. Starting CB Kyle Arrington (concussion), S Patrick Chung (shoulder) and S Steve Gregory (hip) have all been practicing this week albeit on a limited basis.
Back in Week 4, Patriots DE Chandler Jones was still a rookie learning on the fly. Since then however, his production has been far more noticeable. Jones leads his team with six sacks and is tied for second on the team in forced fumbles with three. He also stands fourth in total tackles.
This certainly isn’t the first time, but the Patriots lead the league in scoring at the midway point of the season. With 262 points scored this season, they’re averaging 32.8 points per game. They’re on pace to score 524 points this year, which would be the club’s fourth 500-point season in team history and second most ever in a season (589 in 2007). Last year the Patriots became just the third team in NFL history to have at least five straight 400-point seasons.
The New England offense at any point in time has the ability to jump into their hurry up no huddle. With just a one word call from Tom Brady, the receivers know where they have to line up and what routes to run, the linemen know who they’re blocking and the backs and tight ends know their assignments as well. It’s enabled the Patriots to run 613 plays on offense for an average of 76.6 plays per game. Only three other NFL clubs average 70 plays per game or more (Detroit, Indianapolis, Philadelphia).
Quote of the Week
“As a receiving corps we go into every game feeling like we can beat everybody. We know we beat this team in the past. Every game it seems like we’re up big on big plays that we’ve made in the passing game. But we’re definitely going into this game feeling like we can beat them.”
--WR Donald Jones
Stat of the Week
Milestones in reach
Ryan Fitzpatrick needs 72 passing yards to become the fifth quarterback in franchise history to reach 10,000 yards in a career.
Mario Williams needs two sacks for 60 in his career.
Buffalo’s defense has forced seven turnovers in their last three meetings with New England.