Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 – Terrence McGee vs. Randy Moss –McGee has had his share of successful outings against Moss over the years and knows how to prevent the big play. He's more likely to get some safety help when the Patriots move Moss closer to the line of scrimmage, but McGee is capable of running with the dynamic deep threat. He just can't fall prey to double moves.
2 – Geoff Hangartner vs. Vince Wilfork –Hangartner already dealt with a big body in B.J. Raji in Week 2, but this week he's facing a Pro Bowl nose that looks like an immovable object. If the Bills want to have any success running inside, Wilfork has to be held up, which means Hangartner will likely get some measure of assistance from Andy Levitre or Eric Wood.
3 – Drayton Florence vs. Wes Welker –Welker has had his double-digit reception days against the Bills. When the Pats are in their pro set Florence will draw the slot receiver. When they go to their four wide looks Reggie Corner could draw Welker as an assignment. Third down is where Welker cannot be allowed to be a difference maker.
Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good advantage –Run game – New England still has Vince Wilfork in their middle of their run front, but the other big names are gone. Buffalo has a trio of backs that are the envy of most of the league. The Patriots may have to bring eight into the box to consistently slow the Bills rushing attack.
Best advantage -Run defense – Over the first two games Buffalo's defense has held opposing rushing attacks in check and prevented big plays on the ground. With New England's running back corps down in numbers the Bills should be able to keep a depleted pool of talent under wraps.
Bills Number 1 Must
Pass pressure –Randy Moss and Wes Welker present problems for every defense in the NFL. Add in a pair of promising young tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and keeping track of all the weapons becomes a monumental task. That's why attacking the Patriots offense at its nerve center, Tom Brady, has to be accomplished. If Buffalo hopes to have any success in neutralizing the New England offense there must be a consistent level of pressure on the Patriots' quarterback, much the way the Jets were able to dial up effective pressure on Brady in Week 2.
Lost FaulkTom Brady calls Kevin Faulk a "very rare player" whose clutch play was "unmatched." Losing Faulk for third down protections and to make plays out of the backfield on third down, will be an adjustment for the Patriots and this will be the first week that they'll be making that transition. Veteran and former Bills draft pick Sammy Morris is expected to be trusted to fill Faulk's third down role.
Taylor madeThe offensive backfield is still getting settled for the Patriots after last week's trade of Laurence Maroney. Fred Taylor is expected to tote most of the load with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the aforementioned Morris both chipping in. New England will presumably pace the 34-year old Taylor through the season. The Patriots also signed free agent Danny Woodhead this past week as a reinforcement.
Not the same old defenseNew England's three man front used to be the most intimidating in the league, with three former first rounders all across the line. But Richard Seymour was traded to Oakland last year and Ty Warren suffered a hip injury and was placed on injured reserve. Only Wilfork remains with steady vet Mike Wright and former first-round bust Gerard Warren.
Their pass rush does not have a dominant threat with the possible exception of Bills killer Tully Banta-Cain. ILB Jerod Mayo is an impressive player, but New England is very inexperienced on the edges with second-year CB Darius Butler and rookie first-round pick Devin McCourty both starting at corner after the season ending injury to veteran Leigh Bodden. It's a personnel turnover year for the Pats on defense.
Tight end trioNew England spent a second and fourth-round pick on two tight ends that were among the best in the 2010 draft class. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have been quickly incorporated into the offense. Hernandez is used almost like a big receiver, while Gronkowski along with veteran Alge Crumpler does more of the dirty work on the line while also factoring into the red zone passing game. The added weapons force opponents to make tough decisions with Moss outside and Welker in the slot.
Rate of returnNew England has begun to close the gap between themselves and the Bills when it comes to their return teams. Part of the reason why is because of accomplished return man Brandon Tate. The second-year wide receiver is the NCAA career leader in combined returns yards with 3,523, which is more than Leodis McKelvin or C.J. Spiller had in their careers.
Tate currently leads the league with a kick return average of 34.1, thanks in large part to his 97-yard kick return for a touchdown against Cincinnati in Week 1. New England is tied for second in the league in average drive start as they're averaging better than their own 35-yard line (35.3).
Third down dominanceNot surprisingly, the Patriots are out in front when it comes to third down efficiency on offense. New England leads the league in third down conversion percentage. Granted it's still early in the season, but Tom Brady and company are moving the sticks for a fresh set of downs better than 58 percent of the time (58.3).
Quote of the Week"We've got to be successful on first and second down and stay in third and manageable. When we get in third and long it allows them to do some crazy things on defense and it limits what we can do on offense. If we stay in third and manageable I think we'll do okay."
--RB Fred Jackson
Stat of the WeekIn his past three games against New England Fred Jackson has averaged 91 receiving yards per game (273 total).
Milestones within reachLee Evans needs 101 yards from scrimmage for to move into sixth place on the Bills' yardage list, passing Elbert Dubenion (5,365).
Marshawn Lynch needs seven receptions for 100 in his career.
Roscoe Parrish needs 25 punt return yards for 1,500 for his career.
Final noteIn his first career start against the Patriots last season (12/20/09), Ryan Fitzpatrick went 17-25 (68%) passing for 178 yards with one touchdown and one interception and a passer rating of 85.1.