Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 – Cordy Glenn vs. Chandler Jones** – Jones got the better of the first matchup this season with a sack, quarterback hit, forced fumble and fumble recovery to go along with five tackles. The Patriots pass rusher also comes in hot with six sacks in his last eight games.
2 – Sammy Watkins vs. Darrelle Revis – Watkins was not even targeted until the second half of the first meeting between the clubs and managed just two receptions for 27 yards. The situation has to be much different in the second meeting if the Bills want to pull off the upset.
3 – Scott Chandler vs. Patrick Chung – New England had no answers for Chandler in the first meeting as he rolled up a career-high 105 yards on six catches. Bill Belichick's adjustments to account for the Bills' tight end will be interesting.
Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage – Pass game – Though the Patriots have some top flight cover corners, Buffalo did find production in their pass game in the first meeting in utilizing their secondary and tertiary options in the passing game. New England's ranking of 21st against the pass is a bit misleading knowing most opponents get yards against the Patriots late while trying to catch up on the scoreboard. But if Kyle Orton is on with his ball location this could be an area where Buffalo can at least move the chains.
Best advantage – Pass rush – It's been the primary weapon for Buffalo's defense all season. With better communication on the back end than they had in the first meeting, the Bills front four should be able to generate enough pressure to get some hits, hurry some throws or move Tom Brady off his spot when he's back to pass.
Bills Number 1 Must
Buffalo's defense struggled last week as their tackling was as inconsistent as it has been all season. They have to get back to wrapping up ball carriers with sure tackling and consistent fundamentals, otherwise the Patriots could run wild on the ground, much like they did in the season finale last season.
The Patriots offense actually struggled for a good portion of their game last week against the Jets. New England managed just 50 yards of total offense in the first half of their narrow one-point win over New York last Sunday. Head coach Bill Belichick chalked it up to poor execution. The Patriots offensive line had their problems without veteran Dan Connolly in the lineup. They gave up four sacks on Brady including 11 quarterback hits. The team's 17-point output was the lowest since Week 4.
Last week the Jets employed a defensive strategy that worked well against Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski. They often jammed him at the line of scrimmage to throw the timing off on his routes with Tom Brady. It kept Gronkowski from consistently getting down the seam as evidenced by his 31 receiving yards on six receptions. His 5.2 receiving average in the game was his lowest of the season.
Though the Patriots managed just 17 points last week against the Jets, New England has moved into the top spot for points per game this season at 30.6. Bill Belichick's squad has done the most damage in the second quarter this season with almost 40 percent of their scoring coming in the second stanza this year (180 points). The Patriots got 13 of their 37 points against the Bills in the second quarter of their first meeting, following a scoreless first quarter. They rank third in the league in scoring at the end of the half with 73 points this season.
The Patriots special teams units have had a great deal of success in blocking kicks this season. They've blocked four field goals on the season and one punt. They've returned two of those blocks for touchdowns, including one against the Dolphins two weeks ago. Last week they blocked a potential go ahead field goal attempt by the Jets to protect their 17-16, which wound up being the final score in their win last week.
Former Bills reserve DL Alan Branch was picked up midseason by the Patriots. As the season has moved along, Branch has seen more and more playing time, primarily as an end in New England's 3-4 look on run downs. Last week Branch made his first start for the Patriots and saw the highest percentage of snaps in his time with New England getting more than 41 percent of the defensive plays in Week 16.
New England's offense gets all the headlines, but there's a lot of hidden yardage gained by the Patriots' special teams units. It becomes evident when one looks at the team's average field position. New England is second in the league in average drive start at nearly their own 31-yard line (30.8). And when it comes to their opponent's average drive start it is tops in the league at just the opponent's 25-yard line (25.2).
In the first meeting New England had five of their 13 possessions start at their own 20 or less, with three coming in Buffalo territory. Meanwhile seven of the Bills' 12 possessions were at or inside their own 20-yard line.
Quote of the Week
"We need to go up there and play extremely well with our best players and get this bad taste out of our mouths."
--HC Doug Marrone
Stat of the Week
The Patriots have won 17 straight home games against AFC East opponents.
Milestones in reach
-Jerry Hughes (9.5) needs a half sack to post back-to-back double-digit sack seasons.
-Fred Jackson needs three receiving yards to become the first Bills running back to reach 500 receiving yards in a season since Larry Center (2001).
-Sammy Watkins needs 75 receiving yards to post 1,000 for his rookie season.
-Jerry Hughes has four sacks in his past five games against AFC East opponents.