Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 – Charles Clay vs. Devin McCourtyMcCourty has cover skills, but Clay has a knack for getting consistent separation against even the more versatile safeties. He should be able to work the middle of the field to be a critical part of the Bills passing attack.
2 – Cordy Glenn vs. Chandler JonesBuffalo's left tackle will be looking for redemption in the rematch with New England's sack leader. Jones had three sacks and four quarterback hits in the Patriots Week 2 win.
3 - Nickell Robey vs. Danny AmendolaIt's widely anticipated that Amendola will fill Julian Edelman's role in the slot, which means Buffalo's nickel corner draws the assignment. Amendola is coming off a game in which he caught 10 of 11 targets for 79 yards.
Buffalo's Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage – Kick & punt coverageBuffalo's coverage on kicks and punts has tightened up considerably helping to aid the defense in the field position battle. New England is ranked dead last in kick return and their punt return unit was hurt by the loss of Julian Edelman to injury.
Best advantage – Run defenseThe Bills run front has been ranked in the top 10 almost all season. New England lacks a multi-faceted threat in their backfield with Dion Lewis out for the season. LeGarrette Blount is still a load, but the Patriots run game will be a lot more predictable with Lewis out of the equation.
With Buffalo's run game as healthy as it has been all season the production is showing. Their 148-yard rushing day against the Jets top-ranked run defense proves they can be effective against just about any run front in the league right now. Relying on the one-two punch of LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams should effectively set up play action for Tyrod Taylor and more importantly keep possessions and opportunity for Tom Brady to a minimum.
Filling the voidNew England has all of a week to decide how to replace their leading receiver Julian Edelman in the offense. Danny Amendola is expected to be the primary, though not exclusive replacement, for Edelman's slot role. Amendola caught 10 of his 11 targets last week against the Giants.
The Patriots still appear to be feeling their way in replacing feature back Dion Lewis, who is out for the year after tearing his ACL two weeks ago. James White looks to be the most versatile back, but is not the same caliber as Lewis. LeGarrette Blount has seen most of the work in the run game of late with Brandon Bolden coming off the bench for spot duty. **
Bills Number 1 Must
Ride McCoy & Williams **
O-line on the mendLast Sunday night the Patriots had a skeleton crew manning the offensive line with Cameron Fleming making his first career start at left tackle and backup C/G Bryan Stork manning the right tackle position. New England did not have the services of LT Sebastian Vollmer (concussion), who has taken over for Nate Solder (I-R), RT Marcus Cannon (toe), and G Tre' Jackson (knee). All three have returned to practice this week.
Pass rush prowessIn this matchup with Buffalo, most would expect the club with the better sack totals to be the Bills. New England's division counterpart came into the 2015 season with 111 sacks over the past two seasons to lead the NFL. This season however, it's been the Patriots pass rush that's done far more damage. New England ranks second in the league in sacks with 30, trailing only league-leading Denver with 32. DE Chandler Jones leads the league with 10.5 sacks on the year. The Patriots sacked Tyrod Taylor eight times in the first meeting in Week 2.
Stuck on the fieldThe New England defense has been very good at keeping points off the board as they rank fourth in points allowed (18.8 ppg). Where they struggle is in getting off the field on third down. The Patriots are allowing opponents to convert on third down 42 percent of the time, which ranks 25th in the league. If their opponent gets in 3rd-and-medium they're allowing conversions at an alarming 55 percent. Even on third and long New England is letting opponents move the chains better than 30 percent of the time. That's why their opponents have the highest average length of scoring drives at almost 10 plays per possession (9.87).
UntestedRun defense for the Patriots looks awfully good on paper. They're ranked second in the league when it comes to stopping the run allowing just a shade over 88 yards a game. However, the statistic is a bit misleading. With New England's offense so prolific at scoring points (33.7 ppg), the Patriots are often ahead on the scoreboard, which forces opponents to throw more to climb back into games. \
New England's defense has faced the second fewest rushes in the league this season (198), with only Cincinnati seeing fewer (196). The Patriots are surrendering four yards per carry on average this season and on first down they're letting opponents rush for four yards or more over 42 percent of the time.
As perfect as it getsWhile Tom Brady deservedly gets a large amount of credit for his consistency there might be one player on New England's roster who has him beat. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski is perfect this season when it comes to putting points on the board. Gostkowski is one of two kickers with more than 20 attempts this season to be perfect on all his kicks.
Gostkowski is 21-21 on his field goal attempts including 10-10 from 40-yards plus. Last week he hit a game-winning 54-yard attempt with one second remaining to keep the Patriots unblemished won-loss record intact. Gostkowski also leads the league in kickoff touchbacks with 45. His touchback percentage (71.4%) ranks fourth in the NFL.
Quote of the week"We know how important it is for us. Every game is important now. We're trying to do whatever we can to get into the playoffs. Beating an AFC opponent, a divisional opponent, absolutely is huge."
--Head coach Rex Ryan
Stat of the weekThe Patriots have scored points in 35 straight quarters of football, which has set an NFL record.
Milestones in reachCorey Graham needs eight tackles to set a single-season career high.
For the first time in his career LeSean McCoy is looking to rush for 100 yards for the third straight game.
Karlos Williams can become the first player in NFL history with a touchdown in each of his first seven games played if he scores against the Patriots.
The Patriots have lost each of their last two Monday night games (at Car. 24-20; 2013 & at KC 41-14; 2014).**