*Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 – Kelvin Benjamin vs. Stephon Gilmore *Benjamin missed the first meeting with the Patriots due to his knee injury, but he looks good to go for the rematch. Benjamin brings a size dimension to the passing game that could be a problem for the up and down Gilmore.
*2 – Dion Dawkins vs. Trey Flowers *Much like Benjamin, Flowers missed the first meeting between the teams due to injury. Flowers isn’t a speed rusher, but he is the most effective one for the Patriots. Dawkins has fared well against both power and speed rushers.
3 – Kyle Williams vs. Joe Thuney *Buffalo’s veteran defensive tackle wasn’t the only defensive lineman who won against Thuney, who has been struggling in pass protection. But Williams figures to give Thuney the most trouble when Tom Brady drops back to pass. Buffalo sacked Brady three times in the first meeting. *
* Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage – Pass rush *Buffalo hasn’t been able to get to the quarterback week in and week out, but they were successful against the Patriots. With the help of a secondary that is great at disguising defensive calls pre-snap, it’s helped to create hesitation in the passing game for their opponents, as evidenced by the three sacks they had against Tom Brady three weeks ago.
*Best advantage – Run game *Since the Bills have moved to an almost exclusive power run scheme and scrapped the zone blocking concepts, Buffalo’s run game is close to where it was the last two years when they led the league in rushing. New England ranks 26th against the run giving up more than 122 yards on the ground per game.
In the first meeting with the Bills they gave up 183 rushing yards as Buffalo averaged seven yards per carry.
*Bills Number 1 Must
Be the better red zone defense *So far this season New England has been the better red zone defense ranking ninth in the league while Buffalo ranks 12th. The Patriots also lead the league in red zone takeaways with six this season. The Bills have to be the more effective defense when protecting the red zone to have a shot at winning at Gillette Stadium.
Triple century? *The Bills did a solid job on Rob Gronkowski for a half in the first meeting with the Patriots. The second half however, was a much different story. After holding him to two receptions for 28 yards in half number one, Gronk erupted for seven receptions in the second half for 119 yards over the final two quarters. His final stat line gave him his second consecutive 100-yard receiving day against the Bills (9-148). Will the Bills keep from 100 yards receiving Sunday?
*Run game shuffle *Patriots RB Rex Burkhead, who had a pair of touchdown runs in the first game against the Bills, left last week’s game with a leg injury and may not be back in the lineup again until the playoffs. Burkhead did not practice on Wednesday, and he’s not the only running back nursing an injury.
James White and Brandon Bolden were both limited in practice this week meaning former Bill Mike Gillislee could be in the lineup Sunday for New England. Gillislee has been a healthy inactive for the last six weeks. He’s averaged 3.6 yards per carry this season.
*Brady a little shaky? *By Tom Brady standards, his last four games have been a little shaky. The Patriots QB has thrown at least one interception in each of his last four games. He did not throw a touchdown in the first meeting with the Bills and Tre’Davious White picked him off late in the game. The only player with a worse touchdown-to-interception ratio than Brady (2 TD, 4 INT) since Week 13 is Denver QB Trevor Siemian (1 TD, 4 INT). Brady will try to avoid his first streak of five straight games with an interception since 2002.
*Offense first in a lot *Bills head coach Sean McDermott said to tell him if anyone finds an offensive category in which the Patriots aren’t ranked near the top of the league. Suffice to say there aren’t many. In fact, New England ranks first in the league in average drive start after kickoffs (33-yard line), points scored on first possession of the second half (54), first downs made (333), passer rating (104.2), passing yards per game (287), scoring efficiency (49%) and third and 10-plus conversion percentage (33.3%).
*Minimizing big plays *Early in the season the Patriots defense was seemingly handing out big plays to any opponent that wanted one. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and his players have tightened things up since then. Over the last eight games, New England’s defense has given up just 21 plays of 20 yards or more. That’s tied for a league best. So although a lot of their defensive numbers do not look good, they have been good at keeping everything in front of them whether it’s the run or pass game.
*Run on first down *Though the Patriots don’t give up big plays, they do give up a high number of average yards per play. On first down alone opponents run for four yards or more better than half the time against the Patriots (50.5%). That’s why they rank last in the league in first down run defense. New England surrenders 5.23 yards per carry to their opponents on first down.
If you roll in pass plays against on first down the percentage goes even higher. The Patriots allow four yards or more on all first down plays almost 55 percent of the time (54.7%). That’s the highest percentage allowed in the NFL.
Quote of the week **“For us, the playoffs started two weeks ago. These are all must-wins. This is, especially, an important one because they’re so good. The New England Patriots, they’ve had our number for so long. It’d really just be huge for us to go into their house, beat them, keep our hopes alive and just keep winning and get to the playoffs.”
*--G Richie Incognito
Stat of the week *In his past six road games against division opponents, Tyrod Taylor has eight touchdowns and no interceptions for a 98.8 passer rating and two rushing touchdowns.
*Milestones in reach *Ryan Davis looks for his third consecutive game with a sack.
Stephen Hauschka needs four points for his seventh consecutive season with 100 points.
LeSean McCoy needs 100 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown to become the first opposing NFL player since 2001 with 100 scrimmage yards and a touchdown in three consecutive games at New England.
*Final note *With a win the Bills will have a 9-6 record after 15 games played for the first time since 2004.