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Scouting Report - Week 8 - Bills-Patriots


**Top 3 Individual Matchups
1 - Lorenzo Alexander vs. Nate Solder

**The league's leader in sacks is having a renaissance season. Alexander had four tackles, a sack and a quarterback hit in the first meeting. Solder will have his hands full against a vet with a multi-dimensional skill set.

2 - Corey Graham vs. Rob GronkowskiAaron Williams' status is up in the air for Sunday, so it's likely that Corey Graham draws the Gronk assignment in coverage Sunday. Gronkowski is averaging 121 yards receiving per game since Tom Brady has returned to the Patriots lineup.

3 - Nickell Robey-Coleman vs. Julian EdelmanRobey-Coleman is having one of his best seasons, and he'll need to be at his best to keep Edelman's yards after catch to a minimum.

Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage - Pass rush
Buffalo may not get sacks against a quick release like Tom Brady, but they do have the ability to move him off his spot with the way they've been able to rush the passer this season. The Bills rank second in the league in sacks (21).

Best advantage - Red zone offenseNaturally the Patriots offense is pretty good in the red zone too, but Buffalo ranks fifth in the NFL when it comes to turning red zone possessions into points, scoring six better than 72 percent of the time. New England's defense ranks 21st in the league when it comes to keeping opponents out of the end zone in the red area.

Bills Number 1 Must
Plus two
The Bills are likely to be undermanned on offense at the skill positions with all their injuries (Goodwin, McCoy, Watkins, Woods) so they're going to need extra possessions to keep pace with the Patriots attack. Buffalo has to win the turnover margin and be at least plus-two to have a chance to win the game. The Patriots have not thrown an interception in the first seven games. Hopefully the law of averages catches up to them.

Scouting Eye
Old guard returns
Tom Brady isn't the only veteran starter that has returned to the Patriots lineup since the Bills last faced them in Week 4. OLB Rob Ninkovich is also back for New England's defense after serving a four-game suspension for violation of the league's substance abuse policy.

Brady has played like a man scorned completing more than 75 percent of his passes averaging almost 10 yards an attempt with eight touchdowns and no interceptions in three games. His passer rating leads the league at 132.6.

Ninkovich is an effort player, who has had 8.5 sacks, 13 quarterback hits and nine tackles for loss in 15 career games against the Bills.

FumblitisMuch has been made about the fact that the Patriots have yet to throw an interception this season. New England is the only NFL team this season without a pick through the first seven games setting a franchise record to start a season.

Fumbling however, is a much different issue for the Patriots. Through the first seven games, New England has 14 fumbles, matching their season total of a year ago. Less than half of those fumbles (6) have been turned over to the opponent, but the Patriots were setting aside extra practice time on ball security.

Buffalo has the second most forced fumbles in the league this year with eight, and with rain in the forecast for Sunday the wet ball will be even tougher to secure consistently.

**Reaching the secondary

**There are two ways to look at New England's tackling statistics on defense. Four of the team's top five tacklers are members of the starting secondary. Cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Patrick Chung lead the team in tackles with 45 and 41 respectively. Safety Devin McCourty and CB Malcolm Butler rank fourth and fifth.

Chung is an instinctive run supporter, so his tackle figures make sense, but seeing the other three defensive backs among the team's tackle leaders is a red flag. It's an indication that opposing ball carriers are getting beyond the second level where linebackers are supposed to be making the balance of plays.

Only LB Jamie Collins is among the top five tacklers ranking third with 40 takedowns on the season.

Giving up drivesThose tackle statistics above mean opposing offenses are making good gains on enough plays to keep drives alive. Evidence of that comes in New England's average number of plays that they're on the field defending per series.

The Patriots defense is allowing opponents to put drives together of almost nine plays per series (8.9 plays/drive). That ranks 27th in the league. It helps explain why New England has trouble stopping teams once they've reached the Patriots red zone. They're giving up an average of 4.35 yards per play inside their own 20-yard line (ranks 30th). They're also allowing third down conversions in the red zone at an astonishing 70 percent. That's second-worst in the league.

Long ballWhile Tom Brady is doing a solid job of airing it out averaging almost 10 yards per attempt, New England's defense has been allowing the same from their opponents. The Patriots have given up 23 pass plays of 20 yards or more through the first seven games. That ranks 24th in the league. The only good thing about this figure is only one of those 23 pass plays has gone for a touchdown.

Gostkowski back on track?One of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, Stephen Gostkowski has had a rough go of it by his standards this season. The 11-year veteran is 9-for-12 on field goal attempts with his three misses all coming from 40 yards plus, including a 48-yarder against the Bills in Week 4 that he pushed wide right. More surprising are the two misses he's had on extra points in the past two games.

Gostkowski said himself that he stinks right now. He calls the issue mechanical. Will the problems continue into a third straight week?

Buffalo Chips
Stat of the week
The Bills are aiming for their first series sweep of the Patriots since 1999.

Quote of the week"I'm just excited to be back. I know the injury list is long. Just me being back in general just really fills me with joy. Like everyone else on the team, they're happy for me to be back. I'm just happy to be able to contribute. I was on the injury list, but I'm not worried about it now. I just want to do what I have to do."
--DT Marcell Dareus

Milestones in reachDan Carpenter needs one field goal to reach 100 as a Bill.

Brandon Tate needs 44 kick return yards for 5,000 in his career. Only 30 players have reached 5,000 kick return yards in NFL history.

Tyrod Taylor (839) needs 47 rushing yards to pass Doug Flutie (885) for third on the team's all-time quarterback rushing list.  

Final noteTom Brady has just six games in his 228 game career in which he has thrown four interceptions. Two of them have happened in Buffalo.

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