We've all had it pounded into our heads this week that the Buffalo Bills "are just what the Patriots need right now", with constant reminders that the Pats have beaten them thirteen times in a row. No one is giving the Bills a chance, and that's a little scary.
On paper the Bills look like one of the worst teams in the NFL and will be starting a new quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick). All signs do seem to point to a Patriots blow out, but for some reason I can shake this nervous feeling about the game.
Maybe it's because the Patriots laid a collective team turd against the Jets that brought back memories of second halves death plunges in 2009. And let's not forget the Bills did beat both the Dolphins and Jets last year. Really, the Patriots dominance over the Bills has been a big reason why they've also dominated the AFC East. That cannot be taken for granted.
The truth is that if somehow the Patriots lose this game it would be devastating, especially with Miami on deck. The game plan for how to avoid that after the jump...
1. No Sub Defense = No Sub Runs: As Vince Wilfork pointed out in his weekly radio appearance the Patriots sub packages have been getting gashed on the ground going back to last year. Thus I expect to see a heavy dose of the 3-4 defense and minimal pass rushing sub package. When they do go sub packages I'd expect it to be their big nickel that they used with success against the Bengals. This package maintains a presence against the run. The Bills biggest threats are their running backs and none of them can be allowed to get going. Double Lee Evans, stop the run and make the other guys beat you. I have no idea who the other guys are, and hopefully I don't find out on Sunday.
2. Brady Needs a New Faulkin' 3rd Down Go-To: Without Kevin Faulk we're about to see the next evolution in Patriots offense. Personally I believe Aaron Hernandez is going to become Tom Brady's new favorite safety valve, so I expect the Bills to keep a careful eye on him, especially on 3rd downs. Of course it will probably be Wes Welker that kills them. Expect to see more and more Sammy Morris too. The offense needs to find it's new identity, and the more offensive snaps they get against the Bills the better.
3. Special Attention to Special Teams: We've all heard BB speak on how good the Bills special teams are, though they were the ones responsible for handing the 2009 opener back to the Patriots. A special teams touchdown could make a huge difference for the Bills so they must be shut down again. It also wouldn't hurt if Stephen Gostkowski got back on track with his field goal kicking.
4. Win: There aren't a whole lot of points of emphasis this week. The Patriots need to come out and play hard and together within the system. If they do that they should win, they are the more talented team.The crowd at Gillette owes the Patriots some noise, let's hope they bring the thunder and make life difficult for Fitzpatrick and the Bills offense.