The New England Patriots head to Buffalo to take on the Bills in what could be one of the Patriots last chances to take back the division. Should they lose, they risk being 2 games back with a divisional loss on the record- hardly insurmountable, but definitely not a position the team wants to be in at the quarter point of the season. If the Patriots win, they can stay in a good position to take the division lead in the upcoming weeks and can possibly have the lead in hand by mid-season.
This game? Not season-restricting, but quite possibly season-defining. Let's see what they have to do to win.
5. Defensive Rebounds - The Patriots defense started off the season on a high note, only to come crashing back to earth in Week 3. How will they go about finding their early season mojo? The secondary was making mental mistakes all night and there were more dropped interceptions than should be counted. The pass rush was almost non-existant and Chandler Jones was benched during some of the most crucial drives of the game. The linebackers were sloppy in run defense and in zone coverage and Brandon Spikes played one of his worst games in a Patriots uniform. If the young guys can rebound, it will have to be against a dangerous Bills offense.
4. Brady Momentum - Quarterback Tom Brady started the season very slowly, but seemed to warm up against the Ravens as the Patriots let wide receiver Wes Welker play a bigger role. Brandon Lloyd and Welker both put up massive games, while the tight ends have disappeared with Aaron Hernandez. Brady will have to repeat whatever he did while facing the Ravens and he will have to do it without Julian Edelman or Logan Mankins. Not an easy task, but how he manages will dictate the game.
3. Gronk Spike - Rob Gronkowski has fallen flat (sorry fantasy-folk) as Josh McDaniels has reverted back to his old style of offense- throwing to the wide receivers. Brady needs to sit McDaniels down and figure out how to incorporate one of the Patriots star offensive players. There's no real excuse for not giving Gronk more looks than he received last week. If he can see a spike in his attempts, look for the offense to give the Bills fits.
2. Coaches Call - Last week was one of the worst coached games in a while. McDaniels called a few drives ending plays, while Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia made plenty of questionable match-up calls on defense. These coaches need to do a better job of taking advantage of the flow of the game and not letting their game plans slip away from them.
1. Right the Ship - The players must be reeling after two straight losses on field goals- and with both games dictated by questionable calls at crucial moments. This has to be the game where they get their heads on straight and buckle up for the rest of the season. The players mentality and resolve will play a large role in winning this game away from home.