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Patriots vs. Bills: Players to Watch

Greg Knopping of Pats Pulpit takes a look at a player to watch on each side of the football for the Patriots and Bills in the lead-up to this weekend's season opener.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

With the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills facing off tomorrow on the first Sunday of the 2013 NFL regular season, we take a look at one player to watch on each side for both teams:


T.J. Graham, WR, Bills: Graham recorded 31 receptions last season for the Bills after being selected in the 3rd round out of NC State and is currently projected to start opposite veteran Stevie Johnson. He's on the smaller side (5'11") but has excellent speed and quickness -- think Josh Boyce. He's the type of receiver that the Bills will want to get the ball quickly and in space. Considering the off-man coverage that the Patriots like to play and considering how they struggled at times to tackle in the preseason, Graham could give them trouble.

Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots: In 2011 and 2012, receiver Wes Welker dominated the Bills from the slot, including a 16 catch, 217 yard game in 2011. The Bills are likely to play either Ron Brooks or Justin Rogers in the slot against Amendola, who appears to be mostly healthy after a preseason groin injury. Amendola is going to be Tom Brady's number one option, especially with Gronkowski (likely) out, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Amendola begin his Patriot career with a 10-12catch game.


Kyle Williams, DT, Bills: Williams has had tremendous success against the Patriots the last few seasons, recording sacks in each of the team's match-ups last year. In Mike Pettine's attacking defense, expect Williams to be leading the push up the middle for Buffalo. Right guard Dan Connolly was banged up in the preseason and is a bit of an unknown at this point, and this is a place where the Bills could have a match-up advantage.

Dont'a Hightower, LB, Patriots: With a rookie quarterback in place for the Bills in E.J. Manuel, C.J. Spiller and the running attack figures to be the focal point of Buffalo's offense. It also means that the Patriots will be focusing their defensive gameplan on Spiller. That being said, if the Patriots are to slow down Spiller, I think they will need a big game from second year linebacker Dont'a Hightower. Hightower will play strong-side linebacker, and could be used essentially as a "spy" on Spiller because he has better sideline-to-sideline range than Brandon Spikes. In his second season, there are big expectations for Hightower, and he will have his first chance to live up to those expectations tomorrow.