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Patriots vs. Bills: Previewing with PFF

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Taking a closer look at the New England Patriots' week six opponent, the Buffalo Bills, through ProFootballFocus analytics.

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Joe Sargent

Taking a closer look at the New England Patriots' week six opponent, the Buffalo Bills, through ProFootballFocus analytics:

Bills have their own offensive line struggles

A year ago, the Bills seemingly had one of the better offensive lines in the league, especially early in the year. They finished ranked 12th in the league in pass protection, and a bit below average in run blocking (although they were still potent in that area. This year, the Bills have been anything but good along the line. Cordy Glenn has continued to be one of the pass protecting left tackles in all of football (+4.0 grade), but the rest of the line has struggled to perform. Center Eric Wood has just one positive grade on the season. Rookie right tackle and 7th round draft choice Seantrel Henderson has been an absolute mess with a -15.5 grade through five games. Right guard Eric Pears has a -17.1 grade at right guard and the combination of Chris Williams and Cyril Richardson are at a -18.7. Richardson had a -10.2 grade against the ferocious Detroit interior. Vince Wilfork could also have a field day inside, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Patriots utilize a variety of inside blitzes against both the run and pass (oh, how we miss you Brandon Spikes). Of course, I haven't watched enough film to make definitive judgements on the state of the Bills' line, but the folks at PFF haven't seen many positives though five weeks.

Sammy Watkins is a must-stop

The Bills drafted Sammy Watkins in the top-five because they felt he could become one of the league's elite receivers. Through five games, he looks like he could be on that path. Patriots coach Bill Belichick went as far as to call Watkins "Fitzgerald-like," and there are rumors that the team could have Darrelle Revis shadow him. PFF wrote the following on Watkins' week five performance against the Lions (+3.2 grade):

Watkins has enjoyed a mixed start to life in the NFL already recording two games below -3.0 and two above +3.0. This game fell into the latter category as the fourth overall pick this year showed why he was drafted so high. Watkins needed to bounce back after a three-drop game against the Texans and he did to the tune of seven receptions (on 12 targets) for 87 yards. The stat line doesn't record ridiculous catches, though, and Watkins had two of them. The first was a one-hander on an in-route which Orton put too far out in front of him. Watkins settled the pass with his right hand before managing to corral it with his left with a defender draped all over him. The best, though, was yet to come (see below). With positive contributions as a blocker (in the screen and run game) this was a complete performance by Watkins.

The Bills might not have the most threatening passing attack, but Watkins looks like a game changer, even in the infancy of his rookie year.

Bills have a crazy good defensive line

The Bills four starting defensive lineman - defensive ends Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes as well as defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus - are all playing at an elite level in 2014. PFF has Hughes, the former 1st round pick of the Colts, ranked fifth of all defensive ends in pass rush productivity at 10.6. Mario Williams might not be the pass rusher that Hughes is at this point, but he's still effective in that area with three sacks and he's a massive presence that grades at a +5.8 against the run. On the inside, Marcell Dareus grades at a +9.6 on the year with positive grades against the run and the pass. Kyle Williams missed the Bills' game against the Lions, but he's graded out at a ridiculous +8.1 as a pass rusher in 195 snaps through four games. The Patriots' offensive line certainly showed some improvement against the Bengals, but they will be in for an even tougher test this week.