The Patriots are facing another short week. After the back-to-back with the Monday Night Chiefs and the Sunday Night Bengals, the Patriots have a divisional fracas with the Bills on Sunday and the Jets on Thursday.
So you have to understand why Bill Belichick is playing it safe.
The direction of the division will likely start to take shape by next Thursday (hopefully with the Patriots leading the pack), so this is a crucial time for New England.
So when the Patriots are missing key players from practice on the Friday before the game, you can basically write down that they'll be missing the game on Sunday.
Those missing practice are:
C Bryan Stork - With Stork out, it looks like there will be more readjustments. The best option will be to keep Dan Connolly at left guard, shift Ryan Wendell to center, and play Marcus Cannon at right guard. But the next injury means this might not be the line-up.
RT Cameron Fleming - This injury just depletes the team's depth at tackle. It's entirely possible that Jordan Devey gets back on the field with Cannon needed as an extra tackle. Remember that both Cannon and Devey didn't perform well at guard, so neither is ideal. Perhaps Josh Kline gets an appearance. No matter what, right guard will be a weakness for the Patriots, a bad sign against a strong Bills defensive interior.
S Nate Ebner - Pat Chung will be the punt protector for another week. It's rough to miss Ebner, but his loss is mitigated with Chung's experience at the position.
DL Dominique Easley - A bad loss for a thin unit. Vince Wilfork, Casey Walker, and Chris Jones flesh out a quality defensive interior, but there is no one who can flex outside. Rob Ninkovich hasn't been himself this season, while Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins, and Dont'a Hightower are all nursing injuries. This is a major point of concern against a Bills offense than can spread itself wide across the formation.
CB Brandon Browner - Browner will likely miss another week and that'll be making headlines. Alfonzo Dennard and Logan Ryan will see the field and we'll have more-or-less the same secondary output as we've seen all season. It's more important to see how Devin McCourty is handled with his rib injury.
In all, the biggest hits will be on the Patriots interior on offense, and the edge on defense. Both are major issues against the Bills as they happen to match up against Buffalo's strengths. Let's hope the team has planned a way to resolve these issues, and hopefully everyone is back in time for the Jets.