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Patriots vs. Bills: 5 Questions with the Enemy

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Greg Knopping of Pats Pulpit asks Brian Galliford of Buffalo Rumblings five questions on the New England Patriots week six opponent, the Buffalo Bills.

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In the lead-up to the Patriots' divisional tilt against the Buffalo Bills, I asked Brian Galliford of Buffalo Rumblings five questions on what to expect from the Bills on Sunday:

1. Kyle Orton. So that's a change. How was he in his first start and what are your expectations from him going forward? Were Bills fans generally happy with the switch?

Galliford: He knocked some rust off in Detroit, that's for sure. The first half was very sloppy (12-17, 112 yards, a pick-six, two sacks, a delay of game, and an aborted shotgun snap), but the second half was far more impressive (18-26, 196 yards, one touchdown). Right now, Bills fans are very happy with the switch, because they're 1-0 with Orton under center. As far as expectations go: if he keeps putting the Bills' excellent skill players in position to make plays, and the team is more consistently competitive, that's really all that can be asked out of a journeyman, backup-type player.

2. CJ Spiller, on paper, is one of the Bills' most explosive weapons. However, he's had a bit of a down season. What has the problem been, and how do you see it being corrected?

Galliford: It's a combination of factors: Spiller is not a good between-the-tackles runner, but the Bills insist on using him in that capacity on early downs. In fact, he doesn't even have much of a passing-down role, because Fred Jackson is the superior backfield blocker, and the team won't split Spiller out wide. It's a combination of misuse of Spiller on the part of the coaching staff, and Spiller not reading blocks particularly well in the role he's being asked to play. If and when the Bills ever decide to stop using Spiller like a traditional running back, and put him into more of a Percy Harvin role, he'll emerge as one of the most explosive players in the game.

3. The folks over at PFF have not been very kind in their analysis of the Bills' offensive line (with the exception being Cordy Glenn). What are your thoughts on how that group is shaping out?

Galliford: They've been pretty bad; even Glenn, by far their most consistent player, has had lapses this season. They're not very good on the inside, where Eric Wood is pretty average, Erik Pears is out of position at right guard, and left guard has been a rotation of mediocre vets (Chris Williams, Kraig Urbik) and a green rookie (Cyril Richardson). Seantrel Henderson, the right tackle, is supremely talented, but is obviously lacking in nuance, being a rookie. Doug Marrone is very hands-on with the offensive line, and that unit has regressed considerably under his watch from the Chan Gailey era.

4. Patriots fans will undoubtedly want to hear more on their old friend, Brandon Spikes. How has he fit in with the Bills, and is he a big part of the reason that Buffalo is the #2 run defending team in the league?

Galliford: Yes, Spikes is a major reason why the Bills are defending the run so well this season. You don't need me to tell you how good he can be in that phase. The Bills are being smart about his usage, getting him off the field in obvious passing situations when they can because of his limitations in space, and so far things have worked out quite well for them there. He has been a critical addition not just because of the run defense, but because they've needed a presence there with Kiko Alonso sidelined.

5. We've focused a lot over the last few days on the front seven and the dominant defensive line of the Bills. I want to hear more about the secondary. We know they lost Jarius Byrd. That being said, what can we expect from this group? Who are the key players to know?

Galliford: Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin are the starting corners, with the diminutive Nickell Robey working in as the nickel back. Aaron Williams is the new top safety, with Duke Williams and Da'Norris Searcy splitting reps beside him. Corey Graham pitches in when needed at both corner and safety, and has arguably been their best defensive back this season, despite his lack of playing time now that everyone else is fairly healthy. This group lacks an elite player, but has a compelling mix of physical talents; the safeties are big and fast, the corners are long and tough, and the group is capable of making plays despite their various vulnerabilities.