The New England Patriots face off against the Buffalo Bills this Sunday in the team's second divisional match-up of the season. The Patriots and the Bills are currently tied for first place in the AFC East at 3-2, with the Bills holding the tiebreaker due to their 1-0 division record (Patriots are 0-1). Usually, the Patriots' early to mid-season battle for control of the AFC East has come against the Dolphins or Jets. This year, the battle comes against Buffalo, who is coming off an impressive, come-from-behind victory over the Lions.
How they Rank:
Total Offense: 325.2 YPG (26th)
Rush Offense: 107.6 YPG (20th)
Pass Offense: 217.6 (21st)
3rd Down Offense: 34% (28th)
Points Per Game: 19.6 PPG (28th)
Total Defense: 324.8 YPG (8th)
Rush Defense: 71.0 YPG (2nd)
Pass Defense: 253.8 (21st)
3rd Down Defense: 32% (1st)
Points Allowed/Game: 17.8 PPG (5th)
Turnover Ratio: +5 (1st)
Storylines to Watch:
Kyle Orton is your new Bills quarterback
In case you hadn't heard, Bills coach Doug Marrone made a quarterback change before week five. The Bills turned away from 2013 first round draft choice E.J. Manuel, and handed the offense over to quarterback Kyle Orton. The cigar-toting quarterback threw for over 300 yards in his first game as a start, but most importantly, led the Bills to victory. Orton gives meaning to the word "average" with a career 80.0 passer rating and sub-60% completion rate, but has the prototypical size and arm strength you look for in a quarterback. He's not the type to win a team a lot of games, but he also probably won't lose them for you. The Bills, now officially under new ownership, are in win-now mode. Believe it or not, Orton gives them the best chance to do just that.
Brandon Spikes, Pepper Johnson and the Buffalo defensive line
Two long-time Patriots, middle linebacker Brandon Spikes and linebackers / d-line coach Pepper Johnson bolted for the Bills this offseason. Neither departure were on particularly great terms. Johnson was passed over for a promotion on multiple occasions, and Spikes, well... Spikes was Spikes and it was clear that he and Belichick were far from being on the same page by the end of the linebacker's tenure. Spikes has rejuvenated the Bills' run defense, which now ranks second in the league. Johnson has led a defensive line that has 14.5 sacks already this season. Some of the key players there: Mario Williams (3.5 sacks), Kyle Williams (1.0 sacks), Marcell Dareus (5.0 sacks), and Jerry Hughes (3.0 sacks). The Patriots' offensive line, especially on the interior, will once again be tasked to rise to the occasion.
Fred Jackson: Patriot killer
I do not know what the particular reason is, but the Patriots never have had an answer for Fred Jackson. He's a do-it-all back. Excellent in pass protection, he can catch the ball out of the backfield and runs between the tackles with force. Although he's now the oldest running back in the league at 33, he has shown few signs of slowing down. He's been limited in practice this week with an ankle injury, but if he goes, the Patriots must make stopping him a central part of their game plan. Jackson's counterpart, C.J. Spiller, is still an electric threat, although he hasn't really gotten going thus far in 2014. With the Patriots sometimes struggling to defend the screen game, expect a heavy dosage of Spiller as well.
What are your thoughts on the match-up?