The New England Patriots have won the AFC East each of the last 11 seasons, and dominated the division for the past two decades. 2020 being a weird year, however, has seen another team emerge as the frontrunner for the crown seven weeks into the regular season: the Buffalo Bills, whose 5-2 record clearly stands above the Patriots’ 2-4.
On Sunday, the two will meet in a highly anticipated meeting that could either signal a changing of the guard in the AFC East or that New England is far from dead in the race for the title.
In order to get a better understand of the Patriots’ upcoming opponent, Pats Pulpit spoke with Corey Giacovelli of Buffalo Rumblings. Here’s what he had to say about the team he is covering.
1.) How do you think the Patriots should attack the Buffalo defense?
Run the football until the Bills can show that they can stop it. You saw how easily the Chiefs were able to pound it down their throats and even the Jets had success with the run until they started to shy away from it in the second half. The defense has always been good at keeping receivers in front of them and not allowing plays over the top. New England will have to go with a lot of underneath routes taking what the defense is giving them.
The defensive line for Buffalo has also had trouble this season at keeping the edge so trying to get outside of the pocket via bootlegs and roll outs can be beneficial for either getting rushing yards off scrambles or hitting on some crossing routes.
2.) How do you think the Patriots should attack the Buffalo offense?
Blitz Josh Allen all day long. Allen is an emotional player but sometimes his adrenaline is pumping so fast that he is prone to making some pretty big mistakes. We saw this in the home game against New England last season with all of the interceptions in the first half. Although the offense had success this past week facing a zone defense for the majority of the game, they struggled with it the previous two weeks prior so that is the look New England should be giving.
The best thing from a defensive standpoint is that Buffalo has not shown yet that they are unable to run the football so the pressure to stop the run is not as high when facing this football team. Lastly, if you are going to let Allen outside of the pocket, make sure you have a spy on him to prevent the scrambling yards.
3.) Josh Allen has looked like a much-improved player this season. What is your assessment of him so far in 2020?
He is a much smarter quarterback that is starting to take what the defense is giving him. Now, he is still prone to making some bone headed plays and is prone to fumbling the football but all in all he has taken a major jump from last season. What he struggled with most last season was his deep ball accuracy so instead this season he is focusing on and connecting on more intermediate throws. He is above the league average now in passing rating in all areas across the field except for intermediate routes outside of the numbers on the left side. Allen is going through his reads more instead of immediately just taking off and running with the football.
4.) The Patriots defense loves to take away what teams do best. What do you think it will try to eliminate this week?
Josh Allen getting outside of the pocket. Sometimes when accuracy issues have reoccurred this season for him it has been inside the pocket where his footwork becomes poor. Allen is best rolling outside of the pocket because it lets him get a better view of the field and lets him better judge what the best course of action is. He is able to see if he can take off but he also has the arm strength to muscle a throw on the sideline or in a tight window.
Something the New England defense did well when Tyrod Taylor was the quarterback was keeping a spy on him the entire game to limit his scrambling abilities. I see the same thing happening on Sunday against a revamped Bills offense.
5.) Who are some under-the-radar players Patriots fans need to know, and why?
Rookie receiver Gabriel Davis . The health of John Brown is unknown as he missed the last game against the Jets so it will be Davis getting his snaps. The rookie has had a great start to his season but that was with the offense at 100 percent. The last couple of games he has faded into the background a bit but he can still make plays when given the opportunity. With Stefon Diggs
and Stephon Gilmore battling all afternoon long the top priority, it will be up to some of the other receivers to make some plays.
Also, do not sleep on rookie running back Zack Moss who had the best game of his short career against the Jets. He may not have a great day running the football but he has been an important playing in pass protections. If the Patriots are going to be blitzing a lot then it will rely on Moss a good portion of the time to pick up the extra guy in blocking.