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#PostPulpit Mailbag: Can New England replicate Indianapolis’ success against Buffalo?

Related: Patriots vs. Bills preview: 4 matchups that could decide Monday’s game

New York Jets v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The New England Patriots are off to Buffalo for a massive matchup with AFC East division rival Buffalo Bills. Monday’s matchup will mark the ninth meeting between Bill Belichick and Sean McDermott, this one with the drivers’ seat in the AFC East on the line.

That being said, let’s get right into this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag.

@BostonEvan11 Can they replicate indys game plan against buffalo

If Buffalo’s past contests tell us anything, they can be beaten on the ground. In losses to the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts, the Bills defense gave up 146 and 264 rushing yards, respectively. Mix that with the fact Buffalo’s pass defense is currently number one in DVOA and pressure rate (30.2 percent), the wintery weather forecast ahead, and the season-long success the Patriots have had running the ball, they absolutely will try to replicate those game plans and rely on the run game.

Buffalo’s defense rarely runs their base defense, as Sean McDermott has relied on his 4-2 scheme this season, using his pair of athletic linebackers, Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds, off the ball. The Bills’ defensive line tends to be extremely aggressive against the run, which is where Indianapolis was able to expose them, using several “wham” and “trap” blocks.

As the run game was successful, Carson Wentz was only asked to throw the ball 20 times, but found success on play-action passes (9-plus yards per attempt, one touchdown). Following Indianapolis’ strategy fits perfectly into the Patriots tendencies, but they’ll have to be prepared to attack other ways if the Bills focus on shutting down the run game.

@CheyenneSulli14 Who will patriots play in duggers spot ?

The probable loss of Kyle Dugger will have major implications for the Patriots defense, as the blueprint to slowing down Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense has been by playing two-high safeties. Surprisingly, the Jacksonville Jaguars provided a strong defensive game plan in their victory over Buffalo, which the Colts then used and forced Josh Allen into a season-low 43.1 overall PFF grade.

If Dugger is able to produce two negative tests by Monday, that would allow Bill Belichick to use him in the box against the run game while still having two high safeties behind him. However, as it appears more likely that Dugger will miss Monday’s contest, New England could shift to more of a traditional nickel defense with three corners, playing a heavy amount of zone to limit Buffalo’s big plays.

Whether or not that is how New England adjust to life without Dugger, how long Allen and Brian Daboll will stick to the run game and dink-and-dunk passing offense could determine the outcome of the game. Against the New Orleans Saints on Thanksgiving night, Buffalo ran the football seven times for 35 yards on their opening touchdown drive. They could find similar success against New England’s zone defense, but if they shift back to their aggressive ways, Belichick and Co. will have them right where they want them.

@bottlerocket What’s going on with Asiasi ?

It was expected that Devin Asiasi would not willingly have to play a major role in this offense after the offseason additions of Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. But, the second-year tight end has been active just once this year after appearing in nine games his rookie year.

The best opinion on the situation is that the Patriots appear to truly be giving their former third-round tight end a redshirt season, as their lack of depth at the position last year forced him into a prominent role as a rookie. Asiasi clearly needed more development in his game, so a slower year learning behind veterans like Smith and Henry should help.

Also, it’s worth noting Asiasi started the year behind the eight ball, as he missed nine training camp practices due testing positive for Covid-19.

@pats300levelpod Any thoughts why Uche hasn’t performed up to expectations this season? He was looking like one of our best D players in training camp/preseason & had 3 sacks in 1st 2 games before injury & has barely played/performed since. All due to injury? Others stepping up while he was hurt?

I think you kind of nailed the answer at the end. Josh Uche was often the best player on the field throughout training camp and got off to a fast start of the season. But, with the loaded group of edge defenders on the Patriots roster, Uche saw limited amounts of playing time (34 percent snap share this season) and was mixed in in more pass rushing situations.

The ankle injury definitely played a part in his dip in production, as he combined to play in just over 25 percent of New England’s defensive snaps in the last two games before landing on injured reserve after Week 10.

The athleticism, skillset, and potential are certainly all there, though, and Uche could be a big addition to the front unit for the backend of the season.

@dougie1737 What type of deal do we offer JC to stay. Are we talking Gilmore level contract when we signed him in FA and if he doesnt sign would you tag him?

When Stephon Gilmore first was dealt, I projected J.C. Jackson to fetch roughly $15-16 million on his new deal. After his performance so far this season, that number has risen — especially if he hits the open market. I’d now project Jackson to fall into the $18 million range.

This projected extension created by our friend Miguel Benzan could be a great starting point (better yourselves and follow @PatsCap while you’re here):

While Jackson would not become the highest paid corner under this deal, he would be second amongst cornerbacks in fully guaranteed money behind Jalen Ramsey, while his cash flow after two years is just under $2 million less than the Los Angeles corner. If Jackson doesn't seek for the “highest paid” title, this could be a great place to start.

@JRich041393 Do you think there should be some plan on moving on from Isaiah Wynn this off-season and transitioning to Trent at LT and Onwenu to RT?

It will be interesting to see how the Patriots operate along their offensive line this offseason. Amongst starters, Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Michael Onwenu will be under contract to start next season. Based off this year’s preseason lineup, that's four starters, although they have since jumbled their offensive line due to Trent Brown’s injury.

After an expensive J.C. Jackson extension as we just discussed, they may only be able to keep one of their offensive tackles. Wynn’s fifth-year option is set to cost them roughly $10.4 million against the cap, which is well worth it for the level he has played at in recent weeks. The Patriots could then look to shift Onwenu back to right tackle and resign Ted Karras for the left guard position, or look for help early in the 2022 NFL Draft — assuming a Trent Brown extension will be too pricey.

@ReadNFLtweets Do we go 1-1, 2-0, or 0-2 vs Buffalo this year

From what we’ve seen this year, it’s my belief the Patriots are a better football team than the Bills. With that being said... 2-0! I’m not taking the easy way out.

Also, this Monday game feels like a much bigger game for the Bills than it does for New England. All is starting to feel right in the AFC East.

@_Donnieee should Pats draft WR or do you think we can get a decent name during off-season?

With an established trio of Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, and Nelson Agholor rostered for next season, it wouldn't surprise me for the Patriots to add another receiver at some point in next year’s draft.

So, Chris Olave is your answer. He’ll fall to No. 32 or we will die trying.

That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhines and @PatsPulpit as well!