We’ve made it. One game stands in front of the Patriots reunion with Tom Brady. Just think back to all of the predictions before the season. Media members were thinking 1-3, and fans were thinking 2-2 would be good. Right now, we see the Patriots at 3-0 as the rival Buffalo Bills come into Gillette Stadium. Let’s break it down: Patriots vs Bills preview.
QB Tyrod Taylor has struggled this year with only three touchdowns and two interceptions in the first three weeks. Without one of their star WRs this week, I would expect to see him struggle again. His most important skill this week will be his mobility, as the Patriots have always had a problem containing a mobile quarterback.
LeSean McCoy will be another key part in this game for the Bills offense. He’s nearing five yards per carry, and he’s on pace to have one of his best seasons in terms of touchdowns. Watch for his ability to get to the outside and make a defender miss. Also, watch for any slip-screens that could get him in space.
Sammy Watkins was placed on IR this week, so that leaves their receiving core a little decimated. This leaves Marquise Goodwin and Robert Woods as their top two. Goodwin is strictly a speed receiver, so I don’t expect him to be a good aspect, but Woods, as a possession guy, can get upwards of ten catches. Maybe even TE Charles Clay will get involved for really the first time in his Bills career.
Their offensive line is nothing spectacular. They are in the bottom half of the league for sacks allowed. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them allow a few more today, especially with starting tackle Cyrus Kouandjiio out with an ankle injury.
Buffalo has one of the best front sevens in football. They have the third most sacks in football. As they look to go against an offensive line that is still missing their right tackle, they should be able to fluster the QB with an early pass rush.
The secondary is one of the better young groups in the league, which you wouldn’t expect from looking at their record. Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore may be one of the best cornerback duo in the league. I expect Darby to cover Julian Edelman, and Gilmore to cover either Chris Hogan or Danny Amendola. They are going to need to stay close on these guys to make sure they are downed quickly after the reception. There is really not much you can do to prevent Edelman from making the catch. A CB will also probably have to play on Gronk as part of a double-team, if he plays.
Everyone is expecting Jimmy Garoppolo to start at QB this week, while both him and Jacoby Brissett are recovering from injuries. He has been reported to have improved over the week. The media has covered the injury and said that he has been able to get in a full-range of motion. I due see him being slightly hindered, so don’t expect many deep passes. At the same time, I could see them downplaying his recovery and then taking the top off on the first play. That would be classic Belichick.
LeGarrette Blount leads the league in rushing in the first three weeks. I will tell you that nobody expected that. He has never been that type of back, and behind a questionable offensive line, he has been extremely successful. This week, I expect him to have a hard time breaking tackles against this strong of a front seven. Hopefully, pass-catching back James White can get involved this week.
The receiving core of Edelman, Hogan, Amendola, and Malcolm Mitchell should be able to get open. Especially those playing against the third and fourth CBs. New England has been able to throw at Gilmore with some success, but again, that was with Tom Brady, so who really knows if they will test them in tight coverage.
There is no news if Rob Gronkowski will be at full-strength this week after battling a hamstring injury for the better part of two months. Either way he will be able to help as a distraction or a blocking piece. I would, however, like to finally see him in action. Even without him, Martellus Bennett has had a successful season. His ability to catch and block is similar to Gronk. Not many TEs have that skill set, and one, if not both, will be big factors in this game.
Coming into the year, nobody expected the offensive line to be even remotely similar to what we’ve seen. Coach Scar has worked his magic again with the line, making the fans forget that Marcus Cannon is starting at RT, and there is a rookie left guard making his debut in Joe Thuney.
The front seven should be returning to health soon enough. Dont’a Hightower is battling back from injury, and Patriots fans are dying to see him back. Collins looked great last week, and he may be able to build off of that. Without a big threat at TE, he likely won’t be relied on in coverage, and he could be used as a free rusher. I expect to see Jabaal Sheard with atleast one sack with the tackle out.
Malcolm Butler will probably get Woods, and Logan Ryan will likely get Goodwin with help over the top from McCourty. Tyrod won’t be able to throw for big yardage. This is a game that has the potential to really hurt their image. If they give up a ton of yards and touchdowns, that could seriously hurt the potential for Butler’s contract negotiations.
NE 27 BUF 16