November 10, 2012

Patriots try to continue their trek to the playoffs against the Bills

Devin McCourty picking off one of his two passes against the Bills in Week 4
Buffalo Bills (3-5) @ New England Patriots (5-3)
In week 4, the Patriots beat the Bills 52-28, which sounds like (and eventually was) a sound beating but in the the 3rd quarter the Bills led 21-7 before the Patriots tore off 6 straight scoring drives.  The Patriots gave up 438 yards of total offense but balanced that out by forcing six turnovers. The key to today's game for the Patriots is to start playing right from the opening kickoff.

The defense will have to be the most ready to go if the Patriots are not planning on needing a big comeback. Dating back to January 1st of last season, Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown four interceptions against the Patriots in two straight games. In each of those two games though, Fitzpatrick has also thrown for over 300 yards.  The Bills offense is talented and when it is not turning the ball over can be difficult to stop. In the first meeting this season, the Bills running back duo of Fred Jackson (218 yards, 1 TD on the season) and C.J. Spiller (562 yards, 4 TD) were coming off injuries and were questionable to play. Today the duo should be the center of attention for the defense.

The Patriots defense should be up to the task of stopping the Bills when they run but Spiller and Jackson are effective in the passing game which could be a weakness the Bills could exploit.  Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Dont'a Hightower have some speed (Spikes is at least a step slower) but in the open field could lose the Bills running backs. The Patriots defensive backfield will not have the services of its newest member, Aqib Talib, because of his suspension.  The most interesting question back there will be where Devin McCourty lines up.  McCourty has been more effective at safety but who will play opposite Kyle Arrington? The defense could be without safeties Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory again.

Offensively, the Patriots have not had many problems this year.  The one problem they have had is injuries, but this week the Patriots could get Logan Mankins back.  Aaron Hernandez though, has been ruled out again even though he practiced most of the week.  The Patriots have the top offense in the league and have a decided advantage when they run the ball because the Bills rank 31st in stopping the run.  In week 4, the Pats racked up 247 yards rushing with Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley both surpassing 100 yards. There will not be a repeat performance because Bolden test positive for performance enhancing drugs and will be suspended for the next four games. It will be interesting to see if the Bills much-hyped pass rush will actually show up this week, as it did not in week 4, only sacking Tom Brady once. As with any game, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski should be targeted early and often.

Prediction. Patriots 37, Bills 20

NFL Week 10 Picks
Last week: 8-6 Season: 73-54
Colts over Jaguars
Giants over Bengals
Dolphins over Titans
Lions over Vikings
Saints over Falcons
Chargers over Buccaneers
Broncos over Panthers
Ravens over Raiders
Seahawks over Jets
Cowboys over Eagles
49ers over Rams
Bears over Texans
Steelers over Chiefs