Curran's Patriots-Bills preview
WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
The Bills get after the quarterback like nobody else in football. They have a league-leading 56 sacks and have picked off 22 passes. The Patriots haven’t seen them since Week 1 and they were a handful that day as New England needed two fourth-quarter field goal drives to escape with a 23-21 win. Shane Vereen and Danny Amendola killed the Bills in the opener, combining for 263 yards from scrimmage. The ball will have to come out quick for New England on Sunday because the Bills bring heat from all over. Mario Williams has 13 sacks, Kyle Williams has 10.5, Jerry Hughes has 10 and Marcell Dareus has 7.5. Rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso has been a very productive player with 145 tackles. While the front is able to apply all the pressure, the back of the Bills defense has been apt at making plays on the ball. Jairus Byrd, Jim Leonhard, Aaron Williams and Alonso all have four picks each. Statistically, the Bills are more susceptible to the ground attack (4.2 YPC allowed) than a passing game. Look for the Patriots to come with a similar game plan to last week – run early, set up play-action, look for the seam routes and slants in front of the safeties. Buffalo has better safeties than Baltimore so that will be a challenge with Byrd and Leonhard (Williams was put on IR). Vereen’s availability after a groin tweak is a factor in how diverse the Patriots can be offensively. The unsettledness on the Patriots line with the Nate Solder injury is again a concern against this very good Buffalo front.
WHEN THE BILLS HAVE THE BALL
The quarterback position is the only thing keeping Buffalo from being a playoff-caliber team. Rookie E.J. Manuel will be down on Sunday (knee) replaced by Thad Lewis who is making his fifth start. Lewis – nor Manuel – are without ability but both have some growing to do before the can be true assets. The Patriots are well-acquainted with the abilities of running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. They’ve run for 1,658 yards combined this year and 10 touchdowns. They average about 4.4. yards per carry between them. Big week for the Patriots front-seven. Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones, Joe Vellano, Brandon Spikes and Donta Hightower had their best game as a group in the interior against Baltimore. They will be challenged again. Tight end Scott Chandler has had a very good season (50 catches, 600 yards). Stevie Johnson will be out after the death of his mother, whose funeral was Friday.
THE KICKING GAME
Punter Brian Moorman and kicker Dan Carpenter have been just fine. Carpenter’s only missed three field goals; Moorman has a net of 36.4. Moorman wasn’t so hot last week against Miami with six punts, a 33 yard net and no punts inside the 20. Neither the Bills punt or kickoff return crew is very impressive – 6.2 average on punt returns; 20-yard average on kickoff returns.
PATRIOTS SICK BAY
OUT: WR Josh Boyce (ankle). DOUBTFUL: S Devin McCourty (concussion). QUESTIONABLE: CB Kyle Arrington (groin), CB Alfonzo Dennard (knee, shoulder), WR Aaron Dobson (foot), LB Dane Fletcher (groin), S Steve Gregory (finger, knee), DE Rob Ninkovich (ankle), T Nate Solder (concussion), LB Brandon Spikes (knee), T Will Svitek (ankle), WR Kenbrell Thompkins (hip), RB Shane Vereen (groin). PROBABLE: WR Danny Amendola (groin), QB Tom Brady (right shoulder), T Marcus Cannon (ankle), TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee), CB Aqib Talib (hip)
BILLS SICK BAY
OUT: WR Steve Johnson (not injury related); S Aaron Williams (ribs). DOUBTFUL: QB E.J. Manuel (knee). PROBABLE: WR Marcus Easley (knee), WR Marquise Goodwin (knee), RB Fred Jackson (ribs), QB Thaddeus Lewis (left shoulder), DT Kyle Williams (achilles)
GAME WITHIN THE GAME
Patriots offensive line – noble as its performance was last week – against a very talented Bills defensive line which has a chance to make a year-closing statement by following up last week’s blanking of the Dolphins.
PATRIOTS GOTTA STOP …
Marcell Dareus. He’s the defensive tackle to the left of Tom Brady and he’s been a force in the running game, in the passing game with tipped passes at the line and in getting pressure. Very, very good player.
BILLS GOTTA STOP …
Julian Edelman. In the first meeting, Edelman and Amendola combined for 17 catches for 183 yards. The over-the-middle stuff will come open against the Bills. Meanwhile, Edelman (40 receptions in past five games) keeps making a case for just how valuable he is to the New England offense.
DON'T BE SURPRISED IF …
This game is quite similar to the opener and has plenty of drama before it ends.
THAT SUMS IT UP PATRIOTS STYLE
“Two of their best players play the same position – running back. They use both guys. They get a lot of production out of both guys. They don’t change their offense when [Fred] Jackson or [C.J.] Spiller is in there but those two players add a different dimension to the running game because of their skills.” – Bill Belichick on the Bills potency.
THAT SUMS IT UP BILLS STYLE
“Where do you want to start? We can start with being the only team in our division to have a winning (divisional) record. That would be important for what we want to be able to build on. Winning three games in a row, being a Buffalo team that’s gone out there in the new stadium that can win and have the opportunity to win up there which would be a great challenge for us. Really just trying to change things. Change is, we’re going to make these little changes and we have been making them, but this is an important one. It’s our last time out and we understand that. It’s the last time the 2013 Buffalo Bills football team is going to play together as a team. We’re in a league that is constantly changing, there is change everywhere and we’re together and we want to go about and win a game.” – Doug Marrone, Bills coach, on what the Bills have to play for.
THE WINNER IS...
Patriots 27, Bills 13