Patriots vs. Bills: Where and When to Watch Vital AFC East Battle

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2012

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Buffalo Bills fans show their support after Buffalo beat the New England Patriots for the first time in 15 games at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 25, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo won 34-31. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

If you’re looking for an early-game Sunday that will have the fireworks needed to get the day started, look no further than the AFC East divisional battle between the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots.

Despite the Patriots' recent dominance over the Bills, New England will be traveling to Buffalo this week and facing one of their toughest tests of the year. Never underestimate these divisional battles.

With New England losing two in a row and Buffalo winning the last two coming into this Week 4 matchup, this will be the biggest games of the year for both AFC teams so far.

Where: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, N.Y.

When: Sunday, September 30 at 1 p.m. ET

Watch: CBS

Listen: Sirius 91 and 117; Westwood One

Stream: NFL Audio Pass

Betting Line: Patriots (-4.5), according to Bovada

Stars That Must Shine

Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots

After one of the worst starts New England Patriots’ fans could ever imagine from their star slot receiver (one catch in Week 1), Wes Welker has started to get back into shape.

The team will need Welker at his best if it wants to beat Buffalo Sunday.

With one, five and eight catches in the team’s first three games accordingly, the Patriots' favorite target from 2011 has returned to the form that saw him catch 122 passes last season.

It is still hard to say what the offensive plan is with Welker, but injuries to tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski have forced New England’s hand.

Expect Welker to be a huge part of the Patriots’ attack of the Bills.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills

After a dreadful Week 1 start against the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has gone the last two weeks—both wins—without an interception.

New England boasts the 24th-worst pass defense in the NFL, so the Harvard graduate should be looking to pick the secondary apart. With injuries to both Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, the Bills need Fitzpatrick’s best against the Patriots if they want a chance at victory.

The biggest key for Fitzpatrick this Sunday besides protecting the ball will be his completion percentage. There have been too many missed opportunities in Buffalo so far, and a 58.1 completion percentage is unacceptable.

If Fitzpatrick brings his A-game, the Patriots are on upset alert.

Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

In New England’s two losses so far this season, Tom Brady has passed for over 300 yards, but only had one touchdown in each contest—that proves something is seriously wrong with the Patriots’ game plan.

Brady has a new deep threat with Brandon Lloyd, but the team’s schemes haven’t been utilizing the talent in an effective way so far.

The injuries to Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski will force New England to go deep more often, though, and that’s where Brady needs to step up his game.

Instead of attacking the seam—which was the obvious plan coming into 2012—the Patriots will be forced to play the sidelines for the deep passes and the slot for the short completions.

Just like it was last year.

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