The New England Patriots are starting to look like the Patriots we expected this season, not the ones who started the season off 1-2. After winning four of their last five games, the Pats are coming off a bye week and will host the Buffalo Bills.
This AFC East matchup is a rematch of a Week 4 contest in Buffalo that started a trend for both teams. Since the Pats won that game, they've gone 4-1, and since the Bills lost, they've gone 1-4.
If the Bills have any hope of getting back into the playoff race, they need to win on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Patriots will look to extend their lead in the division and keep pushing for a top playoff spot.
Where: Gillette Stadium
When: Sunday, November 11 at 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NFL.com
Betting Line: New England (-11), according to Bovada
Buffalo Injury Report (via Yahoo! as of Nov. 8, 2012)
|Eric Wood C||Probable||Knee|
|Mario Williams DE||Probable||Wrist|
|Kyle Williams DT||Questionable||Ankle|
|Chris White LB||Probable||Back|
|Kraig Urbik G||Probable||Ankle|
|C.J. Spiller RB||Probable||Shoulder|
|Brad Smith WR||Probable||Chest|
|Justin Rogers CB||Probable||Thigh|
|Andy Levitre G||Probable||Knee|
|Chris Kelsay DE||Probable||Ankle|
|Donald Jones WR||Probable||Low back|
|Spencer Johnson DE||Probable||Ankle|
|Chris Hairston T||Probable||Knee|
|T.J. Graham WR||Probable||Ankle|
|Cordy Glenn T||Questionable||Ankle|
|Marcell Dareus DT||Probable||Shoulder|
|Ron Brooks CB||Probable||Foot|
|Mark Anderson DE||Out||Knee|
New England Injury Report (via Yahoo! as of Nov. 8, 2012)
|Vince Wilfork DT||Probable||Illness|
|Kyle Love DT||Probable||Knee|
|Wes Welker WR||Questionable||Ankle|
|Sebastian Vollmer T||Questionable||Back, knee|
|Sterling Moore S||Questionable||Knee|
|Nick McDonald G||Questionable||Shoulder|
|Jerod Mayo LB||Questionable||Elbow, illness|
|Logan Mankins G||Questionable||Calf, hip|
|Brandon Lloyd WR||Questionable||Knee|
|Dont'a Hightower LB||Questionable||Hamstring|
|Rob Gronkowski TE||Questionable||Hip|
|Julian Edelman WR||Questionable||Hand|
|Ron Brace DT||Questionable||Back|
|Tracy White LB||Out||Foot|
|Trevor Scott DE||Out||Hamstring|
|Aaron Hernandez TE||Out||Ankle|
|Steve Gregory S||Out||Hip|
|Brandon Bolden RB||Out||Knee|
|Patrick Chung S||Out||Shoulder|
What's At Stake?
The AFC East is still a wide open division, but this game could close the door for the Bills. If Buffalo loses its third consecutive divisional game and falls three games back of the division-leading Pats, they'll be sitting at home in January.
On the flip side, if the Patriots win, they will improve their divisional record to an impressive 3-0 and potentially extend their division lead to two games over the Miami Dolphins (4-4) and New York Jets (3-5).
Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
If you're an owner of Aaron Rodgers or Robert Griffin III and don't have a viable option for a backup quarterback, consider Fitzpatrick.
The Patriots secondary isn't what it used to be and ranks No. 28 in the league in passing yards allowed per game.
The last time these two teams met, Fitz-Magic threw for 350 yards and four scores. Unfortunately, he also threw four interceptions, but he finished with an impressive 21 fantasy points.
How many interceptions will Ryan Fitzpatrick throw on Sunday?
If he can cut down on his turnovers in this game, he has potential to shine, as the Bills are going to be throwing the ball early and often. He isn't worth benching your starter for, but if you need a backup with Green Bay and Washington on bye weeks, then Fitzpatrick could be your man.
New England RB Stevan Ridley
In the last five games, Ridley has scored four touchdowns and is averaging 96.6 rushing yards per contest.
An even better sign for his success on Sunday is that he hasn't fumbled the ball in three consecutive games, which became a worry after he fumbled in back-to-back weeks prior to this stretch.
The last time these two teams met, it was Brandon Bolden who was hailed as the better back, but Ridley still put up 106 yards and scored twice in the game. This time around, I expect Ridley to get even more carries since Bolden has missed the last two games and is listed as questionable.
Buffalo's run defense is giving up nearly 170 yards per contest, and there's no reason to think that it's sorted things out just yet.
I'm expecting at least 130 yards and a pair of scores out of Ridley on Sunday.
What They Are Saying
The Bills struggled mightily in the red zone against the Houston Texans on Sunday, making three trips and failing to score a single touchdown.
Head coach Chan Gailey acknowledged that failure, and the team will likely make that a priority this week. If so, it definitely helps to have the Bills' No. 1 receiver on the field.
According to the Buffalo Bills' official Twitter feed, Steve Johnson should be ready to go on Sunday:
Stevie okay; A. Williams out 2-3 weeks ow.ly/2t3a8T— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) November 5, 2012
The Bills can't afford to make mistakes on offense against a team that put up 52 points the last time they met. If Buffalo gets close to the end zone, it has to punch it in.
Key Matchup: Buffalo Defensive Line vs. New England Offensive Line
The Bills were supposed to have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL this year. Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Chris Kelsay were supposed to be the backbone of this defense, but they have struggled mightily.
New England has a good enough offensive line to create holes for the Patriots running backs and give Tom Brady time in the pocket. Whenever Brady has time to throw, he is dangerous, which is why the Bills need to hurry him before his receivers have time to create separation.
New England's passing attack is too good to give extra time to, and its ground game has emerged as the No. 4 rushing attack in the league. If the Bills can't get in the backfield, it's going to be a long day for them.
The Patriots appear to have just about every advantage on Sunday. Not only are they home and coming off a bye week, but they have the superior offense and a defense that can come up with turnovers. If you thought the first game was bad, imagine how ugly this one could get.
Patriots 56, Bills 17