New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills: Game Preview

Thomas SalernoContributor IIDecember 23, 2010

New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills: Game Preview

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    This week the 12-2 (5-2 away from home) Patriots travel to Buffalo to play the 4-10 (2-5 at home) Bills. The Bills haven't beaten the Patriots since 2003, and they will be looking to get a small slice of revenge on their division foes on Sunday. The Patriots won't be lying down though as they have the chance to clinch home-field advantage with a win, so don't be expecting to see what the Colts did last year.

    Here are some key match ups to watch out for on Sunday...

Patriots Run D Vs. Fred Jackson

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    The Patriots run defence looked very poor against a weak Packers rushing attack last Sunday and this could be a sign that Fred Jackson could be in for a big statistical day. Jackson already has over 1,000 yards from the line of scrimmage and 7 touchdowns (5 rushing, 2 receiving), and would love to give himself a good footing to get to 1,000 yards rushing for the second straight season next week, Jackson is currently on 811 rushing yards.

    The Patriots poor run defence last week could be put down to three of their defensive linemen being out and another two injured. This is key to the Patriots as they rely on a heavy rotation up front to keep the line fresh throughout the game. If the injured linemen return expect a better effort against the run.

Steve Johnson Vs. Devin McCourty

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    Steve Johnson has been Buffalo's only consistent target through the air all season and with Lee Evans on IR he is their only real receiving threat having 10 touchdowns through the air, although rookie David Nelson has caught a touchdown in each of the last three weeks. Johnson only needs 57 yards through the air to achieve his first ever 1,000 yards receiving season.

    Devin McCourty will likely be matched up with Johnson on Sunday. McCourty was the Patriots first round pick in the draft last year and has already cemented himself in the starting line up for year to come, and some are already calling him a shutdown corner as he is joint second in interceptions in the NFL with 6.

    This will be an interesting battle on Sunday as we see if McCourty can carry on his excellent rookie campaign.

Stopping The Law Firm

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    The Bills are currently the 32nd ranked run defence allowing over 158 yards per game. On Sunday they will line up against a New England backfield that includes BenJarvus Green-Ellis, also known as the Law Firm. Green-Ellis is having a career year having already rushed for 824 yards and a huge 12 touchdowns (2nd most in the NFL behind Arian Foster's 13).

    Green-Ellis seems to like playing against the Bills as in his two games against them he achieved his first ever 100 yards rushing game and earlier this season he ran for 98 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries.

Pressuring The QB

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    The Packers showed last week that one way to slow down the Patriots is to keep the ball away from their offence but also to put pressure on Brady. Brady is lucky that he has the joint sixth ranked offensive line in terms of sacks allowed, with them only allowing 24 sacks so far this season, though they have allowed three sacks in each of the last three weeks. The Bills however won't be expecting to generate much of a pass rush as they only have 25 sacks on the season, and are only ranked 26th in sacks.

    It will also be important that the Patriots generate a good pass rush against Ryan Fitzpatrick, as they can't allow him freedom in the pocket as earlier in the season he gashed them for 247 yards, whilst only being sacked once. The Patriots have since improved their pass rushing abilities and are ranked 18th in the NFL with 28 sacks on the year. Whilst that may not seem much being only 3 higher then the Bills, however the Patriots have gained over half of that number in their last six games.

Conclusion

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Bills have been good recently getting half of their wins in the last two games, but I can't see them beating the Patriots and their streak of losses against them. If the Bills had more of a pass rush and better run defence this would be a much tougher prediction to make, but they don't so I can only see them winning if the Patriots look past them and don't perform (like they did in the Cleveland game).

    Score Prediction: Patriots 34-13 Bills