While the NFL season is still young, the Patriots have looked the part of a Super Bowl contender thus far. Tom Brady has picked up right where he left off last season, throwing for over 900 yards and quite a few TDs in victories over the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers.
Meanwhile, the surprise of the NFL season has been the play of the young, upstart Buffalo Bills, who have managed to post a surprising 2-0 record, besting preseason sleeper Kansas City and the resurgent Oakland Raiders.
Will Tom Brady and the Patriots continue their AFC East dominance, or will Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo Bills continue their phenomenal play and best New England? Here are five reasons why the Patriots should be able to turn back Buffalo and remain the AFC's top team.
Newly acquired WR Chad Ochocinco is arguably one of the most naturally talented offensive players on the Patriots' team. Love him or hate him, there is no denying that Ochocinco, even at age 33, is a tremendously gifted wideout, capable of running excellent routes, creating separation from even the best DBs and making spectacular catches all over the field.
However, Ochocinco has struggled thus far to acclimate himself to the Patriots complex, up-tempo attack. Despite his QB throwing for over 900 yards, Ochocinco has managed just 59 yards on three receptions with zero TDs.
It is scary to think just how good the Patriots' offense will be when their most talented wideout finally learns the offense and develops some chemistry with Tom Brady.
The really bad news for Buffalo? Even if Ochocinco continues to struggle, there's the fact that RBs Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis have only caught a combined four passes for 26 yards, numbers sure to improve in the near future.
Speaking of RBs Green-Ellis and Woodhead, they've also received limited touches despite solid all-around play, something that's likely to change sooner rather than later.
In two games, the Patriots' two backs have combined for 42 carries for 185 yards and two TDs. Those production levels are below their season averages from a year ago, and with the Bills likely to gameplan against Brady, it could open things up on the ground for New England.
If Green-Ellis and Woodhead are able to get things going on the ground early against Buffalo, it could open up play-action for Brady, which is an absolute nightmare to defend. Of course, there's the other issue: Green-Ellis and Woodhead are both very capable backs in their own right.
Most NFL scouts, coaches and analysts agree that football games are generally won and lost in the trenches. For the Patriots' defense, that's fantastic news, as they have a pair of monsters in the middle of their defensive line that are impossible to contain. I'm referring, of course, to Pro-Bowler Vince Wilfork and former Defensive Player of the Year Albert Haynesworth.
Combined, those two behemoths are about 700 pounds of brute strength and surprising speed. Against both Carolina and Miami, Wilfork and Haynesworth were able to consistently collapse the pocket, stuffing the run with impunity and forcing opposing QBs to throw to hot reads.
Buffalo can expect more of the same from the Patriots' defensive monstrosities. If the Bills' offensive line isn't up to the challenge of containing Wilfork and Haynesworth, it will be a long, long day for QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. If they do manage to neutralize that terrible twosome, it will likely be the result of a number of max-protect sets, which means Ryan Fitzpatrick will need to throw at CBs Devin McCourty and Ros-I Dowling. Not exactly a dream scenario for the Bills.
Just two weeks into the 2011 NFL season, Tom Brady has managed to post the following stat line: 63-of-88 for 940 yards, seven TDs, one INT and a 128.0 QB rating. And he did it against the Dolphins' defense that was ranked sixth in the NFL last season and returned 10-of-11 starters from that squad and an upstart Chargers' defense stocked full of Pro Bowlers and emerging talents.
To put it bluntly: Anyone still questioning if Tom Brady is the best QB in the NFL doesn't know football. Brady has been nothing short of dominant this season, and there is no one on the Buffalo defense that I believe can stop him.
There is little doubt that Bill Belichek is the best head coach in the NFL today. Each week, his team is a little bit different, a little bit better, a little bit more difficult to defend. Belichek is a generational football mind, a tactician who understands the game behind the game; a strategist who plays a few moves ahead of his opponents.
In a recent interview with ESPN, Patriots' QB Tom Brady said his favorite aspect of the Patriots' offense was the fact that it's different every week, customized to exploit the weaknesses of each opponent. No two game plans are ever the game; the playbook expands as the season progresses and the team changes.
Even if, by some miracle, the Bills are able to match the Patriots on the field, they have no answer for Belichek. He's the ultimate football chess master—a coach who can turn any player into a productive player by putting him in the right place at the right time.