The New England Patriots (2-0) ride into Orchard Park and Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday to take on the Buffalo Bills (2-0). Both teams have been offensive juggernauts in the early goings, with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady leading the league with 940 passing yards, Bills running back Fred Jackson leading the league with 229 rushing yards, and both Brady and Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick tied with Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford for the league lead in passing touchdowns with seven. The Bills are also the highest scoring team in the NFL through two weeks with 79 points scored.
The Bills did allow Oakland Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell to throw for over 300 yards in week two, so Brady will likely have a big game. The argument can be made that the Bills’ game plan was to contain the Raiders’ dynamic running back in Darren McFadden which contributed to Campbell’s big day, but cornerback Leodis McKelvin did have a poor day in coverage.
The Patriots are giving up 381 yards per game through the air, good (or bad) for 31st in the league. That bodes well for Fitzpatrick and his wide receivers to have a good day moving the ball. The Patriots are giving up just under 100 yards per game running the ball, while the Bills are rushing for 193 yards per game. Something has to give there. The Bills have to hope that the Patriots’ defense gives, because in order for the Bills to win, they have to keep a balanced offense and keep Brady off the field for as long as possible.
Keys to the game, Patriots:
1. Capitalize on Fitzpatrick’s mistakes: The Raiders had chances to intercept more passes than the one they did last Sunday. One of the passes they could have intercepted was instead a touchdown for Bills tight end Scott Chandler. Another near-interception came on the Bills’ last drive, a pick that would have ended the game. The Patriots need to get their hands on the ball and hold on to it when they do. They did so against the Chargers once quarterback Philip Rivers and company got into the red zone.
2. Get pressure on Fitzpatrick: The Bills’ offensive line has only allowed one sack through two games, which is why Fitzpatrick and the offense has been so successful. The chances of Fiztpatrick making mistakes goes up if the Patriots can get good sustained pressure.
3. Slow down Jackson: Bills running back Fred Jackson has been huge for the Bills, allowing them to stay balanced on offense and keeping defenses from pinning their ears back and attacking Fitzpatrick. If the Patriots can keep Jackson from having another big day, that will force the Bills to the air more and again increase the chances of Fitzpatrick making mistakes.
4. Keep doing what they are doing on offense: Simple as that. Keep throwing the ball around and running enough to keep defenses honest.
Keys to the game, Bills:
1. Get in Brady’s face: The Bills need to concentrate on bringing pressure up the middle of the Patriots’ offensive line. Starting center Dan Koppen was placed on injured reserve this week after sustaining a broken leg in the Patriots’ opening game against the Miami Dolphins. While reserve center Dan Connoly played well against the Chargers, nose tackle Kyle Williams will have a chance to wreak havoc in the center of the Patriots’ line. The only way to rattle Brady is by getting into his face, so expect the Bills to bring pressure up the middle.
2. Keep Brady off the field: If this game is going to be a shootout, the Bills need to make sure their shots are long and methodical to keep the defense rested as much as possible. That means the Bills need to stay balanced by running the ball and taking to the air when the opportunity presents itself.
3. Score touchdowns in the red zone: Against the Patriots, the Bills cannot settle for field goals once they make it into the red zone. If they only convert field goals, the Patriots will run away with this game.
4. Protect the ball: The Bills have protected the ball well so far. They have turned the ball over twice, but once came in garbage time against the Kansas City Chiefs on a pass by Wildcat quarterback Brad Smith. The Bills, in order to score touchdowns in the red zone and keep Brady off the field, need to keep that trend going. They must keep the ball in their possession and not turn it over.
Predictions: The Bills win a wild one, 32-30.
The Buffalo Bills playlist, Week 3:
Yes, this is going to be on here every week. Deal with it.
This is how Stevie Johnson felt in the Raiders game. His body had to be quitting on him, but he just kept going. The defense needs to do this against the Patriots.
Let’s Go Buffalo!