The Buffalo Bills face a lot of uncertainty entering Monday’s contest against the New England Patriots. New offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt has devised a new form of the no-huddle offense against one of the better defenses in the NFL.
The Patriots do a great job of eliminating one of the opposing teams best offensive choice, so it forces teams to beat the Patriots with a second and third option.
Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren and Derrick Burgess are a formidable front for the new Bills offensive line. It’s going to be a steep learning curve for rookies Eric Wood and Andy Levitre. The offense line became even more inexperienced on Tuesday with the release of veteran Langston Walker.
Second-year man Demetrius Bell will start when he’s healthy. Bell has been out with back soreness for a few weeks.
The Patriots also made a move before the start of the season, trading stalwart defensive lineman Richard Seymour to the Raiders for a first round pick. The Bills also have to deal with Jarvis Green, who’s looking to build on a strong 2008 season, replacing Seymour at defensive end.
The Patriots also have a great group of linebackers led by Jarod Mayo and Adalius Thomas. Some detractors state that losing Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi hurts the Patriots, but Belichick’s staff does a great job of replacing components and there’s no drop off in performance. Opposing teams always have to worry about which linebacker in blitzing and which hole they’re blitzing through.
The Bills will also have a hard time against the secondary of the Patriots. Shawn Springs has a great history of shutting down Terrell Owens when they played each other in the NFC East these past few season. Expect a leap in performance from Brandon Merriweather too, the strong safety was good in run coverage, expect a better job recognizing the pass plays and clogging the passing lanes.
The Patriots did get older in the wide receiver corps with the addition of Joey Galloway, but don’t expect too much of a drop off in production. The Bills will count on Reggie Corner to cover Wes Welker in the slot all night. Ben Watson will also be used somewhat in the Patriots offense, but expect Brian Scott to do a good job on Watson all night.
The man most happy about Brady’s return might be Randy Moss. The two had a great 2007 season and expect to make it to the Super Bowl together. Expect a long night for Leodis McKelvin and Terrence McGee if Moss and Brady immediately regain some of their 2007 form.
The game plan for the Bills on defense is to read and react against the Patriot offense, but it hasn’t worked in the past. Last year against the Broncos, the Bills blitzed more and it forced Jay Cutler into a lot of bad throws. The Bills will continue to rely on Aaron Schobel to get to Brady, but that’s a tough task given the quality of the Patriot’s offensive line.
The Bills offensive line is another project that could turn Monday’s game into a laugher. They’re starting three players that haven’t played a down in regular season action. Demetrius Bell will be a good offensive tackle, I see a potential blow to his confidence starting on Monday Night Football against the Patriots. Bell is tasked with protecting Edward’s blindside and that’s not easy in the NFL.
With all the changes that the Bills made only a few days from the start of the season, it’s no wonder many writers are saying the team may finish the season 4-12 or worse. I’m not that pessimistic, but I do think that if the Bills are defeated even before stepping on the field, then it’s going to be a long night, which could lead to a long season for Bills fans.
Prediction: Patriots 35 Bills 14