Pre-Game Meal: Buffalo Bills v2.0

First and foremost, we here at NE Patriots Draft would like to send our deepest condolences to Chris Henry’s friends and family. It is truly a shame to see someone pass so young, especially after all the hard work Chris put in to get his life on the right track. He was a great athlete and everyone he ever made contact with will miss him dearly.

The time has finally come for the New England Patriots to participate in their final regular-season AFC East bout. Last time the Pats and the Bills met, it took two Tom Brady TDs in 40 seconds, Brandon McGowan’s big hits, and a little bit of luck to squeeze out a win. I can definitely do without a nail-biter this weekend. Does anyone else realize the irony of this weekend? Keeping the playoffs in mind, this week in the AFC East is identical to the final week of 2008. Pats v. Bills and Jets v. Dolphins. To my dismay, once again we need the Jets to win, in my opinion. The finish line is near and the Pats have to keep winning. Only 3 games left… where did this season go?!

Can you believe all this talk about Randy Moss ‘dogging it’ is still going on? Let it go. This isn’t Oakland, and this man plays all the time. Frankly, if your job is to play/know/analyze football and you can’t tell the difference between Moss ‘shutting it down’ and Moss trying to lull defenders out of their game, you should probably consider trying out baseball or something.

It’s going to be a cold one up in Buffalo this Sunday and with this Nor’easter on the way, who knows what the conditions could be like. Both teams should be prepared for the worst because after all, it is Buffalo… it practically snows there all year ’round.

The Final AFC East Weekly Match-Ups (I hope):

* Tom Brady vs. Pass Rush – This is routine. Bad weather + pass-first offense = protect the QB. The line seemed a little better with Vollmer all over the place. It will be interesting to see whether he plays RT again with Light on the left or if Vollmer goes back to left. If Matt Light can perform well, the line will be, without a doubt, better with SeaBass on the right. Aarons Schobel and Maybin want another piece of Tom Brady, and as the visiting team, the line needs to make sure Tom gets comfortable early. We can’t keep letting him get lit up with all his hurting ribs, fingers, knees, etc… and expect to win on the road. The Bills lead the league with 25 INTs, (9 for Jairus Byrd) which means that timing and precision is imperative. It’s time for this offense to click and get ready for a potential post-season run. Brady is going to have to spread the love and get everyone involved so that our offense can become unpredictable and multi-faceted. We can’t just throw the team on Welker’s back every week. Well, apparently we can; but it’s not the best idea. C’mon! He’s a little guy!

* Laurence Maroney vs. Defense – If the weather is bad, Maroney becomes the workhorse. Maintaining a steady ground attack has been key for the Patriots this season. When teams run well, they can pass better. The more we can run the ball down Buffalo’s throats and punch it in the endzone during the first half, the more aerial ammunition we can reserve for the second half; and that formula worked well last week. Buffalo ranks last in the league in rushing yards allowed so this is the perfect time to give Laurence some more touches, some more confidence, and some more TDs. I expect 39 to push his yearly total to over 720 yards with 9 (maybe 10) TDs.

* Randy Moss vs. Secondary – Dogging it? All of the haters will find out this week about Randy. I have to say, I somewhat appreciate the media adding fuel to a Patriots fire that looked likde it was burning out. Byrd is an amazing rookie and a tough d-back. Don’t be surprised if Randy looks a little sluggish off the line and in his routes because… THAT IS HOW HE PLAYS.

* Fred Jackson vs. Point Makers – What does that mean? It means that the New England Defenders have a point to make. This is a team and a coach built around good, solid defense. Get the ball into Tom’s hands and away from T.O…. or Fred Jackson. Freddy is just tearing it up this year; making defenses pay. He may not always get it into the endzone, but he keeps defenses honest and on their toes. Young leaders like Mayo and Guyton have to keep making good tackles and better decisions if they expect to silence this guy because Jackson is also good for 4 or 5 receptions. Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Jarvis Green, and Tully are all questionable right now for Sunday which is pretty much all of our hopes for a successful pass rush. I expect three or four of them to play but their health will be an important storyline to watch. Wilfork left last week with a foot injury and the only way he plays on Sunday is if the coaching staff feels that the probability of further injury is slim.

* Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Rush – Again. Again. And Again. Why does it seem like the Patriots are the only team in the league that cannot get to a quarterback in time? I don’t know either. These issues need to and will be addressed in the off-season. (Derrick Burgess, were you really that big of a mistake?) Even though Fitzpatrick isn’t the best QB in the league, he did graduate from Harvard. So he’s smart, right? 5 TDs and 9 INTs say that yes he is smart, but not smart enough to teach his entire offensive line how to protect. In the past four games Ivy League boy has been sacked 13 times and, coincidentally, 5 of his INTs also came in that time period. If New England can’t get a couple of sacks against this Swiss cheese o-line, the playoffs don’t look to good at all. I can’t even say who I think will step up. I just hope that it’s everybody. This is a running team so the defense has to crack down against the pass and be prepared for play-action so that Fitz and T.O. don’t become scoring buddies.

* T.O. the Buffalo vs. Leigh Bodden – Bodden was on the injury report Friday morning with a thigh injury that left him limited in practice. If he does play, he’s going to have to play his heart out. I don’t care how lousy of a season Owens is having, he has the explosive ability to scorch defenses and leave them helpless. That reminds me… BRANDON MERRIWEATHER! Stop jumping and second guessing yourself, keep your eyes on Owens and Lee Evans because if you leave the middle wide open on a 60-yard TD one more time, I swear that I am starting a James Sanders petition. I swear. Try me. A memo to all athletes who play the safety position. Think about what your position is called, and then think about that every time the ball is snapped. Seriously. Albert Greer from the Boston Globe put up some stats from games where T.O. and Moss have been opponents and if history serves: this could be a big game for both guys.

Due to me not wanting to be repetitive, this is a shorter write-up than usual. I’ve decided to post my Keys to Victory here this week.

Wanna Win?:

* Use your Tight Ends – If Tom targets them any less they will just be offensive linemen. If Tom uses them more, the Patriots will score more points.

* Give Wes Welker the ball at least 8 times – Only good things will happen when the ball is in his hands. No one can guard him.

* Don’t
sleep on Lee Evans – Who will the Bills look to if Owens is locked up? Who was the big name before Owens starting doing sit-ups in his Buffalo mansion’s driveway? Yeah… that’s right. This guy can play.

* From strictly a pass-rush point of view – Eliminate Aaron Maybin from their defense. The offense depends on it. This guy is good, and the other Aaron is good too.

The game could really go the Patriots’ way if Derrick Burgess could remember to play; just a little better than he did last week. I forgot he still started!

The Countdown to Playoffs has already started. The question is: will the Pats make it? Right now, New England’s future is in their hands and they’re really going to have to come out and play hard on the road in Buffalo to win because no game is a guaranteed win. Let’s see how bad they really want it.

Thanks as always for chowing down!

-B.DelaBarrera (follow Brian on Twitter: @bdelabarrera)

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