NEPD Staff Writer: Doug Kyed
If you missed it, me and Matthew Elder from BuffaloBillsDraft.com covered every angle you could possibly imagine on the Pats-Bills game over in our roundtable discussion. I’ll highlight some of those points we made here with my thoughts heading into Sunday afternoon’s game.
STOPPING THE BILLS RUSH
You guys might be sick of hearing me talk about how the Pats can’t stop the outside rush, but I’m not sick of talking about it yet and I probably won’t be until they prove me wrong. Injured safety Patrick Chung looked the most adept at stopping Reggie Bush in week 1, but we won’t be seeing him in Buffalo. With Chung out, I’d expect to see a lot of Dane Fletcher attempting to stop Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller from running wild against the Patriots 4-3 defense.
I’m not worried if the Bills attempt to run between the tackles, but I’d guess the Bills won’t be as dumb as the Dolphins were. If the Pats linebackers aren’t doing the job, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Josh Barrett, Sergio Brown and James Ihedigbo all on the field at the same time.
COVERING ALL THE BILLS RECEIVERS
They may not be the most well known bunch, the Bills receivers are nothing to scoff at. We all know about Stevie Johnson at this point, who I would assume Devin McCourty will cover. I see Johnson as a much better match up for McCourty than Brandon Marshall or Vincent Jackson were. Expect to see a nice bounce back game for DMC.
6-5 David Nelson is manning the slot with Roscoe Parrish out of the season. That’ll be another fun match up to watch with Leigh Bodden likely taking him on. That leaves Donald Jones for Ras-I Dowling (who I’ve been incredibly impressed with thus far) to round out the receivers.
6-7 tight end Scott Chandler is mostly a weapon in the red zone and could be a match up problem for the Patriots. With Chung not healthy, I’d expect to see Barrett cover Chandler once the Bills get near the end zone. I’m not as worried about Chandler between the 20s.
ESTABLISHING A PASS RUSH
You know, I’ve heard a lot of criticism about the Patriots defense and I don’t completely understand it. Defenses across the NFL are struggling right now and the Pats are middle of the pack. But guess what? They’ve won twice in a row now with very specific and different game plans in each game. Against the Dolphins we saw a lot of one on one coverage against the Miami receivers while also bringing a lot of heat to Chad Henne.
Bill Belichick realized he couldn’t do that against the Chargers, rarely blitzed and concentrated more on killing the Chargers run game and taking Antonio Gates completely out of the fold. I’d expect to see a more similar game plan to what the Patriots brought in Miami. The Patriots can afford to rush Fitzpatrick with lesser receiving targets than what San Diego presented. That’s not a knock against the Bills, they just don’t have a Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates on their team. I’m hoping to see a breakout game from Albert Haynesworth and Andre Carter on Sunday.
Myron Pryor being placed on IR/Mike Wright’s concussion further hurts the Patriots pass rush issues, so other players will have to step up.
GET OUT TO AN EARLY LEAD
Aaron Hernandez and Sebastian Vollmer have been ruled out for the Pats and Dan Gronkowski was cut, so if you were expecting to see 3 or even 2 TE sets, you might be disappointed. Nate Solder won’t have Cameron Wake to deal with this week, but he’ll still need to show up big if the Pats expect to keep their offense rolling in week 3. Expect to see less no huddle with Hernandez out and expect to see a lot more WRs. Ochocinco and Taylor Price (if he’s healthy) are due to play big roles in Bill O’Brien’s offense. The Bills secondary hasn’t overly impressed so far this year, so Brady should be able to slice and dice early and often.
CONTROLLING TIME OF POSSESSION
If the Pats can take an early lead, I’d love to see BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley have breakout games. They’re both capable of wearing down the Bills defense, which could actually free up some room downfield for the WRs. Continue to expect to see Danny Woodhead in the Pats no huddle look. We’re all still waiting to see Shane Vereen in action, might this be the week?
WIN THE FIELD POSITION BATTLE
Lets hope that Zoltan Mesko can get back on the field Sunday, as he’s been key in this regard. This might be a closer game than you might think based on recent history, so it’s the smaller game aspects that might sway the game one way or another. Mesko and Stephen Gostkowski have been great, but we’ll also need to see nice games from our special teams aces. That not only includes Matt Slater and Tracey White on coverage, but also Julian Edelman on returns. We haven’t seen Edelman break away yet and this might be the game we see it. Edelman is extremely dangerous in space where his elusiveness truly shines through.
My prediction is Hernandez, Wright, Vollmer, Vereen, Ryan Mallett, Tarpinian, Pat Chung.