Buffalo Bills v. New England Patriots Preview: Keys to the NFL Matchup
By: Cian Fahey | Published Tuesday, November 1, 2011, 7:15 PM | Updated Tuesday, November 1, 2011, 7:15 PM
After beating the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins, relatively comfortably, most fans will be expecting a similar result today against the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills have been the biggest surprise so far this year, enjoying two victories in the first two weeks of the season. Both teams sit at 2-0 however the Bills are being somewhat overlooked because of the teams that they have beaten.
A comeback victory over the Oakland Raiders last week, followed a blowout victory against the Kansas City Chiefs on opening day. The Chiefs continued to be blown out by the Lions while the Raiders victory came in the final seconds.
In comparison to the Patriots two thorough victories against supposedly better opposition, the class between the top of the AFC East and the bottom may not be as close as it appears with three teams sitting on 2-0.
The Bills cannot be overlooked as they have been in recent years. Ryan Fitzpatrick has made an outstanding start to the year with a 109.6 quarterback rating. Most notably, he has thrown seven touchdowns to only one interception completing over 63 percent of his passes.
At 28 years of age, Fitzpatrick appears to finally have found his home in Buffalo. To this point in the season he has shown a lot of poise and great understanding of the offense. This is terrible news for a Patriots' defense that has struggled so far this year.
Defensively the Patriots have made a terrible start to the season giving up at least 20 points in each of the first two games. The team has been shredded through the air, therefore the losses of Albert Haynesworth and Pat Chung could prove fatal.
Injuries could be the telling problem for the Patriots today.
Defensively Chung and Haynesworth will be missed, but the biggest issue could be the loss of Dan Koppen. Koppen has been Brady's center for a long time but after his injury last week, converted guard Dan Connolly will be snapping the ball.
Brady's pass protection has been massive for his early season success. In particular no defense has been able to get pressure on him through the middle. Without Koppen that could all change. Throwing from a clean pocket is huge for any quarterback and the Bills have the talent to disrupt that.
Neither the Chargers or Dolphins had any real pass rushing threat in the center of their defensive line. The Bills have one of the most disruptive pass rushers from the defensive tackle position throughout the whole league. Kyle Williams is a star defensive tackle who should get his recognition if the Bills continue to win.
Williams ability to get the better of Dan Connolly could shut down the Patriots passing game. The Bills lack pass rushers on the outside, as they rely on Shawne Merrimen, but getting hands in Brady's face is the key to slowing down the offense.
Koppen isn't the only scratch from today's game as Aaron Hernandez will miss the trip to Buffalo also. Hernandez has been huge for the Patriots, without him the Bills have a secondary that shouldn't struggle to matchup to the Patriots receivers.
The Patriots will probably look to run the ball more as teams have had a lot of success running the ball against the Bills during the first two weeks of the season. However, forcing the Patriots to beat you with their running game is exactly what the Bills will want.
If the Patriots turn to BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead to win the game, then the Bills offense with Fred Jackson, Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson can outscore them.
Traveling to Buffalo will not be an easy trip today for the New England Patriots. Without key players on both sides of the ball, the Patriots will face a dogfight with their now respectable rivals in the AFC East.