Pats Preview: Pats @ Bills
As the New England Patriots prepare for their Week 13 divisional battle against the Buffalo Bills, here are some pregame story lines to keep in mind:
A Chance To Separate- The game will provide another chance for the Patriots to further separate themselves from their divisional opponents and extend their lead in the AFC East. The Pats are 2-0 this season, in divisional play, having beaten both the Jets and Dolphins once. Sunday's game is the second of three consecutive divisional games for New England, who has a backloaded AFC East schedule.
O-Line Health- A key unit to watch for New England will be their battered offensive line. Both starting center David Andrews and backup right tackle LaAdrian Waddle are listed as questionable on the team's official injury report, while starting right tackle Marcus Cannon has already been ruled out, once again, as he continues to be hampered by an ankle injury. Waddle will likely start the game, though if his injury suffered last week gets re-aggravated, the team could be forced to turn to third string option Cam Fleming or Jason King, who was signed to the active roster for the first time in his career earlier this week. As for Andrews, he missed multiple weeks with an illness, but appears ready to rejoin the team this week. Look for him to be back in the lineup, as backup Ted Karras struggled a bit last week. Whoever is on the field Sunday will have to do a better job than they did the week before, trying to keep quarterback Tom Brady out of harm's way. The 40-year-old took a beating last week against Miami.
Air Attack- Look for Brady and the Patriots to unleash an air attack on the Buffalo defense, as the top ranked New England pass offense battles a defense ranked 22nd in the league against the pass. Though he'll be without Chris Hogan, who is out again with a shoulder injury, and Martellus Bennett, among others, Brady has plenty enough options to spread the ball around the field to. Look for Brady to attack all three levels of the field, using his multitude of pass-catching backs out of the backfield and looking deep down the field to Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski. New England enters the game averaging 297 yards through the air per week, while Brady has enjoyed a dominant 26/3 touchdown to interception ratio.
TB12 Dominance- To put it accurately, Tom Brady has owned the Buffalo Bills throughout his career. In 29 games against Buffalo, Brady is a stealthy 26-3. His 26 wins have him tied with Brett Favre, who beat the Detroit Lions 26 times in his career, as the most wins for any quarterback against a single team. A win on Sunday would give the 40-year-old just another top spot on a quarterback statistical category.
Dominant In December- Both Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Brady have been dominant in the month of December. Belichick has a career coaching record of 60-12 in the Christmas month, while Brady is 54-10 as a starter. Belichick's December dominance has him atop the list of best coaching records in the month, while Brady's has him second all-time to Roger Staubach by .006 percent.
Playing For Something- While, on the outset, the game appears to be a mismatch in favor of New England, the Bills do have plenty of reason to battle the Pats. Entering Sunday, Buffalo is tied with the Baltimore Ravens for the sixth and final playoff seed in the AFC. So, while the pats will likely find a way to separate themselves from the Bills and win the game, Buffalo should put up more of a fight than Miami did last week.
Defensive Health- The new England defense has turned into a top flight unit as of late, though they have been dealing with a bulk of injuries. Starting linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who suffered a calf injury late in last week's win, and backup linebackers Marquis Flowers (Knee) and Trevor Reilly (Concussion) are all listed as questionable. Along with them, starting defensive end Trey Flowers is also questionable, after a rib injury took him out of last week's win as well. Third corner Eric Rowe is also questionable as he continues to work his way back from a groin injury. The team has been playing well, but if a group of these guys can't go Sunday, they will be further tested. Luckily for them, the Buffalo offense isn't a really imposing unit.
Prediction- The Pats should be able to come into Buffalo, get to work early and put the Bills away quickly. The combination of New England's passing offense and now dominant defense, the Pats should give the Bills too much to handle. Expect Brady and company to be celebrating a 10th win, when it's all said and done.
Pats 37, Bills 16