It’s been an eventful Patriots week for the Bills to say the least. It started with Rex Ryan mimicking Bill Belichick, continued with his epic conference call prank on Julian Edelman and ended with the news that Sammy Watkins will be placed on the IR and cannot return until Week 11 at the earliest. All of that brings us to Gillette Stadium for Week 4, where Buffalo will look to get to .500 on the season and earn their first division win of 2016. Easier said than done against Belichick and the Patriots.
Here’s three things they must do to get a W:
1) Whoever is starting at quarterback for New England, needs to face pressure
Through three games the Patriots have yielded just three sacks. Three. And 12 total QB hits. If there is any wonder why these inexperienced starters – Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett – have been so effective it’s because they’ve been protected very well. Whether Rex Ryan truly knows who is starting for New England tomorrow – my money is on Garoppolo – remains to be seen, but one thing he vowed was that whoever it is, they’re coming after. The Bills have the pass rushers to get he job done. Jerry Hughes has been relentless and has notched half the team’s sacks (5). Lorenzo Alexander is a wily vet who has proved through the first three weeks that he’s got plenty left in the tank. The key though will be the 33-year-old Kyle Williams. He had a fabulous game in Week 3, collecting four total tackles and 1.5 sacks on the day against Arizona. A similar performance this week could pay huge dividends for Buffalo. It will be very interesting to see how Garoppolo or Brissett handles the heat if the Bills can provide some.
2) Slow down LeGarrette Blount
Another aspect that has kept the pressure off of Garoppolo and Brissett through the first three weeks of the season is the effectiveness of the Patriots ground game, led by LeGarrette Blount. Blount is the league leader in rushing (298 yds) and tied with three others for top mark in rushing touchdowns (4). He’s fresh off back-to-back games with over 100 yards rushing – a feat he’s accomplished three times in his career. The only time he’s rushed for over 100 yards against the Bills was Week 17 in 2013, when he broke off 189 yards and the only two touchdowns he’s ever scored against the franchise. Last year in two contests he had just 18 carries and 60 total yards. It’s safe to say the Bills will see a much heavier workload from Blount this time around. Mitigating the bruising back puts the pressure on either Garoppollo or Brissett to make plays. Make them prove they can beat you.
3) Tyrod Taylor needs to be more than a running back at QB
Deploying Taylor as a runner by using designed QB draws and various read options worked beautifully in Week 3. It won’t be so easy against the Patriots. Bill Belichick is a mastermind at scheming to take away your strengths. Taylor talked about that earlier this week, saying, “the Patriots definitely do a good job of taking away what you do well and them forcing me to have to stay in the pocket is definitely something that we have in mind when thinking of the game plan this week, so we have to be better at the execution.”
He knows New England wants to make him a quarterback, as both Baltimore and New York did successfully in weeks 1 and 2. He’ll have to prove he can be one if the Bills want to win this week.
Week 4 Injury Report:
Obviously Sammy Watkins headlines the list of players ruled out for Sunday. Joining him are fellow WR Greg Salas (groin), T Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle) and C Patrick Lewis (knee).
After missing the last two games with an ankle injury starting tackle Cordy Glenn is listed as questionable and practiced throughout the week. Five other Bills are listed as questionable: TE Charles Clay, (knee), S Aaron Williams (ankle), CB Ronald Darby (hamstring), QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder) and S Colt Anderson (foot).
Fun storyline to watch: Chris Hogan playing against his former team. Now usually it’s after a dicey situation that led to the players departure, but in sports we see it all the time. Player leaves Team A, goes to Team B, when the two meet the next season he dominates. Bill Belichick loves to get guys playing against their former team very involved. We’ll see if Hogan is a factor tomorrow.
Prediction: The Bills need this one. To fall to 0-3 in the AFC and 0-2 in the division would be an almost insurmountable hole to dig out of in terms of the big playoff picture. The news regarding Sammy Watkins is frustrating for a number of reasons, but especially because of the void his absence creates for the offense. Buffalo did managed to get a win over the Cardinals last week without him, however the Patriots are a different beast. Bill Belichick will take away the Bills running game and force Taylor to make plays in the passing game. Is he ready for that challenge, without his top receiver? We’ll find out. As for New England’s QB it doesn’t matter who starts. We’ve seen that through the first three weeks. Bills 16, Patriots 27
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