Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gameday Deciding Factors: Bills at Patriots


While an offensively frustrating game in Houston last week left Buffalo Bills players and coaches trying to figure out how they're going to get back into the end zone, their Week 10 opponents have had no such questions. The New England Patriots head into Sunday's matchup as the league's top offense, averaging more than 440 offensive yards and nearly 33 points a game.

The Pats decimated the Buffalo defense in their last meeting, tallying nearly 600 offensive yards and 52 points at Ralph Wilson Stadium. For New England (5-3), Sunday's game is a chance to remain unbeaten in the division. For Buffalo (3-5), it's easily a do-or-die situation, where a loss would mean three games below .500 and a slim chance at a playoff berth. (Photo: Chris Seward, Flick)


Run down. In their Week 4 bout, Buffalo's defense allowed a ridiculous 247 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. While six turnovers didn't help the squad at all, the amount of missed tackles certainly didn't help either. The front-seven looked much better last week despite a 111-yard day by Arian Foster, and if they can continue to cut down on the long runs and missed assignments, they should fare much better against a beat up New England backfield.

Sticking to the game plan. The Bills' rushing attack has been under fire lately, more-so because of its lack of touches than its lack of performance. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller hit a season-low in attempts last week, and the Texans pinpointed a weakness in Buffalo's shotgun rushing attack that crippled the team's offensive flow. Look for Buffalo to adjust that game plan Sunday and get back to 30-plus touches for the running back duo, who will facing an uphill battle against the league's eighth-ranked rush defense.

Blanking Brady. Tom Brady is in MVP-type form midway through the season, ranked near the top in every major quarterback category. Most impressive may be his turnover ratio, as he's giving up only three interceptions while racking up 16 touchdowns. He lit up the Bills in Week 4 to the tune of 340 yards and three touchdowns (no picks), and he's currently 19-2 against Buffalo in his career with a quarterback rating of more than 100. Expect his numbers to be strong again on Sunday, with the Bills having to focus on the run as much as the pass.

Taking advantage. The Pats' defense may give a lot of points, but it makes up for it in turnovers. New England leads the AFC in turnover ratio and is only behind the Bears and Giants for the most turnovers in the league. While it may be hard to duplicate the turnover performance of their first meeting, forcing them shouldn't be hard against Buffalo, who's turned the ball 18 times already this season.