Sunday, September 8, 2013

Four Point Stance: Patriots at Bills


Stevie Johnson boasted this week that the Patriots defensive secondary can't handle him. The real question may be whether the Bills' defense is ready for Tom Brady and the revamped New England offense. Averaging 40 points a game against Buffalo since 2010, Brady's unit comes in winners of its last three meetings and 22-3 overall against the Bills since 2000. Moreover, Bill Belichick's bunch hasn't lost a opening day game in nearly a decade. (photo: Chris Seward, Flickr)

But Buffalo's changing of the guard has brought a revamped game plan of its own, one that's centered around an up-tempo offense and an elusive defense that coach Doug Marrone and his crew hope can end a record-breaking playoff drought that's plagued the team since the 21st century.


Rookie outing. With Ryan Fitzpatrick long gone and another veteran signal-caller out for the season, rookie quarterbacks E.J. Manuel and Jeff Tuel are left to carry the load in Nate Hackett's fast-paced system. Manuel will start a few weeks removed from minor knee surgery, but expect to see a heavy dose of Buffalo's running game early on to set the tone and provide some stability. The stage is also set for rookie wideouts Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin to prove their worth after a strong training camp.

Brady's new arsenal. New England's receiving corps has plenty of new faces, as well. Gone are Brady's mainstays from last year — namely Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez — and in are newcomers Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce, who will look to carry the load with Julian Edelman until tight end Rob Gronkowski can return to duty.

A new focus on the run. The Pats' receiving corps isn't the only aspect of the offense that's undergone a facelift, and the running game seems to be handling it all in stride. With Stevan Ridley still its anchor, the ground game — with the addition of LeGarrette Blount — has been impressive this summer, averaging more than 140 yards a game in the preseason. That includes a 248-yard showing against Philadelphia, where the tailbacks tallied four touchdowns (one in the air). Buffalo's run defense has been porous of late, giving up more than 180 yards on average the last two preseason games.

Word on Byrd? Bills fans were thrilled to see their biggest playmaker return toward the end of the preseason, but it seems the drama hasn't quite settled. The Buffalo News reported earlier this week the Pro Bowler is trying to work out a trade. The distraction is the last thing Buffalo's defensive secondary needs, especially with the absence of star cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Byrd, who is doubtful with a foot ailment, forced two fumbles in his last meeting with the Patriots.
A week in Bills and Patriots posts at

Week 1 AFC East game picks: Pats at Bills

Injury Report: Gronk likely out, Amendola in

Injury Report: Byrd listed as doubtful

Patriots know covering Spiller will take 11 guys

Byrd 'learning the scheme' days before opener

Wood likes that Manuel rarely repeats mistakes

Gronk: 'Putting the pads on makes me happy'

Web-wide AFC East power rankings: Week 1

Jets, Bills to start rookie QBs Smith, Manuel

Patriots' acquisition of White a strategic one

Carpenter on third East team in as many weeks

Jim Leonhard back in Mike Pettine's system

Patriots scoop up some of Dolphins' scraps

AFC East is NFL's youngest division

Patriots give veteran punter Mesko the boot

Wilson IRed, Pats' secondary at square one

With new deal, Wood only focused on football

Follow Dan @DanBegnoche
Follow AFC East Daily @AFCEastDaily