Sunday, October 12, 2014

Matchup Mashup: Your Bills-Patriots primer


Week 6: New England Patriots (3-2) at Buffalo Bills (3-2)
Location: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, N.Y.
Weather: Sunny, mid-50s at kickoff (accuweather)

The skinny: Buffalo is riding high after pulling out a tough road win in Detroit, and the finalization of ownership papers this week by Terry Pegula is sure to have fans amped for the team's battle for divisional supremacy. Quarterback Kyle Orton proved he can keep the offense in the game, but with Fred Jackson ailing and C.J. Spiller struggling, it'll be the running game this week that will be in the spotlight. On the other side of the ball, tight end Rob Gronkowski is fully healthy and off the injury list, another positive sign from an offense that came out with a vengeance last weekend at home after an embarrassing Week 4 loss. Tom Brady and Co. will have their hands full against the league's second-ranked run defense, however, a unit that leads the league in sacks while allowing less than 18 points a game.

What to watch for (links):
- What type of impact will linebacker Brandon Spikes have against his former team?
- Can the Bills' run D continue to force opponents inside and keep them contained?
- How will Orton fare against the league's third-best pass defense? 
- Will a fully healthy Gronk be the X factor as he returns to his hometown? 
- Does Jackson's absence from practice this week mean less touches for the versatile veteran?

Injury report: Gronk may be off the injury list, but Brady is back on; he's officially listed as questionable, along with cornerback Brandon Browner and gunner Matthew Slater. For Buffalo, Jackson is the questionable listing, as well as a pair of linebackers and a pair of safeties.

Other tidbits from the week: The Pegulas finalized their purchase of the Bills franchise after a unanimous vote by NFL owners; New England's big win against Cincinnati didn't quell rumors that Brady could be traded sooner rather than later.

Our picks:
Dan: Bills 23, Patriots 20
Nick: Patriots 24, Bills 20

Head-to-head recent history: It's been utter domination over the past decade or so for the Patriots, who have only lost one game to Buffalo since 2003. That loss came at the Ralph back in 2011, when a Bills defense forced four interceptions from Brady and won on a last-second field goal. New England holds a 25-game lead in overall wins, dating back to 1960.

Follow Dan @DanBegnoche
Follow AFC East Daily @AFCEastDaily