By Jeff Kane
The New England Patriots will kick off against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday at One, at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Both teams enter the game after winning their openers. The Patriots won 28-21 against the Steelers, while the Bills dominated the Colts 27-14. The Bills are believing in themselves and taking after their boisterous head coach Rex Ryan, while the Patriots have always followed Bill Belichick and his steady us against the world style.
This will be an early test for both teams as the Bills are going up against their second straight AFC Finalists, a victory and they can feel confident about their season. For the Patriots the Bills mark one of the best defenses they will face this season. The Bills defense will be a very tough match up for the Patriots offense.
For the Bills we can expect Ryan to throw everything at Tom Brady and the Patriots offense that he has in his bag. The bag is quite extensive and will include everything from all out blitzes to showing a heavy rush that ends in eight or more in coverage. The key for the winning team will be as follows:
Be the bully.
The Bills need to establish the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. In order for the Bills to knock off back to back quality AFC teams they need to set the tempo for the game. The best way to beat the Patriots is to keep the ball out of the hands of Brady. The Bills will need their offensive line to open holes against a Patriots defense that was susceptible to the run against the Steelers. On defense, the Bills ultra-aggressive front needs to work on the young Patriots line.
Don’t get Gronked
Ryan has already said to cover Rob Gronkowski one on one you would need King Kong to cover him. He has said there could be as many as three players that could be on Gronk at the same time. That will be getting Gronked. Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end in football, and he will get his catches. The Bills know that, but tying three defenders up to him, will leave the middle of the field open for Edelman to work his magic. The Bills would do best to take out the 2010 New York Jets defensive playbook from the playoffs, and clog the middle of the filed with seven or eight defenders, making Brady take an extra second to try and find someone outside the numbers.
Get out to an early lead.
One of the biggest reasons the Bills were able to dominate the Colts was their ability to get an early lead. If the Bills can score first and get out to a 10 or 14 point lead the game is played on their terms. The Patriots will be forced to pass, and then the defense can start sending those exotic blitzes. The crowd will be into it, and the Patriots will become one dimensional.
New England Patriots
Take the crowd out of the game.
If you have ever been to a game in Buffalo there is one thing you know, the Ralph is loud. The crowd in Buffalo loves its team, loves football, and loves to party. Rob Gronkowski learned how to party by growing up just south of Buffalo. Whether their team is good or bad the Bills fans cheer their team. For the Patriots they need to get ahead early and stomp the lives out of the Buffalo faithful and send them home with an early hangover.
Protect Tom Brady
With Ryan Wendall already being ruled out, the young trio of Dave Andrews, Shaq Mason and Tre Jackson will have their hands full. Josh Kline will also need to play up to his game. The Patriots need to limit the A gap pressure, and set a pocket for Brady. When you think pass rush, you think edge rushers, but over the years when Brady has had a rough game its been pressure up the middle that has hurt him. If Tom can step up into a clean pocket he can find the open receiver.
Develop a run game.
Rex Ryan in his opening press conference, the Buffalo Bills coach said he wants to create a bully. The easiest way to stop a bully is to punch them right in the mouth. The Patriots need to be more physical then the Bills, they must take the heart out of the Bills and dominate the line of scrimmage. If the Patriots can do such a thing, winning will become that much easier. The Colts (a soft team) tried to beat the Bills by throwing deep intermediate passes, they only ran the ball 17 times, four times by Andrew Luck. The Pats need to be more balanced against the Bills to slow down what Ryan is trying to do on defense.
Stop the run
There is no secret to the Bills game plan, it will be to run the ball and limit mistakes by quarterback Tyrod Taylor. The Bills will try to emulate a game plan by new offensive coordinator Greg Roman from 2012 when he was with the San Francisco 49ers. The 9ers were able to run on the Patriots to the tune of 39 attempts for 180 yards, while young Colin Kaepernick was able to throw four touchdowns. If the Bills have that success on the ground the Patriots have a very slim chance of winning.
Who will win and why.
On my Podcast Patriots Beat, I predicted the Patriots would win a close one 24-21. The Patriots will win because they have what it takes. The Patriots will not lie down against Buffalo like the Colts did in week one. While Rex Ryan and his team deserve full credit for taking out one of the top teams in the league, they still don’t have the guns to hang with the Patriots. The Patriots will use more of a base set, seven man box to limit the Bills rushing attack. The plan will be to make Taylor beat the Patriots with his arm. The Pats will need to be very cognoscente of Taylor’s ablity to escape and run for the first. Expect the Patriots to spy him, and for the defensive line to not get “too deep” in containing the young quarterback. On offense the Patriots will use more of the ace set two tight end look. Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler on the field together can help slow the Bills rushes. I would expect Chandler to have a bigger game than Gronk, as he will benefit from single coverage.
Follow Jeff on Twitter @bostonfatguy