In a matchup of the AFC Easts top two teams, the New England Patriots will head to Buffalo to take on Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills in their second of two matches this season. The New England Patriots come into this one with a record of 6-1, while the Bills have put together a 4-3 record up to this point in the season. In their first matchup of the season, the season the Bills took advantage of a Tom Brady-less Patriots team, going on to beat them 16-0 and handing them their first home shutout in over 20 years. The Patriots will be looking to avoid their sweep by a divisional foe since 2002.
The biggest difference in this matchup second time around is that the Patriots will have Tom Brady back at the helm after being held out in the first matchup due to suspension. Since his return from suspension, Brady has shown no signs of rust having already passed for over 1,000 yards with no interceptions on the season, all while boasting a QBR of 133. “He’s the best player at his position, and obviously quarterback, in this league, is the most important position. So it’s a big challenge. You know, any time you go against him. If he knows what you’re in, you’re in trouble,” explained Bills Head coach Rex Ryan. By no means though is this a one dimensional Patriots offensive attack, the bruising running attack of LeGarrette Blount accompanied by James White coming out of the backfield has given then Patriots one of the league’s top run games. Currently sixth in the league with 123 yards per game on the ground accompanied by the play of Brady in the passing game has allowed them to put up 32 points per game since Brady’s return.
A Bills defense that is top ten in the league in points allowed is faced with this tall task of stopping this Patriots offense. A leader of this defense by his play on the field has been the undrafted veteran, Lorenzo Alexander. Alexander leads the league with 9 sacks on the season as well has forced three fumbles to add to his impressive play. The veteran though does acknowledge although the Bills defense, himself included has played well, this matchup can be their toughest of the season. Alexander praised the Patriots stating,”they’re big, tough, physical. Obviously very athletic, have a lot of production, especially since Tom (Brady) has come back, so we’re going to have our hands full, especially in the run game. They do a really good job as far as being physical there, so we’re going to have to set the edge, be physical all day and then try to cover when we have that opportunity as well.”
The Bills have been hit hard by the injury bug this season having played without key players relying on the next man up philosophy. Against the Patriots the Bills defense, in particular, looks to gain back a key player and plug in other assets that can look to play roles. Marcel Dareus, arguably the best player on this Bills defense looks to make his season debut after starting the season on injured reserve. “I’m just excited to be back. I know the injury list is long, but just me being back really just fills me with joy and everyone else on the team, they’re happy for me to be back. I’m just happy to be back. I was on the injury list, I’m not really even worried, I’ll just do what I have to do,” said Dareus. In addition to Dareus, the Bills defense also welcomed to the league Shaq Lawson who appeared in his first NFL game a week ago in a loss to the Miami Dolphins. Lawson was the Bills first round pick this season out of Clemson, a player head coach Rex Ryan speaks highly of. “He played really well for the first time out. You know, he’s had like three days of practice and I thought he did well. He had a couple shots at some sacks. You know, we lost contain on one. I think we would’ve contained him. I think he would’ve come around and got him. But it was good to see. We’ll just mix him in a little more as we get going,” explained Ryan.
A Bills victory can put them back into the playoff conversation and narrow the gap in the AFC East. Not only will a win draw them closer but it will also go a long way in determining what type of team this is and whether their first victory over the Patriots was due to a Tom Brady-less team or if this team is truly a playoff contender. For the Patriots a win would firmly plant them atop not only the AFC East but the NFL and improve them to 7-1 on the season and 4-0 since Brady’s return.
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