We’re getting into the second half of the season, and with that comes the second round of divisional games. First up are the Buffalo Bills, who the Pats haven’t seen since Week 2 at Ralph Wilson Stadium. That was one of those games that really felt like a blowout, even though it wasn’t. As great as Tom Brady was that day, the Bills beat themselves on that given Sunday more than anything. They were as ‘Rex Ryan’ as a Rex Ryan-coached team can get. The Bills were amped up to play New England at home, and were ready to dethrone the defending Super Bowl champs and begin their ascent to the top of the AFC East. But instead of letting that transfer into energy on the field, they became angry, took stupid penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct time and time again.
Their season has been up-and-down. They have lost to teams like the Giants (at home) and the Jaguars (across the Atlantic). They’ve made some great plays, then they’ve taken some penalties (90 of them, to be exact). Buffalo hasn’t gotten through the season without injuries and controversy, especially surrounding recent first-round pick Sammy Watkins. To sum it up, the Bills themselves has been their biggest enemy. Historically, the Bills have not been a team that’s very good down the stretch. That’s the main reason that I have lots of faith in a win.
Either way, the Patriots are hurting. New England doesn’t have Jamie Collins again. Aside from the fact that I want him to get healthy again for off-the-field reasons, I want him to get better soon. His presence completely changes the dynamic of the defense. Just being in there, he has an impact on the game. The phrase ‘patchwork offensive line’ might be used at least 7-8 times over the course of the game. And as annoying as that sounds, it’s 100% true- for example, you’ve got a guy like Bryan Stork, last year’s starting center, playing right tackle, a completely new position. Having no Julian Edelman for the foreseeable future does hurt. And having no Dion Lewis took a toll last week against the Giants, and I expect to see the same. But it’s always been the next guy up for the Pats roster, and this can’t be any different. If injuries haven’t held New England back before, then the excuse can’t start being used now.
To beat the Bills’ underachieving defense, you have to spread it out. Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore are both good corners, but neither of them are shutdown, and neither of them should be the people whose presence you work your offense around. Stay away from running the ball, because that’s something that Buffalo does really well. I expect a statement week from Brandon LaFell, who wasn’t around for the first matchup. His role obviously becomes bigger and his targets will increase now that JE11 is out. I like the Patriots by 10 in this matchup.