NFL Week 4 Preview: Patriots vs. Bills
If you had told me that going into Week 4, the Patriots would be on the verge of going 4-0 without TB12 under center, I would think you're crazy. One day, I'm going to learn. I'm going to learn to stop underestimating Bill Belichick and his ability to adapt to any situation. I feel like a fool picking us to go 2-2 before the season began; as a diehard I should have known better. But that's where we are today, as the 1-2 Buffalo Bills come to New England in what could be Rex Ryan's final tilt against the Pats as a Head Coach. For the Patriots, currently holding a 2 game lead in the AFC East and one of only 5 undefeated teams remaining, this win would just add icing on the cake until Tom gets back at 12AM on Monday. For the Bills, there are players and coaches fighting for their jobs this Sunday.
Rex's teams, whether it is the Bills or the Jets, never fail to give the Patriots their best game. It's really almost like Rex has two Super Bowls each year, and it's whatever two weeks he plays against us. He starts doing weird shit like impressions of Belichick in his Press Conferences, hopping on media phone calls with Julian Edelman and asking him questions, and catching an attitude with Patriots beat writers on his own media calls. He lives for games against the Patriots. Rex Ryan is like the Tim Tebow of coaches: put on a circus with the media and continue to get opportunities despite mediocre performance. Damn, I had to pause for a second because that was a really good comparison and I just came up with it right now.
But enough about Rex, I'm talking about him as much as he talks about the Pats and he doesn't deserve that attention. I'm confused about what the Bills have going on this year. Because despite their 1-2 record, I feel like they have a better team than that. One week, they score only 7 points to a Baltimore Ravens team who I don't think is as good as their 3-0 record indicates, and then two weeks later they beat the breaks off of the Arizona Cardinals. Then again, maybe the Cardinals are just "who we thought they were, and we let 'em off the hook" (RIP to Dennis Green btw). The Bills have a talented roster, but can't seem to bring it together for consecutive weeks.
On offense, The Bills have a trio of homerun hitters in RB Shady McCoy, WR Sammy Watkins, and the QB himself Tyrod Taylor. Question marks remain around Watkins' availability because of a foot issue, but if he's on the field the Pats' secondary needs to account for him at all times. One thing I can promise you is that Bill knows how much Rex loves to run the football, and his main focus on Sunday will be to contain Shady and keep Tyrod Taylor in the pocket. Taylor had a QBR of 51.9 against the Cardinals despite pulling out a win, so you can bet that Bill is going to force him to beat them with his arm. Shady is coming off of a big game with two TD's, and with his speed Bill is going to stress to his DE's to keep contain and set the edge. Aside from Watkins, the only other receiver of note is my guy Robert Woods out of USC. Marquise Goodwin is an Olympic athlete, but that talent hasn't necessarily translated to the gridiron. Greg Salas had a big TD last week, but a broken clock is right at least two times a day. Hopefully Hightower will be back, but if not, I still think the Pats will be just fine handling Buffalo's offense. *Update: As I'm writing this, both Watkins and Salas have been ruled out for Sunday. So there's pretty much not an ounce of talent on the Bills offense besides Shady and Tyrod outside of the pocket.
We still don't know who is going to be taking snaps for New England, but the game plan won't change dramatically whether it's Garoppolo or Brissett. On defense, the matchup to watch will be the Pats' run game (and league leading rusher LaGarette Blount) vs the Bill's d-line and linebackers. Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes are two of the best in the league at their respective positions, and are still stout despite losing Marcell Dareus to suspension. It's tough to even speak about the Bills secondary, which is led by Stephon Gilmore, because if Brissett is out there they won't get too much action as it is. A familiar face in the LB corps is Brandon Spikes, who was drafted by New England and led the team in tackling on more than one occasion. Rex loves dialing up exotic blitzes, so for inexperienced QB's like Jacoby and Jimmy. This preview is way too long for a game where both team's best players are out with injuries/suspensions, so I'm going to end this now and prepare for a great weekend of Pro and College football. But I predict the Pats come out with a win, and then start to hang 50 on every team next week once Brady returns.