NFL Week 8 Preview: Patriots vs. Bills
In week 4, Rex Ryan saved his job by traveling to Foxboro and handing the Patriots their first L all season. The Bills punked us from pre game warm-ups all the way up until the final whistle. I saw Shady McCoy run all over a defense that prepared for him to do just that all week in practice, and I saw Tyrod Taylor throw all over a defense that dared him to. But I also saw an injured 3rd-string rookie Quarterback under center for the Patriots, and that will be the major difference this time around. Coupled with the fact that McCoy is likely to be sidelined with a hamstring injury. The Pats have been waiting for this game; they don’t get shutout often no matter who is at QB.
Tackling was the biggest issue for New England in the first game, and with the rare sight of Hightower and Collins being on the field at the same time it shouldn’t have been. More often than not, the defense was aligned correctly to stop the play, but couldn’t bring McCoy/Taylor down when they needed to. On Sunday, I would think that you would see an improved effort by the Patriots’ LBs to not only contain Taylor but stop the run as well. I know the game plan was purposely designed not to rush the passer, as Belichick often does against mobile QBs, but Taylor can’t be given nearly as much time to survey the field as he was given in Week 4. When Dont’A Hightower was sent on LB blitzes in the second half, the defense was much improved. I would expect to see more of that in Buffalo.
The offense will look entirely different for New England in Week 8. I’d be shocked if we saw Edelman running wildcat in 2nd half desperation mode this time around. Brady traditionally plays well against the Bills, but struggles against Rex Ryan defenses, so something’s must give. I think the Patriots will roll out a lot of 3WR/1TE/1RB sets to spread out the offense, and we’ll see yet another game James White scores at least 1 TD. Martellus Bennett didn’t practice on Friday, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to have an effect on his availability. Rex admitted before the season he has no idea how to cover him and Gronk at the same time, so maybe he can be the difference maker for Brady to finally be effective against his defense. Marcell Dareus is making his season debut for the Bills’ defense, and Zach Brown was a beast in the first game, so Blount might have a tough go at it. Not so sure that it will matter though, because Brady might throw 45 times in this one.
It will be a low scoring game like it always is against Rex Ryan. But the difference that Brady makes, plus the revenge motivation, will be more than enough to get the W. Also, the loss of a game changer like Shady puts that Bills offense in a bit of a bind. This is the Pats’ last game before they go into a week 9 bye, and Belichick would love to finish the first half of the season with a statement W.