Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots: 3 Things to Watch For
The Buffalo Bills come off a less than convincing win against the New York Jets. After going down by 10 points early the Bills scored 18 unanswered points on 6 field goals by rookie kicker Tyler Bass to beat the New York Jets. Although it was an underwhelming performance against the NFL's worst team the Bills were at least able to get back into the win column after a two-week hiatus. This week the Bills face Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots who have dropped 3 straight over the past three weeks. There is a lot on the line this game considering it is a division game and the first of two matchups between the Patriots and Bills this season. In addition to that, Belichick has not lost 4 straight games with the Patriots since 2002 making this matchup extremely important for his squad. This week's matchup makes for an exciting game as the Bills look to extend their division lead over both the New England Patriots (2-4) and the Miami Dolphins (3-3). Sean McDermott looks for his first win against the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick this week and here are 3 things to watch for.
1. Injuries, Injuries, and More Injuries
Below is the Buffalo Bills Wednesday Injury Report per Buffalo Bills PR Team
The Buffalo Bills have 11 key contributors who either did not practice or are limited in practice. In addition to that, Lee Smith and Dawson Knox have yet to be taken off the Covid-19/Reserve List and key backup linebacker Tyrel Dodson was just placed on Injured Reserve. It's official that after a relatively healthy year last year the injury bug has hit the Buffalo Bills. Some of the key injuries could really impact the outcome of the against the Patriots this week. Matt Milano did return against the New York Jets only playing 19 defensive snaps. It seems Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier are trying to ease Milano back to avoid any long term injury problems. In just 19 snaps Milano showed how valuable he was to this defense with the Jets averaging 1.1 yards per play when Milano was in the game. It is likely Milano plays however we will not know until game time if he is on a snap count or situational restriction. Two new key injuries this week are to starters, Micah Hyde and Jerry Hughes. Jerry Hughes who won the AFC defensive player of the week last week has been the Bills best Defensive End this season. Hughes currently leads the NFL in pass rush win rate at 31.3%. Micah Hyde who is in concussion protocol is one of the best safeties in the NFL. Without Hyde on the field, the Bills could go several ways as they do not have an experienced backup safety. Dean Marlowe figured to be the guy to fill in. Marlowe has little time playing the safety position with the Bills due to Hyde and Poyer manning the position. Without Hyde or Hughes, the Bills would lose two of their top performers in what looks to be a potential test for the Defense.
2. This Is a Big Week For Rookies
Dane Jackson, Zack Moss, and AJ Epenesa can all be key contributors this week. Dane Jackson figures to get his second and final call up from the practice squad with Josh Norman Doubtful for Sunday and after his performance last week. Jackson had an INT and 2 PD in his debut. That performance would put him in a prime position to start alongside Tre'Davious White for the second time this season. Jackson faces Cam Newton who has a 2-7 TD to INT ratio and has regressed as a thrower as the season continues. Dane Jackson is in a position to continue his good play against the Patriots and potentially make a case to be called up to the active roster.
(AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Staying on the Defense 2nd round pick AJ Epenesa has been quiet through the first 6 weeks of the season. With Jerry Hughes Questionable we could see Epenesa on an increased snap count against the Patriots. Epenesa has been quiet this year but also has not had many opportunities to show what he can do with Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy, and Mario Addison ahead of him on the depth chart. 3rd Round pick Zack Moss had his best week of the season last week against the Jets with 72 yards on only 10 touches averaging 7.2 yards per touch. Sunday's weather calls for a cold, rainy, and windy game that calls for both teams to run the ball. We could see Zack Moss feature in this game and potentially take a majority of the snaps from Devin Singletary who has underwhelmed this season.
3. Redzone/Opp. 30 yard line Offense
The Buffalo Bills had all 8 of their drives vs. the Jets end in a Field Goal Attempt. Luckily Tyler Bass made 6 of his 8 attempts to give the Bills the win. With the potential poor weather this week it is going to be hard for the Bills to rely on kicking a bunch of field goals for the second week in a row. If the Bills really want to get their offense back on track they need to be able to move the ball inside the opponent's 30-yard line. It starts with being able to run the ball. The Bills get a valuable piece back this week in Jon Feliciano who missed the first 7 weeks of the season with a pectoral injury that he suffered in training camp. Feliciano is arguably the Bills' best run-blocking guard and his return will positively impact the offensive line. With Ike Boettger and Brian Winters, both struggling mightily at the guard spots Feliciano's return could make a very positive impact on Buffalos offense. Lastly, Brian Daboll needs to be better. Through the first four weeks, Daboll was very impressive. Since those first four games, Daboll has yet to play call plays as effectively for a full four quarters. It is important that Daboll has a good game against the Patriots because as Bills fans know how easy it is to lose to Bill Belicheck if every coach and player is not on top of their game.
I usually do not give fantasy advice however I would shy away from most Bills and Patriots players this week. This looks to be like a classic AFC East dog fight that because of bad weather could be a low scoring mistake heavy game.
My Prediction: Bills 18-16