The spot light will be on Western New York as the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots head west to take on the Buffalo Bills with 1st place in AFC East on the line. This will be the 119th meeting between these old AFL rivals with the Patriots holding a commanding 74-43-1 record over the Bills who have lost that last 5 matchups by a combined score of 150-62.
Buffalo (3-0) enters this game with spirits high and with their fanbase drowning themselves in Genesee Cream Ale after a surprising fast start to the season. While there are still questions surrounding the team and how good they are, this is the best start to the season the Bills have had since 2011 when they shot out to a 3-0 record only to go 3-10 the rest of way.……OUCH!
For New England (3-0), the season has started out a bit faster than normal compared to the last few years. Led by a smothering defense, the Patriots have overwhelmed every opposing offense this year and have yet to allow an offensive touchdown in 2019. While the offense is still working out the kinks, they have managed to stay at the top of the division and are looking to position themselves for another playoff run.
Command of the AFC East is on the line so in yet another futile attempt to be non-bias and analytical, both teams were broken down in key areas to see how they will match up against each other and which one may have the key to a victory.
Quarterback – PATRIOTS: While the jury is still out on Josh Allen’s ability as a passer, he has led his team to a surprising 3-0 start and continues to be a running threat for his team. New England, on the other hand, has an aging veteran in Tom Brady who, at age 42, is off to a strong start in 2019.
Running Backs – PUSH: While both teams are struggling with injury issues in the backfield, the Patriots versatile group of running backs have compiled more total yards from scrimmage and touchdowns than their Bills counterparts. The X factor for the Bills is Josh Allen’s ability to run with the ball.
Wide Receivers – PATRIOTS: By the measurables, the Buffalo Bills wide receivers are bigger and faster than their Patriots’ counterparts. However, the Patriots wide receivers are off to a promising start this season and there have been more reliable options available for the Patriots outside of just Julian Edelman.
Tight Ends – BILLS: While the Bills are getting some quality snaps out of Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney, the tight end position, as an offensive threat, has essentially vanished in New England.
Offensive Line – PUSH: Statistically neither teams’ offensive line has performed that much better than the other to give a clear edge one way or the other. Though New England has been hit seriously with injuries up front, they have managed to protect their quarterback better than expected.
Defensive Front Seven – PATRIOTS: It’s a fair statement that both teams have not really played anyone significant to this point of the season. While both teams’ defense has played well, The Patriots’ front seven is leading the league with the fewest rushing yards allowed (36.7 yards per game) and are tied for the lead in sacks (13).
Secondary – PATRIOTS: Led by blog favorite Devon McCourty and ex-Bill (now good) Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots secondary is allowing the fewest yards, allowing the lowest opposing quarterback rating, and leading the league in interceptions through the first three weeks of the season.
Special Teams – BILLS: The Patriots are outperforming their Bills counterparts in every significant special teams category but the recent struggles of Patriots’ kicker Stephen Gostkowski gives Buffalo the edge in this area.
Coaching – PATRIOTS: While Sean McDermott led the Bills to the playoffs in his first season, he followed up that moment of success with a sub-par season even by Buffalo standards. This could be a make or break year for McDermott because history has shown that the Pegulas are not shy with swinging the axe and being active participants in the league’s coaching carousel. For the Patriots, Bill Belichick has taken a more active role with the defense and it has been on display, in stunning fashion, for the first few weeks of the season. Belichick’s 33-5 record over Buffalo is no accident.
If we assign 2 points for every category (1 point per team for draws) this is how it lines up:
Betting Line: Patriots -7
Key’s to a Patriots Victory:
- Protect the Quarterback: This could be the best defensive front that the Patriots have faced this season. With injuries across the offensive line, New England needs to find ways to get the ball out of Brady’s hands quickly to back off Buffalo’s pass rushers.
- Find a Running Game: New England currently has the #2 passing attack in the league. Unfortunately, they have struggled to get the running game going and currently have the 20th ranked rushing attack. While exclusively trying to run on the Bills would not be the best option, the Patriots need to stay committed to the run to keep Buffalo’s front seven honest.
- Keep Josh Allen in the Pocket: The Bills’ Josh Allen is certainly a threat when running the ball. Currently, he is Buffalo’s 3rd leading rusher with a couple of touchdowns under his belt. The Patriots need to focus on taking away the running lanes and forcing Josh Allen to beat them from the pocket. Letting Allen move around and extend plays could be the recipe for disaster.
While this game could appear as a mismatch on paper, the Bills have quietly put together a team that, if they get a few breaks and stay healthy, could be in the running for a wildcard spot late in the season.
Look for a surprising close game that will make the New England faithful stressed beyond belief.
The Knuckles Prediction: Patriots 23 – Bills 19
Great job CK!
My fast picks since this is the GameDay article: