Tale Of The Tape: Buffalo Bills At New England Patriots
- QuarterbackThe Bills have struggled once again this season, but their 19-0 home victory over a Dolphins teams that was trying to get into the playoffs was impressive. If they can perform at New England as well as they did at home, Doug Marrone will have a lot to be proud of. Whether E.J. Manuel (knee) or Thad Lewis lines up at quarterback, the Bills appear to be in for a long day.Tom Brady has a long history of tormenting the Bills, and he’s not likely to let up here because the Pats must win to guarantee one of the top two AFC seeds. A loss could send them all the way to the fourth seed, which gives them a playoff matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. Brady has rebounded after a slow start and has a 24-10 TD-interception ratio.
- OffenseThe Bills have the running backs to cause problems for the Patriots. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller have both rushed for 800-plus yards and have the ability to wear down the New England front. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson has had big days against the Patriots, while tight end Scott Chandler is a dependable third-down receiver.The Patriots had a very solid ground game against the Baltimore Ravens, and they will try to attack the Bills with the same combination of LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley. Blount likes to bludgeon opposing tacklers while Ridley has a bit more flash to his game. Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are getting better each week in Brady’s passing game.
- DefenseThe Bills have been shockingly effective on defense, as underscored by their shutout of the Dolphins. They rank eighth overall and are fifth against the pass. Rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso has had a brilliant season as he leads the team with 145 tackles and he also has four interceptions. Defensive end Mario Williams has 13.0 sacks and has the quickness and long reach to cause havoc.The Patriots rank 25th overall and have given up a lot of yards this season, but this defense is not a lost cause. Season-ending injuries to Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork tore this team up, but Chandler Jones is proving to be an excellent pass rusher with 11.5 sacks. Aqib Talib has four picks and 17 passes defensed. He has been the Patriots’ best cover corner.
- Special TeamsThe Bills have had some issues with their coverage teams, and that’s not good for a team that is struggling to carve out a competitive identity. The Bills rarely get big plays from their own returners. Unheralded Dan Carpenter has made 31-of-34 FG attempts.The Patriots have been one of the best coverage teams in the league. They have not allowed a punt return longer than 24 yards. Stephen Gostkowski has made 34-of-37 FG attempts, including 5-of-6 from 50 yards or longer.
The Bills should be able to push the Patriots and establish their running game. However, it would be shocking for the Pats to lose this game when so much is on the line. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor