It’s that time of the year again. Christmas is right around the corner, and in past history, this is typically the point of the season where all the wheels fall off the the Buffalo Bills. What makes it even worse is that the Bills will need to play the Patriots twice in the final 5 games, which makes their battle for the playoffs an extremely steep climb. Regardless, the game needs to be played, and as crazy as I sound, I think the Bills have a chance. These are the key players to watch from both sides this week.
Patriots: Rob Gronkowski, TE
As many would say LeSean McCoy is the primary playmaker for Buffalo, those same people would probably agree that Rob Gronkowski is the best playmaker for the Patriots (yes, I am aware the Pats have several other LETHAL weapons). With that said, Brady will look to give the ball to Gronk a lot, especially since they’re up against a team that hasn’t exactly contained Gronk very well. Since 2010 in Gronk’s debut, Buffalo has given up 813 yards and 11 TD’s in 11 games against the Bills. With a completely revamped secondary, it will be interesting to see who plays on Gronk. Matt Milano? Jordan Poyer? Micah Hyde? Preston Brown? Shutting down Gronk will be a key to a Bills W.
Bills: LeSean McCoy, RB
LeSean McCoy has been on and off all season. He’s had great games, some brutal games, and some average games too, of course. This week, he’s looking to gain some extra motivation to have a monster day, as the Patriots have given up 4.87 yards per carry on the ground. McCoy has looked shifty, and despite averaging just a measly 2.2 YPC vs KC, he had a couple good runs that showed if he gets the blocks, he can be magical. The run game will be key against a Patriots team that not only gives up a lot to the run, but also against a Patriots team with a lethal force on offense. They must keep the ball out of Brady’s hands.
Patriots: RB Corps.
It’s tough to narrow it down to just 1 RB. Between James White, Dion Lewis, and former Bill Mike Gillislee (not to mention the other RB’s/FB’s they’ve got on the roster), this is as potent of a corps as it gets. Whether Brady sends them out wide, or they want to run it right at you, they can do it all. With that said, it will be easy for the Bills to lose track of just where each RB is at which time. It will be crucial to play some coverage in the flats, as Brady will look to dump it short and pick up 5-7 yards with each short throw to the backs.
Bills: Tre’ White, CB
Ahhhh, good ol’ Tre’ White. The 2017 1st round pick has looked excellent. He’s had his fair share of rookie mistakes, but overall, he has shut down plenty of plays and come up with a couple of huge turnovers (2 picks, 1 FF/FR). He’s claimed he’s worked on being humble all season, but that appears to have gone to the wayside the past week or so, as he’s called for an NFL Network interview with Deion Sanders and has said this week, “I don’t care what Tom Brady’s done in this league.” Now look, I love confidence, but if Tre’ wants to talk the talk, he better be ready to walk the walk. All eyes will be on him on Sunday, and whether he’s matched up with Cooks or Hogan, he better be ready.
Patriots: Brandin Cooks, WR
Buffalo has had their fair share of troubles vs. the top opposing receivers. AJ Green, Mike Evans, and Keenan Allen are all receivers that have torched the Bills this season, and they’ll have another tough matchup this week. Cooks has 869 yards and 5 TD’s on the season, and he’s one of Brady’s favorite deep threats. Brady will definitely look deep a couple times this game, so both Poyer and Hyde need to be on their A-game versus the speedy and shifty Cooks.
Bills: Tyrod Taylor, QB
Let me just throw this out there right now; barring a shutdown defensive performance, or 200 yards on the ground, Tyrod WILL need to make plays. This week, Tyrod’s legs will be key. He has the speed and elusiveness edge over anyone in the Patriots front-7. As much as I’d like to see Tyrod throw for 300 yards and 2 TD’s, I cannot see it happening. With that said, his typical 200 +/- yard day with 1 TD and 0 INT’s is probably what the Bills will get Sunday. His legs will need to make up for the deficiences in his passing this week to keep drives alive and to keep the Bills in a position to win.
I believe this game is going to be closer than most think, and in fact, I think the Bills can win this one. The gameplan is simple…but of course the execution is never easy. Pressure Brady on D, and sustain drives of our own. It’s going to be an exciting showdown in Buffalo on Sunday. Thanks for reading, and as always, Let’s Go Buffalo!