The Bills are going to need a near-perfect game against the Patriots in they hope to win their first home game on Monday Night Football in a decade. New England is a 14-point favorite, which tells you what Las Vegas oddsmakers think about Buffalo’s offense.
Can you blame them?
The Bills are averaging 11.6 points per game this season, less than half the NFL average (24.2). Buffalo is averaging 129.4 yards passing per game, slightly more than half of the league average (252.2). The Bills about 130 fewer net yards per game than the average.
NFL teams are putting up 364 yards per game. The Bills have had only one game this season, last week against the Colts, in which they had 300 yards in a contest. It’s about what you would expect from one of the worst offensive attacks in the modern era.
Buffalo’s fourth-ranked defense is its biggest strength, but it doesn’t come close to offsetting the Bills’ offensive woes. It the same for the top three units in terms of yards allowed. The teams ranked ahead of the Bills on defense – Baltimore, Jacksonville and Dallas – are .500 or worse.
The Bills showed they can win a single game as a heavy underdog, however. Minnesota was a 17-point favorite over Buffalo in Week Two before the Bills rolled to a 27-6 win. It marked the last time the Bills had a touchdown drive that started in their own territory.
But this is Buffalo, where there’s always hope. The Bills can win tonight if they …
Control the clock. Buffalo had the ball for 35 minutes, 45 seconds in its win over Minnesota and had it for 33:39 when beating Tennessee. In their five losses, Baltimore, the Chargers, Green Bay and Indianapolis had the ball for 33 minutes or longer. Houston was the lone exception but won after Nathan Peterman threw two late interceptions, including a fatal pick-six.
Score in the red Zone. The Bills reached the red zone once last week against the Colts, when the offense was held to three points. Buffalo has been in the red zone only six times in the past four games and scored a grand total of 20 points. They need to move the ball and capitalize on their opportunities or face a blowout.
Protect the ball. No turnovers. Beating the Patriots is difficult enough under the best of circumstances, but the Bills will have no chance if they commit turnovers. Derek Anderson had three interceptions last week in a loss. Peterman’s pick-six was fatal against Houston. The Bills have 16 turnovers this season, fifth-most in the NFL. They’re one of six teams with two wins or fewer.
Pressure Tom Brady without blitzing. Brady has a 28-3 record against Buffalo in his career. He long ago reached a point in which the game is practically in slow motion. Blitz him on a regular basis, and you’re asking for trouble. The Bills haven’t been effective very often, but they have enjoyed some success when their defensive line applies pressure without sending an extra attacker.
Get Tremaine Edmunds' best game. The rookie linebacker will be lined up in the middle, which has been Brady’s strike zone for years. Brady has the ability to move him around with his eyes while waiting for Julien Edelman to dart across the middle. Edmunds is a freak athlete who has the size and speed to stay with Rob Gronkowski. Still, this is his first game against Gronk. It's a mismatch for anybody.
Avoid stupid penalties. Jerry Hughes can't turn into Jerry Hughes, circa 2016. He needs to keep his cool, especially if the Patriots start holding him. The Bills don’t need him taking roughing-the-passer penalties while trying to hammer Brady. Buffalo will need to stay disciplined along the line of scrimmage. Brady is very effective when it comes to using defensive players’ aggression against them and drawing them offside.