INSIDE SLANT: The Bills playing the Pats two weeks before Christmas is perfect timing. Every year the Bills bring Pats fan happiness because of their ineptitude. Pats fans complaining about their team's 9-5 record should remember the Bills have not been 9-5 since 1999. Tom Brady is 29-3 against the Bills and one of the losses occurred at the end of the 2014 season when the Pats were resting most of the starters and the game was meaningless. The Bills are a different team than the Pats faced Monday Night in Buffalo at the end of October. Derek Anderson played QB that night and that Bills offense was anemic scoring only six points. Since rookie QB Josh Allen has returned, the Bills offense has been respectable not great. Before Allen returned, it was historically bad.
The Bills have also released Kelvin Benjamin and Andre Holmes. Their best receiver is likely Zay Jones and they are still challenged offensively. Robert Foster has emerged with 19 catches in the last five games including 11 catches for more than 200 yards in the last two games. The Bills defense held the Pats offense to 19 points in the Pats Monday Night Victory in October. The Bills defense was particularly impressive in the red zone when they held the Pats to four field goals. Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde are a strong safety combination. Jerry Hughes can rush the passer and Kyle Williams has had an excellent career at nose tackle and belongs in the Hall of Very Good. Belichick has been impressed with Williams throughout his entire career.
SERIES HISTORY: 117th meeting, Pats lead series 73-43-1. Belichick has dominated the Bills since arriving in New England with a 33-4 record. Brady has only lost twice in Buffalo since he became the Patriots starting QB. The first loss came five days after the Pats cut captain Lawyer Milloy in 2003 and the Bills blew out the Pats 31-0. The Pats returned the favor in the last game of the season by blowing out the Bills 31-0. Brady also lost to the Bills in Buffalo in early 2011. The only time Brady lost in Foxboro was at the end of the 2014 season when the Pats rested their starters in the last games before they won three straight games to capture their fourth Super Bowl title.
Bill Belichick on the Bills safeties.
"Well, Poyer’s really a strong safety. Hyde’s a free safety, but they don’t always rotate to Poyer’s side. Sometimes Hyde comes down, but Poyer is down more than Hyde is. And there’s a decent amount of split-safety too, where they’re both back," Belichick said.
Bills Coach Sean McDermott on the supposed decline of Tom Brady.
"No, to me, he looks even better than he has in years past, believe it or not. I know that the numbers may not support that, but I think his game is strong, he doesn’t turn the ball over. I think he’s as good as ever. Well, the way he’s allocating the ball to different receivers, how he’s getting them in and out of plays, how they use the no-huddle offense strategically. I think all of that really showcases his ability, not only with his arm physically but also his mental capability," McDermott said.
BY THE NUMBERS:
2- the number of Pats Pro Bowl players. Tom Brady and Stephon Gilmore were the only two players selected.
2002 - the last time the Pats lost three games in a row.
347 -the number of rushing yards the Pats defense has given up the past two weeks. The run defense is terrible at the moment. The Bills will try to run the ball.
1- the number of QB hits that Trey Flowers had on the quarterback Sunday. Flowers must get more pass rush for the defense to improve.
63 - the number of catches by Julian Edelman this year. He has had a very good year after missing the first four games.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL: Duron Harmon: Harmon had two interceptions against the Steelers last week. Harmon will need to be aware of where Josh Allen is at all times. Allen is a mobile QB and the Pats safeties must get to the line of scrimmage quickly in order to prevent him from having big gains on the ground.
Marcus Cannon: Cannon struggled against Steelers OLB T.J. Watt last week. Cannon will need to rebound this week when he faces Bills DE Trent Murphy.
Adrian Clayborn: Clayborn needs to get some pressure to help improve the Pats pass rush.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Kyle Van Noy continues to improve. Van Noy does not have great athleticism, but he has become a smart player who can time his blitzes effectively. Van Noy has become more instinctive as his knowledge of the defense has improved.
GAME PLAN: Offensively, the strategy is throw the ball and expose the weakness at the Bills second corner position. Tom Brady also must prevent the Bills safeties from making big plays given that they are opportunistic. The Pats should think about going no-huddle with five wide receivers to limit the pass rush and get quick completions to Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon over the middle.
Defensively, the big concern is the running ability of QB Josh Allen who has two 100-yard rushing performances in the last three weeks. If LeSean McCoy plays, he still is likely the Bills best weapon. WR Zay Jones is respectable and Robert Foster has played well the past few weeks.
QUOTES ON GAME: Patrick Chung on tackling Josh Allen. "No, you've just got to man up. You've just got to tackle him. He's just like a running back or a tight end or someone who we're trying to tackle anyway. Regardless of how good the quarterback is running, you're still going to tackle him. So you don't go about anything differently. You just go out there and just play."
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: LT Trent Brown v. DE Jerry Hughes (Hughes is a good pass rusher who has 6.0 sacks this season and Brown must protect Brady's blindside).
RT Jordan Mills v. DE Trey Flowers (Flowers should be able to have a good day against the Bills right tackle. It will be a good opportunity for Flowers to rebound after a poor performance against the Steelers).