The Patriots get started on their second half of the season this weekend, and it comes against the Bills, a divisional opponent who almost always give them a tough time.
In Week Four the Patriots nailed all of our five keys, especially with the dominance of the ground game. What could be different this time? Let’s break it down…
1. Take what the Bills defense gives – Perhaps the biggest question this time around is whether the Bills continue to go with more defensive backs and a lighter lineup like they did last time and got run all over, or if they’ll go with more of their base defense and try a more balances approach. From the Pats perspective it doesn’t really matter, because the Pats can attack them where ever they’re most susceptible. But the fact is the Bills are the worst run defense in football and their pass defense isn’t much better. The Pats can plan for a balanced attack and force the Bills to figure out how to stop them.
2. Win the turnover battle – This could obviously be a key any week but against a team like the Bills it’s especially important. There’s no question that the Bills offense will turn the ball over, so the Patriots must take care of the football. If you want to see what can happen when the Pats don’t hold on to the football against the Bills look no further than the 21-7 lead the Bills had in the third quarter last time. Fumbles by Gronk and Welker gave away the lead and momentum and as soon as the Pats stopped fumbling the game wasn’t even close.
3. No break out games for Williams and Williams – The Pats offensive line totally shut down Mario and Kyle Williams in the first meeting, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy this time around. Everyone knows that beating the Pats starts and ends with getting pressure on Brady, and the Williamses are two guys that could cause a lot of problems if the Patriots offensive line is out of sync. Hopefully Logan Mankins should be back and that will give them a boost.
4. Only three twenty-plus passes – This could continue to be a key if the Patriots can’t lock down their biggest problem area, preventing the deep ball. Assuming the Patriots run defense is able to shut down CJ Spiller (no easy task by any means), it will just come down to fixing the one big weakness on the team. Who knows what the secondary will look like from a personnel standpoint, but last time around they gave up their season second-worst amount of bombs (7) to the Bills. Cutting that to 3 would be a positive step.
5. Finish – Despite the Patriots historical dominance over the Bills in the last decade a good portion of the games were significantly closer than their scores might indicated. Let’s not forget Brady had his best comeback of all time against the Bills in the 2009 opener, and the first game this year looked pretty grim as well before the Patriots turned it around. If there’s one key that will be vitally important to the Patriots Super Bowl chances it’s to finish on both sides of the ball.