Patriots - Bills: Game Plans & Matchups

Aaron Maybin

Which areas might the Patriots offense exploit. What will the Bills do to get their offense kick-started. Get inside for key matchups and game plans.

BILLS:

PLAYER NOTES
   --QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will start Sunday's game at New England, was 17 of 25 for 178 yards, one TD and one interception in a loss to the Patriots last season. He was sacked six times and will face an even tougher task with this week's game in Foxborough.
   --WR Lee Evans is hoping the switch of starting quarterbacks from Trent Edwards to Ryan Fitzpatrick improves his effectiveness this week in New England. He caught three passes for 35 yards and one TD against the Patriots last year with Fitzpatrick starting and caught six TD passes overall compared to one with Fitzpatrick under center.
   --LG Andy Levitre, who suffered a neck stinger against Green Bay, did not practice but he is expected play Sunday at New England. A lot will depend on if he can practice Thursday and Friday. Levitre and C Geoff Hangartner were the only Bills offensive linemen to start every game last season.
   --OLB Reggie Torbor saw his first action last week after recovering from a chest injury suffered in camp. He's easing his way back into the starting lineup and could replace Chris Ellis this week in New England.
   --MLB Paul Posluszny, who is recovering from a sprained right knee, will not play this week, coach Chan Gailey confirmed.

   GAME PLAN: Stop Tom Brady. The Patriots' cover boy quarterback is 15-1 all-time against the Bills, winning even when he doesn't light Buffalo up like a Christmas tree. Unfortunately for Buffalo, Brady usually does light them up like a Christmas tree, throwing for more touchdowns (33) against the Bills than any other opponent. He threw 53 times for 378 yards and two TDs in rallying the Patriots to a 25-24 victory in Foxboro last season. With Brady losing one of his favorite weapons, RB Marshall Faulk (ACL) this week, he'll be more reliant on WRs Randy Moss and Wes Welker, putting even more pressure on Buffalo's secondary, which hasn't gotten much help in the way of a pass rush so far. As usual, Buffalo's best defense against Brady is a sound running game on offense that can limit his touches. Look for coach Chan Gailey to get something established on the ground. That would also make life easier for new starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who's smart enough to find the holes in Bill Belichick's defense weakened by    huge personnel losses over the last couple years. With DE Ty Warren and CB Leigh Bodden on IR, the Patriots have allowed 52 points in two games so far.

   MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Bills CBs Terrence McGee, Leodis McKelvin and Drayton Florence vs. Patriots WRs Randy Moss and Wes Welker, who combined for 33 catches for 344 yards in last year's two-game series against Buffalo.

   Bills NT Kyle Williams vs. Patriots C Dan Koppen and LG Dan Connolly -- If Williams can control the middle of the trenches minus holdout Patriots star Logan Mankins, New England's hurting running game won't get on track.

   Bills SS Donte Whitner vs. Patriots TEs, led by rookie Aaron Hernandez, who had 100 yards receiving against the Jets last week.

   Bills RBs vs. Patriots LBs, led by Tully Banta-Cain (10 sacks in '09) -- If Buffalo is solid in blitz pickups, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick can find the holes in New England's not-so-dominant defense.

   Bills WR Lee Evans, fourth on Buffalo's career receiving list with 344 receptions, vs. Patriots rookie CB Devin McCourty, who has been forced into the starting lineup with Leigh Bodden on injured reserve.

   INJURY IMPACT: MLB Paul Posluszny continues to recover from a sprained right knee and appears to be at least one or two weeks away. In his absence, Keith Ellison is starting. Ellison helped the Bills limit the Green Bay Packers to 91 yards rushing last week. Buffalo's defense continues to struggle on third down (the Packers converted 7 of 12 opportunities). OLB Reggie Torbor, who missed several weeks with a chest injury, saw his first action last week and could soon be healthy enough to take over a starter's role. He improves the team's overall size in the front seven and he has experience in the 3-4 scheme.

PATRIOTS

   With plenty to digest from last week's loss to the Jets, it'll be interesting to see how the Patriots attack Buffalo's defense.

   This biggest change is the obvious loss of running back Kevin Faulk. Without Laurence Maroney, who was traded to Denver last week, the Patriots now have to piece their running game together with Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris and BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

   They executed their ball-control offense effectively in the opener against Cincinnati, but they strayed from that plan a bit when Jets' cornerback Darrelle Revis left last week's game with an injury.

   Tom Brady got burned twice trying to fire the deep ball to Randy Moss. Perhaps this week will usher in a return to the short-yardage style of attack, particularly since we'll likely see more multiple tight end sets to accommodate for Faulk's absence.

PLAYER NOTES
   --DE Gerard Warren made his most significant contribution as a Patriot last week, finishing with two sacks against Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. Warren's last two-sack game was in 2003.
   --TE Aaron Hernandez continued to shine last week, catching a 46-yard pass that helped set up a New England touchdown. This marked the second week in a row he's caught a pass for more than 40 yards.
   --WR Wes Welker has six or more catches in 28 of his last 32 games, including last week when he hauled in six passes against the Jets.
   --OL Nick Kaczur was not on the practice field Wednesday as he continues to nurse a back injury. Kaczur has yet to play in 2010.
   --CB Terrence Wheatley also missed Wednesday's practice as he recovers from a foot injury. Wheatley has missed each of the team's first two games this season.

   GAME PLAN: The biggest thing the Patriots need to do is jump out to an early lead and figure out how to close the game in proper fashion, which has surprisingly been a problem the last two years.

   They got torched in the second half of the opener against Cincinnati, surviving mainly because they had a big lead, and fell apart down the stretch last week as the Jets rallied with 21 unanswered points.

   The Bills aren't as dangerous offensively as the Bengals. Then again, the Jets weren't supposed to be much of an offensive threat either and yet Mark Sanchez threw three touchdown passes. The challenge falls on the secondary, which must make an early impression if the Bills decide to come out passing.

   Offensively, the Patriots need to get Welker involved and keep him busy. They went away from him in the second half last week and ultimately paid the price and they got shut out over the final two quarters.

   MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Bills DE Dwan Edwards vs. Patriots LT Matt Light -- Light should be relieved to look up and not see Aaron Schobel on Sunday afternoon. Edwards is Schobel's heir apparent on the defensive line, but he's not nearly as explosive or threatening as Schobel once was. Light should be able to keep Tom Brady upright for most of the afternoon, which would ultimately pave the way to a big day offensively for the Patriots.

   Bills CB Terrence McGee vs. Patriots WR Randy Moss -- Since it seems the Patriots are intent on firing the ball to Moss at all costs, this would be the week to do so. McGee is a good cover corner, but not much of a ball-hawk. He's also at a tremendous height disadvantage being just 5-foot-9. If the Bills are going to put him on Moss, it could be a long afternoon for their defense.

   Bills TE Jonathan Stupar vs. Patriots S Patrick Chung -- Someone in this secondary needs to be physical and it might as well start Sunday with Chung laying a vicious hit on a tight end. Last week, Dustin Keller tore them apart. Without a physical presence over the middle, Stupar could do the same despite the fact he's not in the same category as Keller or the NFL's other elite tight ends.

   INJURY IMPACT: With Nick Kaczur possibly missing his third consecutive game, Sebastian Vollmer will get the start at right tackle Sunday. The biggest adjustment is to see who gets a bump in playing time with Kevin Faulk out for the season. Expect to see a lot of two-tight end sets with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Wes Welker could also be more of a factor than he was Sunday in New York, primarily in the slot.


This report courtesy of The Sports Xchange


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