Game Scout: Bills/Patriots

BuffaloFootballReport.com
Posted Dec 19, 2009


All the in's and out's from both sides heading into Sunday's game.

New England Patriots (8-5) at Buffalo Bills (5-8)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET

GAMEDATE: 12/20/09

SURFACE: Artificial turf

TV: CBS (Greg Gumbel, Dan Dierdorf)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Patriots' biggest weakness is in their secondary, but Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown for a combined 184 yards the past two weeks. Buffalo wants to control time of possession through RBs Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, but Fitzpatrick has to make a few plays down the field for Buffalo to keep pace. The Patriots remain very pass-heavy, but QB Tom Brady does need to be careful as the Bills have 25 interceptions and rookie FS Jairus Byrd, who leads the team with nine, was not a starter in New England's 25-24 Week 1 victory.

FAST FACTS: The Patriots have won the past 12 meetings and 17 of the past 18. ... Bills WR Terrell Owens needs four receptions to reach 1,000 for his career.

PERSONNEL NEWS

Patriots:

--QB Tom Brady was back at practice, albeit in a limited capacity, despite battling nagging finger, shoulder and rib injuries. There's no doubt Brady will be ready to play Sunday.

--OL Stephen Neal is now battling an ankle injury and participated in only portions of practice. He missed a series of games with a head injury but shouldn't be out much longer.

--NT Vince Wilfork has not practiced this week because of a foot injury and it's uncertain whether he'll be available this weekend in Buffalo. He'll most likely be a game-time decision.

--DE Ty Warren hasn't practiced all week while battling an ankle injury. There's a good chance Warren will be sidelined Sunday.

--WR Sam Aiken has been limited in practice this week with a shoulder injury. Although he didn't play last week, there's a good chance he'll make his return Sunday.

Bills:

--OG Richie Incognito, a five-year veteran out of Nebraska with 44 career starts for St. Louis, was claimed off waivers and signed to a contract. Buffalo's depth was critically low and the team was desperate for someone with experience that could start in an emergency. Incognito has a long history of anger issues and got into a shouting match with Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo last Sunday after getting flagged for two personal foul calls.

--TE Joe Klopfenstein was waived. The move makes room for OG Richie Incognito, who was claimed off waivers after being released by the St. Louis Rams.

--OT Jonathan Scott is dealing with an eye injury suffered in last week's win over Kansas City. He has been limited in practice but coach Perry Fewell remains optimistic Scott would be available to play Sunday at home against New England.

--WR Terrell Owens remains four catches shy of 1,000 for his career and hopes to get them Sunday when the Bills face New England at home. The Patriots held him to two catches for 46 yards in their one-point win over Buffalo in September. Their pass defense ranks 14th in the league.

--RB Marshawn Lynch, who has rounded into form the past two weeks with long runs, will be a key part in Sunday's game plan against New England. The forecast calls for snow and the Bills hope to run the ball against a Patriots defense dealing with injuries to top defensive linemen Vince Wilfork (foot) and Ty Warren (ankle), who should play but will be less than 100 percent.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

Patriots:

There are several reasons the New England Patriots should win convincingly Sunday in what would be their most impressive -- and perhaps first legitimate -- road win of the season.

Aside from the obvious, such as the fact they are a superior team to Buffalo, the real reason lies in the weather forecast for what is expected to be a frigid afternoon in Orchard Park, N.Y.

This, for all intents and purposes, is New England Patriots weather. Since Bill Belichick took over in 2001, they've played their best when it counts the most in November and December. The Patriots have traditionally been a strong second-half team, proving that less-than-favorable weather does not deter their spirit in any way whatsoever.

With that said, it's been an exceptionally cold week in Foxboro, so the Patriots have had the ultimate preparation for the conditions they'll face when they travel to face the pesky Buffalo Bills. Teams that aren't acclimated to this weather would dread practice this week. The Patriots, on the other hand, welcome it with open arms.

"It helps to get us out in the elements so it's not like it's the first time we're dealing with it because the ball does come off your foot a little bit different when it's cold and you have to deal with the wind and stuff like that," Patriots punter Chris Hanson said.

This is a topic Hanson is familiar with since he's punted in miserable conditions in the past, particularly at Foxboro. Last year, the Patriots played in horrid weather at Buffalo with wind gusts up to 60 mph and managed to escape with a win.

"I wasn't there last year," quarterback Tom Brady said, "but I heard about the weather conditions that were pretty unbelievable -- 70, or 80 mph winds. I don't know if that was true or not -- that's what they're all telling me -- but it's always pretty tough up there."

The Bills plan on making it another tough weekend, and that's certainly not an understatement considering the Patriots have played so poorly on the road this season, but at least there won't be any disparity based on weather.

Bills:

The Bills' level of desperation on the offensive line reached a new high with the claiming of Rams bad-boy offensive guard Richie Incognito off waivers. After passing a physical Thursday, the five-year veteran signed a contract.

Buffalo's injury woes on their line have been well-documented, leading to the use of seven combinations. Poor play up front has contributed mightily to the team's 5-8 record heading into Sunday's home against New England.

With guard Kendall Simmons questionable with a sore shoulder and tackle Jonathan Scott dealing with an eye injury, Buffalo reevaluated its depth and decided it needed another body. Christian Gaddis had been the only healthy reserve until the signing of Incognito.

The move instantly sparked controversy. The 6-3, 324-pound Incognito, who has 44 career starts, is regarded as the dirtiest player in the NFL according to a recent poll with numerous personal foul penalties to his discredit.

The Rams cut Incognito after he was flagged for two personal fouls in last Sunday's loss to Tennessee, then got into a shouting match with coach Steve Spagnuolo. He had two personal fouls in St. Louis' season opener as well.

Buffalo linebacker Kawika Mitchell, sidelined for the year with a knee injury and known to pass his time on Twitter, blasted this tweet after the news that Incognito was now his teammate: "The biggest disappointment this year. The guy's a bum. Dirty and always will be. Really wish I was playin' right now. Seriously. I know we're in need of offensive line (help). But this guy (stinks)."

Mitchell recanted his public comments later, saying: "I said what I said 'bout 'Iggy' and it's over. Everything else will be handled in house. We've had our moments before when KC played St. L. I was wrong for startin' somthin.'"

Miami also put a claim in for Incognito but the Bills got first crack at him because of their poorer record.

A former third-round pick out of Nebraska in 2005, Incognito started 15 games last year and nine this year for the 1-12 Rams, missing four starts with a foot sprain.



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