New England to Dethrone Buffalo: 5 Things We Need to Know
The New England Patriots of weeks one through four are not the team that came stampeding onto the field against the Cincinnati Bengals in week five. They came out with a renewed attitude and spirit that overcame the last of the unbeatens in a dominant victory in Foxboro.
The Buffalo Bills outlasted a hobbling Detroit Lions bunch not playing their best football in a long time. Here's what you need to know about this coming Sunday's match-up in upstate New York.
1. Tom Brady may be getting older, but he hasn't lost the ability or the will to win.
Many have been critical of his play thus far in 2014, including this author, and Brady is certainly not the same QB of ye olde Super Bowl days. But he proved emphatically that he is not done and well deserves the contract extension he signed through 2017.
2. Kyle Orton is not the long term answer in Buffalo.
There is good reason that Orton has not seen much success since the early years in Chicago. Injuries and inconsistency have plagued him ever since. And despite his apparent experience compared to the young E. J. Manuel, he won't fare much better as mentor in this situation. The win against the Lions has no implications for the upcoming contest against a far superior defense in the Patriots. He faces Revis Island and newly activated, and aggressive, Brandon Browner. This recipe is known as disaster for a revived and very hungry New England foe.
3. The Patriots have quickly corrected early problems.
Highlighted by sloppy play on the front line, the New England offense looked lethargic in two losses and two wins to start the season; week five looked like a totally different team out there. Brady has protection and Ridley and Vereen have holes to run through. That is not a good sign for a Buffalo team that underperformed last year, and doesn't have proven stars at key positions. They will also be facing two of the best, and rising/returning, defenders in Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo.
4. Gronkowski and Wright.
The Patriots have resurrected the two-tight-end set with Rob Gronkowski slowly returning to form, and joined by newly-acquired Tim Wright as the new, big-body, mismatch, Z-receiver they have sorely lacked for two years. These two combined for 185 yards against the Bengals and will do the same to the Bills. The lack of a true X-receiver isn't such a big issue now in New England.
5. Buffalo can't win through the air.
Due to a lack of ground and pound, the Bills have been forced to throw the ball to win games; Kyle Orton was able exploit the Detroit secondary just enough to edge-out the victory last week. But they will be playing into New England's strength in week five, self-destructing as they fall further behind and have to air-it-out even more to attempt catch-up in the second half.
The Patriots will be more than happy to accomodate the Bills defensively. Though their run defense is not top-notch, it will be enough to force Orton to put the ball in the air more than he should. And the secondary will eat him alive, eliciting calls for Manuel from the stands.
I think Buffalo's only hope is a run-heavy, misdirection style offensive attack that proved effective for the Chiefs in week four. But count on Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia to be ready for trickery, leaving the Bills no choice but to play with desperation.
Despite all the optimism in Buffalo and some of the media, look for another dominant win by the Patriots- not about to let their division fall into the hands of the enemy.