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Saturday, 27 December 2014

Buffalo at New England: 5 Things to Know

Don't ever tell anyone in the AFC East that a game doesn't matter. So what if the Buffalo Bills have been eliminated from playoff contention? This is the hated New England Patriots!

Home-field advantage wrapped-up for the Patriots... big deal! Losing is not an option for either team, nor is it for their fans.

This game is important because...

1. The danger of a trap game.

While securing home-field advantage is a huge relief for the Patriots, they don't have a lot of room for error. Momentum is always important, especially going from week 17 to the playoffs. Also keep in mind that New England only beat the Jets by one point last week. Right now, they aren't blowing away the opposition.

2. Buffalo's defense is tough.

Even after a week 16 loss to the Raiders, the Bills rank fourth in total defense and fifth in points allowed. They have a very good pass rush and that could be a problem for the Patriot's front line and Tom Brady. The last thing they need is an injury to their quarterback in a "meaningless" game.

3. Speaking of injuries...

According to the latest list, the Patriots have an unusually high number of players in need of attention. This is one of those games where we get to see how well players come off the bench to fill-in for banged-up starters.

4. Buffalo will be evaluating personnel for 2015.

2014 did not go as planned, and it is time for management to earn their money for 2015 and determine who on this team will stay and who will go. If they are committed to E.J. Manuel, then finding the proper, supporting cast will be first priority in free agency and the draft.

5. New England's front line.

If the last two weeks are any indication, then the O-line woes from the beginning of the year are still a big concern at a critical time of the season. It's too late to reinforce the ranks, so making the existing cast work is paramount in the extra week they earned to start the playoffs. Dave DeGuglielmo needs to earn his money RIGHT NOW.

The Patriots will most likely rest some of their starters for at least some of this game. It will a good chance to experiment with different player groupings. But the bottom line remains the same: win games and minimize damage.

Both teams want the same thing, to come away with a "W". It's hard to say who needs it more. In the end, I have to give the nod to the Pats due to superior fire-power and better personnel in all three phases of the game. But it may be a close game, especially whenever Belichick decides to go with his subs.


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