Patriots Bills Preview: Brady Will Lead The Victor
The Patriots will face the Bills on opening day for the first time since 2009. The Patriots have won the last three meetings and will try to win their 10th consecutive opening day game.
The Bills’ starter at quarterback should be E.J. Manuel, a rookie out of Florida State. Bill Belichick normally does well vs. rookie quarterbacks, as he is 13-4 against them since 2000.
The Patriots clearly have an advantage on the offensive side, even though they lost Hernandez and Welker in the offseason, and the ‟Gronk” is banged up. Gronkowski is set to play, but he will probably not be the same player that beat the record for most touchdowns by a tight end in the 2011 season.
Brady still can put up good numbers and give his team a chance to win despite having new personnel. It will be interesting to see whether the Patriots will start relying more on the ground game. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen have been recent draft picks, and they will probably share the load. Ridley notably rushed for 1,263 yards last year. The Bills’ defense was 31st in the league last year for stopping the run, as it allowed an average of 145.8 yards per game. A good offensive line will provide enough time for Brady to pass and create enough holes for Ridley to run as this group counts on solid players like guards Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly.
The Bills pass rush was deceptive last season, despite signing free-agent Mario Williams. It posted 36 sacks. New England’s experienced and well-coached line has the advantage over that defensive line.
The Bills’ linebackers are not their main strength. They will field Manny Lawson, rookie Kiko Alonso and Nigel Bradham.
Finally, the Buffalo secondary allowed 3,473 passing yards and intercepted opposing quarterbacks only twelve times. Jaryus Byrd should start even though he recently requested a trade. It will be nice to see whether Byrd will play at the level he is capable of even though he isn’t happy in Buffalo.
Even though the Pats defense has clearly been the weak link of the team in recent years, this might also have something to do with the fact that the offense has posted an average of 34.8, 32.1, and 32.4 points in the last three seasons, it is getting better, especially the linebackers. This group is young and feisty, fielding players like Brandon Spikes, Jerod Mayo, and Dont’a Hightower. The defensive line is also strong, notably with the big and more-athletic-than-you-think Vince Wilfork eating up space in the middle. Last year, the Patriots allowed 20.7 points per game, which ranked their defense 9th in the league for points allowed.
The secondary has been a question mark in recent years. The Pats notably allowed a whopping 271.4 passing yards per game last year, good for the 29th position among NFL defenses. The transition of Devin McCourty from corner to safety certainly can help the unit, and cornerbacks Aquib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard can play pretty decently. However, the responsibility of stopping the pass lies more on the shoulder of the pass rush than on the secondary.
Stevie Johnson called out the Pats’ secondary earlier this week, but he should not forget that he receives passes from a rookie quarterback. A tough afternoon is in store for the Bills’ passing attack.
C.J. Spiller is the bright spot of the Bills’ offense, but he faces a good rushing defense that ranked 9th last year. Spiller notably rushed for 1,244 yards last season, breaking the 1,000 yards mark for the first time in his NFL career. In the past, Spiller played well vs. New England, but he never managed to take over. It might happen for this game, but remember that Belichick is usually pretty good at taking away the other team’s most dangerous offensive weapon.
The Bills’ have given good fights with the Patriots in recent years, but they lost at the end for most of the games.
Expect a good game, especially from the Bills who will be playing in front of an energetic crowd, but at the end the result should remain the same. The Pats will win and will rapidly focus on the Jets this coming Thursday. Divisional games are always important and the Pats could get a head start on the divisional title with two wins to start the season.
Prediction: Patriots 27 – Bills- 21