After a game that hosted a handful of ups and downs, the Patriots were able to escape out of Chicago with a 38-31 win. It wasn’t the prettiest game to say the least, as they committed 7 penalties that costed them 64 yards, even though the week prior they were the first team in NFL history to not punt or have a penalty called on them all game long. The game also included multiple dropped interceptions, fumbles, and defensive breakdowns that led to points for the Bears.
It wasn’t all bad however, as running back James White continued to impress as he had 2 receiving touchdowns and wide receiver Josh Gordon put up his first 100-yard game in a Patriots uniform. The special teams also accounted for 2 touchdowns with a kickoff return by Cordarrelle Patterson and a punt blocked by Dont’a Hightower that was scooped up by Kyle Van Noy and returned to the endzone. Undrafted rookie cornerback J.C. Jackson had a few holding calls against him but made up for himself after an incredible effort on an interception. The Patriots have yet to play a complete game on both sides of the ball, but hopefully that will change Monday Night in Buffalo.
Let’s take a look at what the Buffalo Bills offer on both sides of the field:
At quarterback, the Bills drafted the hopeful future of their franchise in Josh Allen. The Wyoming product was selected 7th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. He is known for his 6’5 frame and his stellar arm.
However, Allen will be inactive once again for Monday Nights game as he is dealing with an elbow injury, so that thrusts backup Derek Anderson into the starting gig. In his first start as the backup for the Bills, Anderson had a game to forget. His team lost 37-5 to the Colts while Anderson only tossed for 175 yards and threw 3 interceptions. Anderson has been a stable backup for most of his career, but that is all he is now: a backup. If Anderson plays anything like he did against the Colts then the Bills offense could be in for another long day just like the Pats next week at home against Green Bay.
At running back, the Bills have one of the best in the NFL in LeSean McCoy. McCoy played for the Eagles from 2009 to 2014 before being traded to the Bills in 2015. In 2011, McCoy led the NFL in rushing TDs and total TDs. Two years later, he would claim the rushing title with 1,607 yards while leading the league with 314 carries. Since joining the Bills, McCoy has remained one of the NFL’s premier backs. He has made the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons in Buffalo. The six time pro bowler left last week’s game against the Colts with a head injury, and as of now still remains in the concussion protocol. There is optimism that he will b able to play on Monday Night, but only time will tell.
The wide receiving core for the Bills is one of the weaker groups in the NFL. It is headlined by Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones. Benjamin joined the Bills last season just before the trade deadline after a 3-year tenure with the Carolina Panthers. The 6’5 receiver has shown flashes of stardom during his career in the NFL, as in his rookie year he finished with over 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns. Unfortunately for Benjamin, his stats are declining year after year since that impressive 2014 campaign. He still creates a massive size mismatch, so his presence on the field should be followed by the Patriots’ number one corner in Stephon Gilmore. Zay Jones is entering his second year as a Buffalo Bill after being drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. So far this season, Jones has 19 receptions for 226 yards and one touchdown. The numbers are down for the Buffalo receivers this season because of the quarterback situation, but the Bills lack a star powered receiving core to help out their quarterbacks.
At tight end, the Bills have veteran Charles Clay. Clay has been in the league since 2011 and has been average at best throughout his career. His best year came in 2013 when he was a member of the Dolphins, as he had 69 receptions for 759 yards and 6 touchdowns. Similar to the wide receivers, Clay’s numbers are down this year do to the quarterback play. Through 7 weeks of his 2018 campaign he’s totaled 16 receptions for 133 yards. Clay is athletic enough to make catches through traffic and is a solid route runner, but he shouldn’t be a huge factor Monday Night due to the quarterback situation in Buffalo.
The offensive line for the Bills takes part of the blame for the continued quarterback struggles. They have let up 26 sacks so far this season, which is tied for the second most in the NFL. Two players to watch for on their line is center Russell Bodine and guard John Miller. Bodine joined the Bills this past offseason after 4 years with the Cincinnati Bengals. He has been a very stable center throughout his career, as he hasn’t missed one game throughout his 5 year career. Miller was drafted in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Throughout his first couple years in the league, Miller battled injuries that sent him down the Bills depth chart. However, Miller was able to work himself back to the starting lineup.
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The defensive line for Buffalo is a key part of their defense. They currently are tied for 9th in the league in sacks with 19, and that is in large part due to defensive ends Trent Murphy, Jerry Hughes, and defensive tackle Kyle Williams. Murphy joined the Bills this past year after 4 years in Washington. So far this season he has 3 sacks and 14 tackles combined, and also has 2 forced fumbles. Hughes joined the Bills in 2013 and has yet to miss a game since. He has totaled 4.5 sacks, 22 tackles, and 3 forced fumbles so far this season. Having both Murphy and Hughes on each side of the defensive line can cause an opposing quarterback to make bad decisions and turn the ball over. Williams has been a member of the Bills since being drafted by the team in 2006. He is the longest tenured Bill on the roster and provides a substantial presence in the locker room. The 35-year old is still getting the job done as he has 14 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. The tough defensive line combined with the depleted running back core for the Patriots could make it difficult to for New England to get a running game going on Monday Night.
The linebacking core is lead by veteran Lorenzo Alexander and rookie Tremaine Edmunds. Alexander is currently playing in his 14th season in the NFL, and after jumping around from team to team he ended up on the Bills in 2016. For his career he has 370 combined tackles and 27 sacks. The 35-year old is still playing at a high level as so far this season he has 27 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and an interception. Edmunds was drafted by Buffalo with the 16th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Virginia Tech product is a speedy linebacker with great size and a knack for getting after a ball carrier. He is putting up solid numbers for a rookie as he has 54 combined tackles, a sack, 2 forced fumbles, and 6 passes deflected. There are only two players in the NFL who have compiled at least 50 tackles, six pass breakups, and two forced fumbles, Edmunds and Jets safety Jamal Adams. This stat alone shows how versatile and athletic the young linebacker is.
In the secondary, names like Tre’Davious White and Micah Hyde ring a bell to most. Second year cornerback Tre’Davious White broke out onto the scene last year after being selected 27th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. The rookie started all 16 games during the regular season and put up phenomenal numbers, as he had 69 total combined tackles, 18 passes deflected, and 4 interceptions. His elite ball skills and quickness allow White to match up with basically every receiver in the league. Most fans may remember the time White suffered a concussion after tight end Rob Gronkowski dove onto his head out of frustration, leading to Gronkowski being suspended for one game. Safety Micah Hyde is also an elite talent in the Bills secondary. Hyde was a member of the Green Bay Packers for the first 4 years of his career before joining Buffalo in 2017. Last season was his best of his career so far, as Hyde had 82 combined tackles, 13 passes deflected, and 5 interceptions. The combination of pass rush and a great secondary can make for a long afternoon for any quarterback.
Monday nights game should be heavily favored by New England. The Bills don’t have the firepower to keep up with the red hot Patriots offense. Bills running back LeSean McCoy has been listed as questionable, so his status for the game is up in the air. The Bills have players on defense that can give Brady and company issues, but the Patriots will game plan around the weak spots of the Bills and attack them all night. If all goes smoothly and the Patriots continue their offensive dominance with another 38+ point performance then they will be the first team in NFL history to score at least 38 points in 5 straight weeks.
–Adam Pasquale, Jr. is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coversge Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @adampasqualejr