Well here we are. On Sunday, it will a battle of undefeateds with the Bills and Patriots meeting in Buffalo with first place in the AFC East on the line. For the first time since Ryan Fitzpatrick was the helm of the Bills and Chan Gailey was the head coach, the Bills feels they have a legitimate shot to make some noise early in the season and make a run at the AFC East crown. Even if the AFC East title is a tough get, the Bills could make a statement early and gain even more separation for a wild card spot in what could be a very telling game for both teams.
Although they don’t have anywhere near the number of local connections and former Patriot ties the Dolphins did, the Bills do have some connections to the Patriots and area. Two players, linebacker Matt Milano and tight end Tommy Sweeney, are the lone players who went to school in the area as both went to Boston College. They also have punter Corey Bojorquez, who was in training camp with the Patriots last year. There was some though the Patriots wanted to sneak him on to the practice squad, but the Bills snapped him up on waivers during the cut down period.
The coaching staff is where Patriot fans may also see some familiar names. The staff consists of Brian Daboll as offensive coordinator and Ryan Wendell as a coaching assistant. Daboll coached in New England for 11 seasons and won five Super Bowls with the team. Wendell was on the team from 2009-2015 and is the rare player to play for the Patriots for that length but win just one title.
Although many people may think the Bills have struggles on offense, their yardage may indicate otherwise. The Bills are 8th in the NFL in total yards with 391.3 yards per game or just 17 yards and two spots below the Patriots at 408.3 yards per game. Most of that yardage comes on the strength of their rushing attack as they possess three weapons in the rush game with explosive rookie Devin Singletary the top option, veteran Frank Gore posting another impressive campaign and quarterback Josh Allen having a strong early start to the season.
With Allen’s strong rushing ability and the Bills game plan of calling QB runs (Allen has had at least seven rush attempts per game in the first three games), it is imperative the Patriots stay strong at the point of attack and on the edges, something they have done a great job at thus far.
One area the Bills are again strong with is their defense. They rank fifth overall in the NFL in total yards allowed (100 yards behind the top ranked Patriots defense), ninth in passing yards allowed and eighth in rushing yards allowed. Along with that the Bills have some very strong players, especially in their linebacking core with features the underrated Matt Milano, Lorenzo Alexander, and Tremaine Edwards. Moreover they have a couple of very good defensive backs with Micah Hyde and Tre’Davious White. White if you remember, was the player Gronk hit after the whistle years ago and resulted in White leaving with a concussion.
One thing that everyone’s eyes will be on is the Patriots defense. Their defense currently leads the NFL in total yards per game, points allowed per game, rushing yards allowed per game and passing yards allowed per game. More impressively though is the fact they last allowed a touchdown to the Chiefs in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship game, meaning they have gone over four games since their opponent’s last trip into the end zone. In that period the Patriots have outscored their opponent 126-20. One player that has been a big key defensive, but up until this year hasn’t gotten a ton of recognition: Jonathan Jones, who just secured a three-year extension and is now the top ranked cornerback at PFF.
Prediction: Patriots 27, Bills 13
I think the Patriots streak will end this game and will likely be a result of the offense putting the defense in a tough spot with field position at some point. The good news is I think the Patriots will still be the same stifling unit we have seen all year. Josh Allen loves to throw the ball up for grabs multiple times per game and if he does that against this defensive back group there will be multiple interceptions. Look for the Patriots to come away with a couple picks and hold the Bills ground game in check.
–David Albiani is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @david_albiani