The New England Patriots improved to 11-3 by defeating the Cincinnati Bengals 34-13 after two straight losses. The 34 points were the most scored by the Patriots since week six when they defeated the New York Giants 35-10.
The Patriots return home this week for a rematch of their week four match-up against the Buffalo Bills. The Patriots won that game 16-10 on the road with a blocked punt returned for a touchdown providing the winning margin as the defense literally knocked Josh Allen and the Bills out in their home stadium.
This week’s game will be a special Saturday game and broadcast nationally at 4:25 PM by the NFL Network and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Mike Tirico will handle play-by-play duties with former St. Louis Rams and Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner as the color analyst. Peter Schrager will work from the sidelines.
Saturday’s game will be broadcast to a national audience on Westwood One. Scott Graham will call the game with the underrated and always entertaining Ross Tucker providing analysis. One of the nation’s best sportswriters and the pride of Chicago, Hub Arkush, will work from the sidelines.
Locally, the game will be broadcast on 98.5 The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network and all of the network’s 38 stations carry the game live. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci is back to call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who provides his own unique color to the analysis (What up, Zo?).
Each week the game comes down to the match-ups. These are the top match-ups on defense that will determine if the Patriots are the team which emerges victorious.
Bills’ C Mitch Morse vs Patriots’ DT Danny Shelton:
This offseason the Kansas City Chiefs let center Mitch Morse leave in free agency. The Buffalo Bills scooped up the young veteran and his steadying veteran presence and intelligence have been a key part of the resurgence of the Bills in 2019 as they sprint into the playoffs. Morse is tough, smart, uses leverage well and has long arms. However, he can be out-muscled by bigger tackles.
One of the biggest surprises of 2019 has been the play of nose tackle Danny Shelton. Losing a little weight and improving his conditioning has brought back the explosiveness that Shelton had while starring at Washington and becoming the 12th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Shelton (and Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler) will be expected to stuff the running game of the Bills and he is key to holding the point of attack and allowing the linebackers to stuff the Bills’ rushing attack Saturday afternoon.
The Bills’ offensive line is one of the biggest reasons for improvement in 2019, but center Mitch Morse will have a tough matchup against Danny Shelton. The Patriots’ defense should have the advantage against the run if Shelton can control the line of scrimmage on Saturday
Bills’ RB Devin Singletary vs Patriots’ LBs Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy & Jamie Collins:
In week four, the ageless Frank Gore pounded out 109 yards rushing against the Patriots’ defense. Gore has faded and barely plays on offense as rookie Devin Singletary has taken over as the lead back. Singletary is a playmaker who averages 5.4 yards per carry and can contribute in the passing game as well, but has had struggles holding onto the ball with four fumbles already this season.
The Patriots defense has had their struggles against the run at times with lighter fronts but should be bringing all their big bodies to clog the running lanes Saturday. Linebackers Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy have been rocks all season at the linebacker position for New England. The trio will need to slow Singletary (and running quarterback Josh Allen) to keep the Bills from getting into third-and-manageable downs.
The Bills have leaned on the running game all season. When Buffalo rushes for less than 100 yards they are 0-2. In their four losses they have gained 135, 98, 84 and 104 yards rushing. The passing game has just two games with more than 250 total yards passing. New England has been good against the run when they can load up with their bigs on the field.
Bills WR Cole Beasley vs Patriots’ S Patrick Chung:
For a running team, the Bills spend a lot of time in a three wide-receiver alignment. Part of that reason is to run against lighter fronts. The other is to maximize the match-ups for their slot wide receiver Cole Beasley. Beasley is quick in space and has teamed with outside receiver John Brown to serve as the one-two punch in the passing offense.
The Patriots are down starting nickel cornerback Jonathan Jones due to a groin injury. With Jason McCourty still questionable with a groin injury leaving the Patriots thin at the slot cornerback position. With JC Jackson and Stephon Gilmore likely covering the Bills’ outside wide receivers, safety Patrick Chung is next in line at slot cornerback with rookie cornerback Joejuan Williams not an option inside.
Chung is not the biggest safety in the league and is actually undersized for the strong safety role he plays. However, he has excellent coverage skills and has been used as a slot cornerback in packages in the past. If Chung can slow Beasley when matched-up with him, it is a huge win for the New England secondary.
The game plan on defense is to take away the running game early and have the pass coverage force Josh Allen into mistakes by taking away his deep options. If New England’s defense remains strong on third down and keeps Allen and Buffalo from extending drives it can allow New England to control the ball on offense. The defense will have to step up if the Patriots expect to clinch the AFC East on Saturday.
NEW ENGLAND EXPECTED POINTS ALLOWED: 13
-Hal Bent is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @halbent01