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 offense that will determine if the Patriots are the team which emerges victorious.
Patriots’ C Ted Karras vs Bills’ DT Ed Oliver:
Buffalo’s first-round draft pick defensive tackle Ed Oliver is already a disruptive force and his strength and athleticism will be a handful for the interior offensive line. He leads the Buffalo defensive tackles in snaps played in 2019. With five sacks, seven quarterback hits, two passes knocked down, a forced fumble and four tackles for a loss, he is a game-changer.
Ted Karras left the loss to Houston and missed the match-up against Kansas City. No surprise the offense rebounded with his return to the lineup last week in Cincinnati. Karras may not be the blocker that David Andrews has been, but with Andrews on injured reserve for all of 2019, it is clear that Karras has grown into a key contributor.
The Patriots’ offensive line has a tough match-up inside against Ed Oliver and the other Bills stand-outs. While New England may feel they need to pass the ball to win, the running game may prove more important. Oliver is one-man wrecking crew.
Patriots’ RB Sony Michel vs Bills’ LB Matt Milano:
Buffalo Bills’ Matt Milano may have played four seasons at Boston College but he will find few Patriots fans rooting for the undersized inside linebacker. Although only six-foot and 223 pounds, the gritty former Eagle plays bigger inside against the run and is not a liability covering running backs and tight ends in coverage.
Sony Michel struggled early in 2019 but has come on strong in recent weeks. Michel was on the sidelines much of the loss against Kansas City due to the game plan but otherwise has been solid. Against Dallas Michel had 85 yards rushing and 4.25 yards per rush average, another diminished role against Houston saw him still add 45 yards rushing and 4.5 yards per rush average, and finally last week in Cincinnati he gained 89 yards and had a strong 4.68 yards per rush average.
The Bills’ defense is strong against the pass but struggles at times trying to stop the run. If the Patriots can refrain from falling into an early hole like they did versus Houston and Kansas City, they should be able to move the ball consistently on offense via the running game and keep the Bills’ offense on the sidelines.
Patriots’ WR N’Keal Harry vs Bills’ CB Tre’Davious White:
Tre’Davious White is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Although he and the Bills do not get a lot of national coverage, tape junkies all agree there are not many more complete cornerbacks in the NFL than White. With 58 tackles, six interceptions, 17 passes defended a sack and two forced fumbles, at age 24 he may be one of the few cornerbacks equal to New England’s Stephon Gilmore.
Rookie first-round draft pick wide receiver N’Keal Harry has been hampered by injuries in the preseason and spent the first half of the season on injured reserve. In his return to action, he has proven to be a red zone threat and play-maker. He has seemed on the verge of a breakout game but will struggle to make conventional catches on conventional routes against White. Harry must use his big size advantage to our-physical White and make tough catches.
New England struggles in the passing game against the Bills when all is going well. They will struggle on Saturday against the ferocious pass rush and above-average secondary. The Patriots need to find ways to get the ball in rookie N’Keal Harry’s hands and let his athleticism, size and speed gain easy yards and push the ball past the goal line.
The New England offense faces a defense which is one of the best units in the NFL. Points will not come easy against this group. New England must focus on running the ball, controlling the field position battle and stay away from turnovers. It may not be the offensive game plans fans are used to with the New England offense, but it is the way to win the game.
NEW ENGLAND EXPECTED POINTS SCORED: 15
-Hal Bent is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @halbent01