Patriots @ Bills: Division Rivals Look for Air Superiority.
When New England heads to Buffalo, both sides will take to the air against two very
stout rush defenses, even in an expected rain storm. With a 60% chance of rain and the
possibility of thunderstorms after 11AM as reported by NFLWeather.com, up to a half
inch of precipitation is likely to accumulate on Ralph Wilson Stadium’s soggy artificial
surface. Winds of 6/mph from the Southeast mean a damp, heavy football could hinder
the long kicking game. Rian Lindell hasn’t attempted a 50+ yard field since 2010 while
Stephen Gostkowski is already two-for-two this year.
The Bills’ offensive line has allowed only a single sack in three games while averaging
178 rushing yards yards per game and over five yards per carry. However, both C.J.
Spiller (shoulder) and Fred Jackson (knee) are listed as questionable with the latter the
likely starter. Tashard Choice is on hand if needed but Buffalo’s success a season ago
was found passing against the Pats(1-2). Even in the expected downpour, Ryan
Fitzpatrick needs to do much better through the air.
Last season was Buffalo’s first win over New England since 2003. Ryan Fitzpatrick
dropped back 40 times to pass, meanwhile only handing it off 16 times. They exploited a
dismal secondary on a cloudy Buffalo day a year ago and they’ll try to do the same on
Sunday. This time around, they’re up against an unproven secondary that is 24th against
the pass (262 ypg) but the unit is seventh against the run (81 ypg). The impact of the
rain likely won’t factor into the number of Fitzpatrick’s attempts but it will limit the deep
ball opportunities. He’ll likely be making a number of short timing routes following quick
three and five step drops.
The same can be said for Tom Brady and company, who always seem to thrive in
poor weather conditions. Despite tossing four interceptions in the loss last season, the
Pats’ offense still broke positive franchise records in the passing game. Brady tossed
four TD’s on the game and 387 yards, but the performance was headlined by the costly
turnovers. With a duo of dinged up tight ends (Hernandez is out but Gronkowski and his
sore hip are likely to play), Welker should finally see more looks behind Brandon Lloyd
who will remain Brady’s top target.
Either way, the Bills new look front four is tenacious and tied for seventh in the NFL with
six forced turnovers, pressuring opposing QB’s into poor decisions. Lots of pressure
means hurried passes so receivers will have to be alert and ready with a wet football
zipping their way in the short passing game. Fewest turnovers and victory in the
trenches will ensure a much needed win for one of these AFC East clubs.
Chris Lovi & Will Strome
NFP (at) NFLWeather.com