It’s time for Week 4 in the NFL. After a third week of replacement officials, the replacements and the NFL hit an all-time low with the horrific display of officiating during the Monday night football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks. Because of the heavy backlash from the fans and players, the NFL and the regular referee’s have finally settled their differences.
Now, onto the Week 4 matchup between the Buffalo Bills (2-1) and the New England Patriots (1-2). After a porous outing in Week 1, the Bills have rebounded and won their last two games. On the flip side, the Patriots won their first game of the season, and have lost their previous two games. The Patriots have not lost three games in a row under Bill Belichek and Tom Brady since the 2002 season. Can the Bills be the first team in nearly ten years that gives the Patriots their third loss in a row? Let’s take a look and see.
The Patriots are currently ranked 9th in overall offense (12th in rushing and 9th in passing), and 24th in overall defense (9th in rush defense, 24th in pass defense). The Bills are currently ranked 11th in overall offense (3rd in rushing, 26th in passing), and 19th in overall defense (14th in rush defense, and 19th in pass defense).
In a previous article, I discussed how the Bills best chance of beating the Patriots is in the first division game they play against them of the year. Starting from the 2003 season, here are the scores from the first division game of the year vs the Patriots: 2003: Bills 31- Patriots 0, 2004: Patriots 31 - Bills 17, 2005: Patriots 21 - Bills 16, 2006: Patriots 19 - Bills 17, 2007: Patriots 38 - Bills 7, 2008: Patriots 20 - Bills 10, 2009: Patriots 25 - Bills 24, 2010: Patriots 38 - Bills 30, 2011: Bills 34 - Patriots 31. During this time span, the Patriots outscored the Bills 223-186 in the first division games of the year. Without the two Bills victories (from 2003 and 2011), the Patriots outscored the Bills 192-121.
Now for the scary part, the second division games of the year vs the Patriots: 2003: Patriots 31 – Bills 0, 2004: Patriots 29 - Bills 6, 2005: Patriots 35 - Bills 7, 2006: Patriots 28 - Bills 6, 2007: Patriots 56 - Bills 10, 2008: Patriots 13 - Bills 0, 2009: Patriots 17 - Bills 10, 2010: Patriots 34 - Bills 3, 2011: Patriots 49 - Bills 21. In the same time span as stated above, the Patriots outscored the Bills 292-57 in the second division game of the year. In every game since 2003, the Patriots have beaten and heavily outscored the Bills more in the second division game than in the first.
The positives/advantages for the Bills going into this game are:
The Bills offensive line has not allowed a sack in three games played (I am not counting the ball slipping out of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hand as a sack).
The Bills offensive line has been very instrumental in creating holes and downfield blocks to help spring their Running Backs (RBs) for big gains.
The Bills defensive front four has been much improved against the run so far this season.
The Bills defensive front four have been very good the last two games at collapsing the pocket, as well as creating pressure and sacks. This is huge considering Tom Brady is very good at stepping up into the pocket when he feels pressure coming from the edges.
RB Fred Jackson most likely will return to play on Sunday.
The Patriots offensive line has gone through some changes in the offseason, and don’t appear to be the same dominant force that they once were.
The negatives for the Bills are:
RB CJ Spiller is most likely out for this game due to a shoulder injury he sustained this past Sunday against the Browns.
Even if RB Fred Jackson does play on Sunday, how effective will he be coming off a knee injury from Week 1?
Wide Receiver (WR) David Nelson is out for the season, so that takes away a big red zone target for Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Bills secondary is very young. While the secondary has improved over the past two games, they are still very inexperienced and are still getting burned for big plays. Patriots QB Tom Brady is one of the best in the league at playing the “dink and dunk” game. The Bills secondary has to play tight coverage in order to give the Bills defensive front four time to get to Brady. If not, expect Brady to light up the secondary with the “dink and dunk” game.
If both Spiller and Jackson were 100%, I would predict the Bills to win this one. But, considering the injuries to the Bills, and the fact that the Patriots will be playing with a huge chip on their shoulders after losing two games in a row, I’m going with my gut feeling and taking the Patriots on this one (hope my gut feeling is wrong).
I went 7-9 in my Week 3 predictions (26-22 for the season). Here are my other Week 4 predictions:
Ravens over Browns
Seahawks over Rams
Packers over Saints