Buffalo Bills (5-3) at New England Patriots (5-3)
Sunday, November 9, 1:00 PM EST - Gillette Stadium
After a second consecutive divisional loss, the Bills look to rebound in their personal house of horrors this week. Going into Gillette Stadium wounded and on the down slope, the Bills need to find a way to play better than they have and win this extremely important divisional game. Here's how they can do so:
Don't play scared and soft: For years now, it has appeared the Bills have gone into the majority of their Patriots' games expecting to lose. They've come out and been manhandled instead imposing any sort of will in the games. They've sat back and let the Pats kick them in the stomach. Well, Tom Brady isn't walking through that door any time soon, so now is the time for the Bills to stick it to the Pats. They can't come out and look like the same scared bundle of nerves that we've seen in the past. Dick Jauron has to get these guys fired up and ready to punch back at the Patriots. Take a page from the Dolphins' book here, play physical and tough.
Run the ball: It just seems so simple, yet so difficult for the Bills this year. Turk Schonert has to find ways to get this offense moving on the ground. That probably includes more runs off tackle and to the outside, and fewer runs behind center. Get the ball to Lynch and Jackson in space! Whether he will stick with the run game this week depends on how well we can run it early. Our offense is much easier to stop when we don't run it well. It's also time for the high paid OL to start playing better. It's been WAY too long. It will be a tough task this week against a good New England front 7.
Lee Evans: Here's your weekly reminder, get Evans the ball. Going up against the corpse of Deltha O'Neal and rookies Jonathan Wilhite and Terrence Wheatley, Evans should have plenty of opportunities this week. This is the perfect week for Evans to finally have a good game against the Pats. We desperately need it now. We also need James Hardy and Roscoe Parrish to step up in a big way this week. A Hardy coming out party would be much appreciated.
Protect the rock: Enough with the turnovers, Trent. Hang on to the ball and put some points on the board. We aren't winning this week with another 3 turnover game. Not only does Edwards have to play better, but the OL needs to protect him much better than it has. The Pats will be coming after him, so this is an area of importance again.
Disrupt Wes Welker: With Matt Cassel's affiniity for throwing underneath and finding Welker, it's going to be important to disrupt their timing and stick with Welker. Whether it's Reggie Corner or Leodis McKelvin matched up against him inside, they need to play up on him and make his release difficult. If Welker can get off the line without a problem, he should be able to scour the middle and kill us underneath. We can't let Cassel sit back and hit the underneath stuff like that. By disrupting his timing and playing up on Welker, we've got to make Cassel do things he's not accustomed to.
Find a pass rush, please: Cassel is still a young QB that is extremely inexperienced, even after 7 starts. He's been sacked a ton this year and that needs to continue this week if we want to shut down their offense. I want to see the Bills pressuring and harassing Cassel, forcing him into mistakes instead of letting him sit there and hit his check-downs. Again, this will fall into the "don't play soft" key...
Make a play on Special Teams: They haven't been that special this year, but the talent and coaching is still there. It's time we see a huge return again, and this would be the perfect week for it. McKelvin looked better returning kicks last week, as he finally started making some cuts and utilizing his instincts more. Roscoe has been bottled up as a punt returner since the opener, so it'd be nice to get him going again. Of course, the defense has to force a punt from deep in the opposition's territory, something that we seemingly haven't done in a few games, at least.
Don't shoot yourself in the foot: There have been too many mistakes the past two weeks, from missed blocks and dropped passes to turnovers and penalties. These have to stop if we plan to beat New England. The Dolphins and the Jets beat the Bills, but it was mostly Buffalo's doing. New England and Bill Belicheck will definitely find ways to take advantage of any Bills mistakes. It's time to limit those and play smarter football. We won't be winning this week if the mistakes continue to pile up. There needs to be better discipline by the coaches and better on-field discipline by the players. Own up to your mistakes and quit making them!
Play with some urgency: Against the Jets, it never seemed the team was feeling that sense of urgency they needed. In turn, they never really got back into the game or gave themselves a chance to regain the lead. To me, they just never seemed to feel that their backs were up against the wall. I tend to feel that was part of the reason for so many mistakes. Earlier in the year, against Oakland, the team really looked like they felt that urgency, and in turn responded with a comeback win. I haven't seen that the past two weeks. This week, facing a potential 3-game losing streak (and 4 of 5) and an 0-3 divisional record, their backs are squarely against the wall. I want to see them come out knowing they have to win, something that just hasn't been the case recently, or in the past few years.
This is a tough, but very winnable game if we don't play another poor game. We've played pretty poorly for much of the season, so it's going to take the extra effort to get it done this week. With no Tom Brady, this is as good a chance as ever for the Bills to beat the Pats during their dynasty years. More importantly, this is a must-win if the Bills want to win the division this year. We also can't afford to fall to 0-3 in the division and expect to get a wildcard berth ahead of one of our divisional opponents. Get it done Bills, this is a HUGE week and will set the stage for either another disappointing season or a potential playoff run.