In case you hadn't heard, the Buffalo Bills have made a lot of changes offensively this off-season, and particularly within the past week. The quick recap: brand new starting offensive line; Terrell Owens; cutting Langston Walker; swapping offensive coordinators. The end result of all of that change, at least as it pertains to what we've seen in the pre-season and the Bills' upcoming Monday Night Football matchup with New England, is that no one is quite certain what to expect from this Bills offense.
Patriots Week rolls on, as we sit down for the fifth time with MaPatsFan, lead blogger over at Pats Pulpit. Today's topic is a bit ambiguous, considering that I literally asked MaPatsFan to try to read Bill Belichick's mind. Still, our friendly Pats blogger offered up some cogent theories on how Belichick might choose to attack Buffalo's new-look offense. His thoughts, with my responses, are after the jump.
Rumblings: In the past, Patriots players - forgive my lack of memory, but I believe it was FB Heath Evans - have mentioned that Bill Belichick always prepares for a Bills game with a different plan. Knowing that, and knowing what you know about the Bills, how do you think "Hoodie," as you call him, might attack Buffalo on Monday, particularly with his shiny new 4-3 defense?
Pulpit: Being division rivals, I think it's safe to say we know each other's teams better than we know any of our other opponents. That being said, it's paramount we mix things up a bit. Defensively, I've been thinking there will be a bit of a twist: less 4-3 than we all think. Or, at the very least, a disguised 4-3. Why? Buffalo employs this scheme. Trent Edwards and company see it every day at practice and, I think it's safe to say, know the inner workings of it. I'm almost certain Belichick will work hard to employ different looks, trying to confuse Edwards.
One such look is something the Patriots affectionately call the "speed package." It's a 1-4-6 with one down lineman, 4 linebackers and 6 defensive backs, a variation of the dime package. They've also been known to use a 2-4-5 alignment or modified nickel package. Obviously, the nickel and dime packages are strongest during passing situations, which brings me to my next point: T.O.
Clearly, Owens is a guy you can't forget about. He'll hurt you in so many ways. It's not coincidental that CB Shawn Springs was brought on board about the same time T.O. came to your Bills. Springs and Owens have a long history together, and some even say Springs has Owens' number. That remains to be seen. If that's the case, I think Jauron is smart enough to move T.O. around, to keep him away from Springs and neutralize that perceived advantage.
Belichick is considered a defensive genius in league circles for knowing exactly how to attack an opponents' weakness with his defense. I think MaPatsFan is completely accurate here saying that one of Belichick's priorities will be to give multiple looks to Edwards and not allow him to get comfortable reading the defense. As has been pointed out, the Patriots are using a 4-3, but they would be insane to rely on that scheme the entire game. They can get different looks onto the field, and put in different packages, without exposing their razor-thin linebacker corps.
What MaPatsFan missed, in my opinion - though it is certainly alluded to - is the fact that Belichick is likely to send the house after Edwards on many, many occasions. Why wouldn't he? The Bills have an offensive line that will be communicating with each other in a live setting for the first time - and their quarterback may or may not be able to accurately diagnose where a blitz is coming from. Even though Edwards has shown a propensity to make plays against the blitz in the past, it's still by far the best way for Belichick to expose the Bills' biggest weaknesses and keep the ball out of the hands of Buffalo's skill players, particularly Owens. It seems relatively simple because it is. Belichick is a genius, but he won't need to outsmart himself for this one.
You'd have to imagine that this is precisely what Dick Jauron and Alex Van Pelt are looking for as well. Look for them to have a few called screens early to try to take advantage of Belichick's probable aggressiveness - unless, of course, Belichick expects that and sits his defense back to throw us off. Isn't coaching against Belichick fun?