Bills at New England -- Week 10
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass. (grass, outdoors)
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Spread: Patriots by 11
Forecast: 50-60 degrees, cloudy
Records: Bills (Overall: 3-5, AFC East: 0-2); Patriots (Overall: 5-3, AFC East: 2-0)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Sept. 30, 2012: Patriots 52, Bills 28; Jan. 1, 2012: Patriots 49, Bills 21. Series record: Patriots lead 63-41-1.
What matters: After their Week 4 debacle, can the Bills stop the New England running game? And if so, can they put any pressure on Tom Brady? Buffalo was torched by New England in the ground game in the first meeting between these two teams, with the Patriots putting up 247 yards on the ground and having two rushers top the 100-yard mark (Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley). The Bills were slightly better against the run vs. Houston in Week 9 (Arian Foster had 111 yards and one TD on 24 carries, a 4.6 average) but are still 31st overall in run defense (169.5 ypg). If the Bills contain the run to a reasonable degree, the next big question is the pass rush. Tom Brady has been spectacular against the Bills throughout his career, as he's goine 19-2 record against Buffalo. Brady was terrific in the Week 4 win over Buffalo, throwing for 340 yards, three TDs and no INTs.
Who matters: DE Mario Williams, RB C.J. Spiller, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, CB Leodis McKelvin. The Bills gave Williams a $100 million contract so he could get after opposing quarterbacks -- well, they don’t get any better than Brady. Williams showed some improvement against his former team, the Houston Texans, in Week 9 after undergoing wrist surgery during Buffalo’s Week 8 bye. Spiller has an unbelievable average of 7.2 yards per attempt this season but only received six carries against Houston. If the Bills are to have any chance to beat New England, he needs to be their meal ticket. As the QB, Fitzpatrick is always vital to the Bills' success. He was decent against the Texans (25 of 38 for 239 yards) but failed to get the Bills into the end zone. McKelvin is stepping up as the new No. 2 CB with Aaron Williams (knee) injured and the former first-round pick has struggled in coverage throughout his career.
Key matchups: Bills MLB Kelvin Sheppard vs. RB Ridley, Bills DE Williams vs. RT Sebastian Vollmer, Patriots TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez vs. Bills LB Bryan Scott, SS Jairus Byrd and the rest of the Buffalo secondary. Sheppard was barely on the field in the first meeting between these two teams. Buffalo elected to stay in its nickel package to try and thwart New England’s passing attack, and the Patriots made the Bills pay with a healthy dose of the run game. It’s expected that Sheppard -- who makes way for Scott in the nickel -- will get more snaps given the outcome of the first meeting. If he does, he needs to be better; Sheppard (41 tackles, one sack) has been ordinary at best this year. Williams was invisible against the Patriots in Week 4 (two tackles) and needs to be a difference-maker. Buffalo’s troubles against opposing TEs in the passing game have been duly noted over the years, and Hernandez looks to be healthy after missing New England’s game in London with an ankle injury. Gronkowski always plays well against the Bills (5 receptions for 104 yards, one TD in Week 4) and has four touchdowns the past two weeks.
Injuries of note: DE Chris Kelsay suffered a neck injury at practice Thursday and is expected to miss this week. WR Stevie Johnson is dealing with a thigh injury but will play. DT Kyle Williams has an ankle injury that will keep him limited at practice throughout the rest of the season but is expected to rough it out on Sunday. DT Spencer Johnson (ankle) and RG Kraig Urbik (foot) are officially listed as questionable but are expected to play. DE Mark Anderson (knee) is out.
Inside stuff: McKelvin will get the start at CB in place of Williams, but don’t count out rookie Ron Brooks for the future. Brooks was recently activated after spending the first half of the season on IR with a foot injury. Gailey said that Brooks, a fourth-round pick, has “done great” since returning and is a candidate for playing time both on the outside and in the nickel.
Connections: Gronkowski is from Amherst, N.Y., a northeast suburb of Buffalo.
Stat you should know: In their last two meetings, the Patriots have outscored the Bills in the second half 80-14.
Record watch: RB Fred Jackson needs only three catches to join Thurman Thomas (456) as the only two RBs in team history to have 200 or more receptions.
Looking ahead: The Bills will have to quickly recover from this game, as they host the Dolphins on Thursday. After that, the Bills head to Indianapolis to take on Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots host the Colts in Week 11.
Prediction: Patriots 42, Bills 20
For more updates on the Bills, follow correspondent Mark Ludwiczak on Twitter @CBSBills and @MarkLud12.
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Bills at New England -- Week 10