The Spy: New England Patriots – The Penultimate Duel of Fates
The Buffalo Bills will soon face the New England Patriots for the third time in only a two-month period. During this time, the teams split the series, while the Bills captured a second consecutive AFC East championship. However, the impact and value of that title is now, certainly, in question. To win that title and then be eliminated by the nemesis division rival (only one week later) would be the ultimate “crash and burn” scenario. In truth, the division shall be settled once and for all this Saturday night. These two teams are quite different in most aspects and that will be the case yet again. Furthermore, these two teams come into this primetime frozen hellscape matchup under vastly different circumstances. The Bills come whisked along on the energetic course of a four-game win streak while the Patriots limp into Buffalo having lost four of five games.
More importantly, the Bills come into this game mostly healthy and devoid of injury to critical players. The same cannot be said for the New England Patriots. CB Jalen Mills is on the COVID list and likely will not suit up Saturday. Rookie standout DT Christian Barmore has a significant knee injury and (at best) will be limited. Superstar DE Matt Judon has been in a sort of fog it appears; not (publicly) injured at least, but playing poorly of late. Starting Safety Kyle Dugger has been dealing with a nagging hand injury that could impact his effectiveness. LB Jamie Collins and OT Isiah Wynn were both non-participants in practice with injuries. Heading into what will be the 2nd coldest game in Bills franchise history, the Patriots carrying so many injuries is a grave threat to their potential production.
SPY 1: This Final Dance with the Hood, at Last.
Only three NFL coaches have continued on coaching into their 70s. Bill Belichick is on the cusp of doing so and being in that particular age bracket. Depending on a wide range of circumstances, there is a chance this is the final time that the Bills face him as Head Coach of the Patriots. Equally intriguing, is how little time exists between matchups this season. Bill Belichick is notorious for taking away the opponent’s greatest strength or player and for dazzling/deceiving opponents with esoteric adjustments and tactics. Uncharacteristically, in the most recent matchup, the Patriots made virtually no adjustments whatsoever. It will be even more difficult for the hood to make adjustments this week with a defense hampered by multiple crucial injuries.
SPY 2: McCorkle Comes Home to Roost
In two games against the Bills this season, Mac Jones is only 8-18, for 82 yards, with no passing TDs and an interception, per Pro Football Reference. Jones plays with most of the normal struggles that normally plague rookie QBs. On the plus side, Jones shows great poise and control of the (simple) offense under normal circumstances. That said, as the season has gone along, Mac Jones’ performance has become more erratic as the weather has gotten colder. The coldest game Mac Jones has played into date is 33 degrees. Come Saturday, he will play in temperatures approaching the threshold of zero degrees.
Mac Jones will have a tough time facing the vaunted Bills defense in such wintry weather and with 70,000+ electrified Bills fans screaming incessantly. Expect most of the passing game to be vanilla concepts targeting the short and intermediate areas of the field. Mac Jones will give up/create at least two turnovers.
SPY 3: Patriot Defense – The Main Bane
The New England Patriots defense is elite, only less so than the Bills by two ranking spots. It is expertly coached and just as adaptable as the Bills. One could argue the Bills have more talent than the Patriots do, but the Patriots are more well-rounded in their defense.
My assertion is that the Patriots greatest defensive strength and therefore threat, is its ability to deceive and its ability to take away the opponent’s greatest strength in turn.
The Buffalo Bills need to be dynamic. They need to unleash the entire offense. Focusing on just running or focusing on just passing is a veritable suicide tactic against the Patriots. The best quarterbacks can pass on the New England Patriots, and even middlingly talented run teams can gash the Patriots less-than-stellar run defense (despite the contrary verbal diarrhea the National pundits spew at a pyroclastic rate and volume). The Bills need to knock the Patriots back onto their heels early and often with a blitzkrieg of Brian Daboll’s best recipes, on the ground and in the air.
CAPABILITIES & LIMITATIONS (Capes & Lim’s)
- Flexibility to adjust
- Running game
- Variance in tactics
- Passing game
- Inability to play from behind (Score effects)
- Limited weapon and/or weapon usage
- Susceptibility to the QB run
- Deep passing game
Given that these two teams have played twice so recently, there will be significant adjustments made. Even in terms of communication, most verbiage will change for both offenses as a defense against tendencies and tells becoming obvious. Adjustments will be made, and tactics changed. For the Patriots, I expect more blitzing against Josh Allen. In the previous matchup, little blitzing and extraordinarily little in-game adjustments were made to counter the Bills. With Bill Belichick being unable to firmly rely on his offense and quarterback especially, I expect the defense to endure most of the heady duties and the Patriots will get creative in their pass rush and blitz tactics. Dual pressure, delayed pressure, and edge pressure will be likely methods used to try to disrupt and contain both Josh Allen and a resurgent Devin Singletary.
Each opponent will be ranked on a 1-10 scale. On this scale, the higher the number = The greater the threat to the Bills specifically.
Threat Rating = 7.4
In closing, please follow The Buffalo Fanatics on all platforms, trust the process and go Bills.
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