What to Look For…

The 2010-2011 NFL season for the New England Patriots is hopefully just underway.  This team has played in such a dominating manner that fans around New England and across the country are expecting a deep run into the playoffs and many are anticipating a trip to Dallas in early February.  The Buffalo Bills are playing themselves out of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, but in the process they are giving their fans something to look forward to in the future from this team.  But, whatever direction that each team is headed, games between two divisional opponents are never easy wins.  Here is what to look for in Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game…

-The Buffalo Bills are ranked last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, so look for the Patriots to dole out a large serving of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead to start this one.  Although Fred Taylor is now healthy, both he and Sammy Morris have seen very limited action this season.  If all four backs are active for this game I expect that all four will get at least some touches.  As usual I expect the Patriots to set up the run by using the pass, but when the game is at hand in the cold weather up in Buffalo, look for the running backs to bring the victory home.  What to look for: How effective the Patriots’ runners are against a bad Buffalo run defense.

-Jermaine Cunningham has been ruled out of this week’s game, and Tully Banta-Cain has missed some practice time earlier this week.  That leaves a huge spot to be filled at the outside linebacker position.  The Patriots’ inability to generate a pass rush has been the weakest part of their defense and has negatively affected the play of their secondary at various points throughout the season.  What to look for: How much of a pass rush the Patriots can generate with the absence of Cunningham and a hobbled Banta-Cain.

-Three players for the Buffalo Bills will mandate extra attention in this game.  Earlier this week, coach Belichick called Bills running back Fred Jackson one of the best running backs in the league.  Just by that statement, you know that the Pats’ defense will be keyed in on him.  The other Bills running back, CJ Spiller, is one of the more explosive runners in the league and could change the game on one play.  Steve Johnson has been a surprise to may this season, as he has come from nowhere to help lead many fantasy football owners to championship weekend.  One big play could change the game in the Bills favor, so it will be important for the Pats to limit that.  What to look for: How the Patriots defense controls the few explosive players on the Bills offense.

-THIS WEEK’S PREDICTION – Patriots 35 – Buffalo 21

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