BOSTON (CBS) – The Patriots open the regular season against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, a team they’ve had plenty of success against in the past.

The Patriots shouldn’t have too many problems with the Bills on Sunday, with rookie EJ Manuel getting the start at quarterback. But they will likely have their hands full with running back C.J. Spiller, who CSNNE’s Mike Giardi calls the key to the Buffalo offense.

“I want to see if they can contain Spiller and (Fred) Jackson to a lesser extent,” Giardi said Tuesday night on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s The Adam Jones Show. “[Spiller] had a historical kind of season last year that was swept under the rug with what Adrian Peterson did. Every time he touched the ball he got six-plus yards per carry. [Jerod] Mayo was telling us yesterday how much stronger Spiller has gotten since he entered the league. He’ll push the edge when it’s not there, and hes not afraid to turn it up inside when it’s not there.”

“To me, Spiller is the key to that entire offense and if you can close him off you’ll have a successful day,” said Giardi.

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Rob Gronkowski is back on the practice field for the Patriots, and is on the active roster rather than the PUP list. Gronk had an off-season full of surgeries on his broken arm and one on his back, and it’s very unlikely he suits up in the first few weeks of the season. But Giardi says the Patriots could surprise us all.

“I don’t think Week 2 is out of the realm of possibility,” he said. “Clearly he hasn’t had the off-season he would normally… so he can’t be as strong, as big or as heavy as he was. But they’re probably thinking 90-85-percent of Rob Gronkowski is better than what most teams have at that position. While I would play on the safer side and say Week 3 or Week 4, Week 2 wouldn’t surprise me with those guys at all.”

There has also been news about a possible return of Tim Tebow, who in case you hadn’t heard, was released by the Patriots on Saturday. But Giardi doesn’t see that happening after an unimpressive preseason from the popular third-stringer.

“To me it doesn’t make any sense,” said Giardi. “You’re in a situation where he cant run the offense they run. With a catastrophic injury, he’s had time in the system so at least he knows the playbook, or better than anyone out on the street. But if you get to that situation you’re in a world of hurt anyways.”

“To me there was a certain PR element to his involvement with this team, and also maybe a favor. Josh [McDaniels] drafted him in the first round, traded up to do it, Belichick talked to him coming out of Florida. They love the kid, but at the end of the day what was the benefit? The player got no benefit because he doesn’t have a job, and the Patriots wasted reps on a guy who cant run their offense. I would think if they looked at the tape from the last three years, they would have known he couldn’t run the offense.”

[cbs-audio url=”″ size=”340px” download=”true” name=”Mike Giardi On Gronk, Tebow” artist=”The Adam Jones Show”]

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