By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots have put an absolute beatdown on their first three opponents. Doing so for the fourth straight week is going to be much tougher.READ MORE: Injuries Reported At Car Crash In South Boston
You may be saying to yourself, “Hold on a second there, guy who thinks he knows anything about football — they’re playing the Bills. The Buffalo Bills.” And that is true, they are indeed playing the Bills, in Buffalo, in an NFL game.
And it may actually be a competitive football game between a pair of 3-0 teams. The Bills look, dare we say, pretty good after three weeks. Their defense is as solid as they come in the NFL, and while their offense isn’t lighting the scoreboard on fire, they’re doing enough to put W’s on the board. An improved offensive line has made life easier on Josh Allen, who is completing more passes now that he doesn’t have to run for his life on every possession.
The season is still young, but it’s looking like the Bills are going to give the Patriots a little much-needed competition in the AFC East. Their schedule is almost as easy as New England’s, and it’s not too crazy to think Buffalo will flirt with 10 wins this season. A win over the NFL’s best team on Sunday would make that cause a lot more realistic.
All of this will have Bills Mafia pretty fired up on Sunday, not that they need much help in that department. Tables will be broken before the game, latex love replacements will be tossed on the field during it, and middle fingers will be flourished at the Patriots buses after the two teams are done battling. In other words, it’ll be your typical Sunday in Buffalo.
Here’s what we’ll be watching for when the Patriots pay their annual visit to western New York.
Why laugh so hard at the Bills possibly beating the Patriots on Sunday? Because Tom Brady owns the Bills. The Pegula family owns the team on paper, but they belong to Brady on the field. Their field.
He is 30-3 in his career against the Bills, with 15 of those victories coming in Buffalo. Those 15 wins are the most by any starting quarterback since 2001, including quarterbacks who actually started for the Bills. His 38 touchdowns thrown in Buffalo in that span are second only to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 39. Fitzpatrick, unlike Brady, played quarterback for the Bills.
But Brady may be a little short on options come Sunday, and that may mean the Patriots don’t put up 30-plus points. Julian Edelman is questionable, which would leave Brady without his top receiver, relying on Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers to be his offense (since there is no run game at the moment — more on that in a few). That could be an issue against a solid Bills secondary.
At least James White will be back in the mix, albeit a little on the tired side after welcoming his son, Xzavier, last weekend. But White will make not having Edelman/having a banged-up Edelman just a tad eaiser, and he’ll have some added incentive to bring home a game ball.
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With a tattered offensive line, the New England rush attack has suffered. A lot. Sony Michel has picked up just 108 yards on his 45 carries, which is good for an average of 2.4 yards per attempt. Rex Burkhead is currently New England’s leading rusher, picking up 112 yards on 24 attempts. The longest run by a Patriots rusher this season currently sits at 12 yards.
That’s not quite the bruising run game that ran through anyone that stood in their way last winter. There is time to develop into that once again, but there are some serious questions as to what the Pats can accomplish on the ground this Sunday. Buffalo has only allowed 88 rush yards per game so far this season. They kept Le’Veon Bell in check in Week 1, holding him to just 60 yards on the ground on 17 carries. Saquon Barkley had 107 yards against them in Week 2, including a 27-yard touchdown run, but 47 of those yards came on three carries on New York’s opening drive. Once the game got going, they were able to keep Barkley in check.
The Bills did, however, lose starting tackle Harrison Phillips last weekend to a torn ACL. Phillips was a big part of Buffalo’s success up front on defense, and his absence may open up some much-needed holes for Pats running backs on Sunday.
Streaking On Defense
Since we made it abundantly clear that scoring may be at a premium on Sunday, the Patriots may have to win it on defense. That should not be an issue.
The Patriots defense has not allowed a touchdown yet this season. You’ve heard that countless times, but let it soak in. It’s been three full games, and the Patriots defense has not allowed a touchdown. If they keep that streak going on Sunday, the Patriots will become the first team in the NFL’s modern era to start a season without allowing an offensive touchdown over the first four games.
The Patriots defense has been taking the football away from their opponents and lead the league with six turnovers. Devin McCourty has three of those all to himself, though Stephon Gilmore should get a 0.5 INT for that sick tip to McCourty in Week 2. Josh Allen has done a pretty good job at keeping the ball away from opponents, but he does have three picks in three games. If he throws it to the Patriots on Sunday, which is very likely given how McCourty and Jamie Collins have been playing, the Bills have no shot.
Also, did you know the defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown yet this season? That’s perverse.
The Real Bills?
The Patriots are 3-0, though the caveat is their opponents are all 0-3 at the moment. Still, we have a pretty good idea that the Patriots are indeed a good football team.
The Bills are 3-0, and their opponents are a whopping 1-8. They have wins over the Jets, Giants and Bengals, which is just as unimpressive as wins over the Steelers, Dolphins and Jets. And while the Buffalo D has yet to allow more than 17 points this season, their offense has averaged just 22 points against those cellar dwellers. Allen threw only three touchdowns against those defenses, and now he gets a matchup with one of the best secondaries in the NFL.MORE NEWS: Lawrence Teachers Will Rally Before School In Response To Increased Fighting
The Bills defense is legit. We’ve known that for a few years now, and if they play at this level throughout the season, the Bills are a real playoff contender. But their offense is still extremely suspect, and this weekend should show if they’re moving in the right direction, or still stuck in the mud.