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Five keys: Bills at Patriots

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  January 1, 2012 12:05 PM

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FOXBOROUGH – Time to finish out the regular season with home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs at stake against the Buffalo Bills.

To cap a 13-3 regular season, the Patriots need to do the following things:

  • Protect Tom Brady: He has a gimpy left shoulder and you don’t want to inflict any further damage. The good news for the Patriots is the Bills don’t rush the passer very well.
  • Limit C.J. Spiller: The Bills’ starting running back has played well of late and is a home run threat every time he touches the ball. The longer the Bills can stay balanced, the longer they’ll stay in the game.
  • Pressure Ryan Fitzpatrick up the middle: The Bills quarterback is very streaky and he can get hot. The best way to prevent that is to pressure him up the middle. His footwork gets sloppy and he starts to sail passes, which could lead to interceptions.
  • Run the ball: The Bills’ front seven is not very good outside of SLB Chris Kelsay and ILB Nick Barnett. The Bills really have problems setting the edge, so this could be a very big day for Stevan Ridley.
  • Hit the underneath crossing routes: While the Bills have a good ballhawking secondary, they don’t cover underneath very well with the linebackers. Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez could find a lot of room, but Brady must watch the tipped passes. That was a gameplan point for the Bills the first time around and it worked as some of his tipped passes wound up as interceptions.

THE PICK

The Patriots’ defense could have some issues against the Bills, but the Patriots’ offense should have no problem moving the ball. The Bills are a great backdoor cover team so we could see them rallying late.

Patriots 37, Bills 27.

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