1. Beware of spoilers After starting the season 4-0, the Bills have gone just 3-8. But they’ve relished playing the role of spoiler: They downed the Broncos last Sunday, preventing Denver from clinching the AFC West. Buffalo nearly knocked off the Jets the previous week as well, losing on a defensive touchdown with just over two minutes remaining. New England’s defense limited the Bills to just 168 total yards in a 20-10 win in Foxborough on Nov. 9. It was the week before Matt Cassel busted out and started to put up prolific passing numbers, so New England turned to rookie running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (26 carries, 105 yards) to anchor the offense.
2. Keep offense down and out Nearly all of Buffalo’s NFL rankings have drastically slipped during the past two months. The offense has been held to 10 points or less in three of the Bills’ last seven contests, and they are averaging 22.4 points per game (19th in the NFL), but that number was inflated by a 54-point outburst against the lowly Chiefs. Quarterback Trent Edwards has thrown for only 11 touchdowns in 13 games and has an 86.5 rating. His favorite target remains Lee Evans (58 catches, 954 yards). Evans leads the receiving corps with only three touchdowns. Running back Marshawn Lynch has picked up his production in recent weeks, with three 100-yard games in the past six contests, and has run for 1,036 yards and eight scores this season. Tackle Jason Peters was Buffalo’s lone Pro Bowl selection, but he missed last week’s game with a knee injury.
3. Employ aerial assault Buffalo’s defense has been solid, but as a team the Bills are not creating turnovers and have a –7 ratio on the season. They may struggle to contain the Patriots’ potent passing attack — they have the 17th-ranked pass defense in the NFL. Buffalo has the 18th-ranked defense overall (21.9 points per game) and 19th-ranked rush defense (118.5 yards). Cornerback Terrence McGee leads the secondary with three interceptions, while linebacker Kawika Mitchell and defensive end Ryan Denney top the team with four sacks. Paul Posluszny leads Buffalo with 104 tackles from his middle linebacker position.
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This week's OT cover
OT beat writersMaureen Mullen brings you Red Sox information and insights.
Tom Wilcox covers the Patriots.
Scott Souza is all over the Celtics.
Danny Picard is on the ice with the Bruins.
Mike McDonald takes a look at the humorous side of Boston sports