ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – If history is any indicator, the Patriots will wipe the floors with the Buffalo Bills today.
In nine straight season openers, the Patriots have come away with wins. In 18 of their last 20 games against the Bills, the Patriots have been victorious. The Patriots are 61-41-1 all-time against Buffalo. During Bill Belichick’s reign, the Patriots are 23-3 when facing their AFC East foe, a lapdog opponent for more than a decade.
Yet today is the beginning of a new era for Buffalo. In an overhaul, the Bills hired a new coach (Doug Marrone), hired a top-tier defensive coordinator (Mike Pettine) cut their underperforming quarterback and drafted another (E.J. Manuel), and promoted a new general manager (Doug Whaley).
The team has named electric running back C.J. Spiller (1,244 yards, 6.0 ypc, 6 TDs in 2012) its starter over veteran Fred Jackson, drafted highly touted receiver Robert Woods, and gave the reins of the offense over to Manuel, the highest quarterback selected in this year’s draft.
So while the Patriots are geared up for the start of the season, the Bills are eager to start a new phase of their team history.
The Patriots begin the season with a new wide receiver corps, including slot receiver Danny Amendola, Wes Welker’s replacement, and undrafted wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, who is expected to start as the team’s outside receiver.
Rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld, also undrafted, is expected to start in place of the injured Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm), who continues to rehab from offseason surgery.
On defense, the Patriots come into 2013 with largely the same unit, upgrading only at defensive tackle with veteran Tommy Kelly (419 tackles, 34 career sacks).
For the opener, the Patriots will have to do without rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson (hamstring) and safety Duron Harmon (hamstring) who have been declared out. Also out: running back Brandon Bolden (knee), tackle Will Svitek (knee), and defensive back Nate Ebner (ankle).
The Bills will be without starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore (wrist). Safety Jairus Byrd is listed as doubtful.
Here are the details for Sunday’s game:
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
Records: Patriots 0-0; Bills 0-0.
TV/Radio: CBS (Greg Gumbell, Dan Dierdorf); 98.5-FM The Sports Hub (Bob Socci, Scott Zolak).
Projected starting lineups:
Based on information distributed to the media, practice observations, and injuries for each team.
Patriots offense: WR Danny Amendola, LT Nate Solder, LG Logan Mankins, C Ryan Wendell, RG Dan Connolly, RT Sebastian Vollmer, TE Zach Sudfeld, WR Kenbrell Thompkins, QB Tom Brady, RB Stevan Ridley, TE Michael Hoomanawanui.
Patriots defense: NT Vince Wilfork, DT Tommy Kelly, DE Chandler Jones, DE Rob Ninkovich, LB Dont’a Hightower, LB Jerod Mayo, LB Brandon Spikes, CB Aqib Talib, CB Kyle Arrington, S Devin McCourty, S Steve Gregory.
Bills offense: WR Stevie Johnson, LT Cordy Glenn, LG Colin Brown, C Eric Wood, RG Kraig Urbik, RT Erik Pears, TE Scott Chandler, QB E.J. Manuel, RB C.J. Spiller, FB Frank Summers, WR T.J. Graham.
Bills defense: LDE Alex Carrington, DT Kyle Williams, DT Marcell Dareus, RDE Mario Williams, SLB Manny Lawson, MLB Kiko Alonso, WLB Nigel Bradham, LCB Leodis McKelvin, SS Aaron Williams, FS Jairus Byrd, RCB Ron Brooks.
Read this, link that
– Aaron Dobson is out for the opener.
– Have you read the Boston Globe’s NFL preview section? You should.
– Tim Graham, the Bills beat writer for the Buffalo News, gives us a scouting report for today’s game.
– Before the game, make sure you get up to speed on all of the Patriots’ new receivers.
– In Globe 10.0, Kevin Paul Dupont and Scott Thurston debate who will win today’s game. (Hint: It’s not about Buffalo, it’s about the spread.)
– Follow today’s game and comment on the action in our live blog. Updates start around 11 a.m. A mobile-optimized version can be found here.
Zuri Berry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @zuriberry.