Try to remember back to a few weeks ago.
The Patriots had won the first three games of the season, with backup quarterbacks. I’d like to put emphasis on that. Backup quarterbacks. Plural.
Not only was Brady suspended, but Garoppolo wasn’t healthy, and then even his backup went down. They were faced with Julian Edelman as the potential starting quarterback. Jacoby Brissett ended up starting, but a rookie, third string quarterback who was injured and didn’t get enough reps in practice was not enough. The Patriots took home the loss in week four, to the Buffalo Bills at home.
Almost halfway through the season, that is the only loss the Patriots have suffered. Not only did they lose, they were shutout for the first time in ten years. This week, they travel to Buffalo, to try to get revenge on the Bills.
This Patriots team is not the same team that took the loss earlier in October. Rob Ninkovich is back from suspension, helping a Patriot’s defense that has only allowed twenty or more points twice this season. In comparison, twenty-three teams average more than twenty points allowed per game, and their offense has only failed to put that number up once (against the Bills). Only putting up sixteen points last time, the Bills will definitely face even more of a challenge now that he’s back. Jamie Collins still plays a large role, and with the secondary performing well, the Patriots should do very well stopping a Bill’s passing “attack” that ranks 31st in the NFL.
Despite a weak passing game, the Bills have the second best ground game in the league. Led by LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor, the Bills have ran for more touchdowns than they have thrown this season. While the injury is not as devastating as that to Big Ben, the Patriots face another offense with an injured star. McCoy is battling a hamstring injury, that limited him to just eleven yards on eight carries last week. Without him playing at full strength, they still put up a great fight against the Dolphins, however a hampered McCoy will not get the job done against a talented Patriots team. He is listed as questionable. The leading receiver from week four, Robert Woods is listed as doubtful. Defensive star Marcell Darius missed last week’s matchup, and might miss this week’s game as well. The Patriots do not have any significant injuries.
The last time these two teams met, the Patriot’s issue was a lack of offense. While it is a team game, the player with the largest impact is the quarterback. Brady is back. This is an entirely new team that the Bills have to get ready for, and one that Brady has defeated twenty-five times in the past. Aside from the great quarterback, the league’s best tight end was not a factor in the shutout loss to the Bills. Blount has been performing very well this season, and now that Brady and Gronkowski are back, the Patriots have arguably the best offense in the league to pair with one of the best defenses.
While the Bills have one of the top defenses as well, we cannot expect the Patriots to play the same way they did in the last matchup. On the road, I do not think this will be a massive blowout. However, I do not think that the Patriots will be swept by the Buffalo Bills. Without LeSean McCoy playing at full strength, with an offense with their stars back, and facing a Bills team that has ranked second to last in passing, this game will go to the Patriots.