The New England Patriots are huge favorites once again as they take on an 0-2 New York Jets team starting a third-string quarterback in Luke Falk.
After three weeks of tearing up opponents that have gone a collective 0-9 in 2019, the Patriots are set to face a 3-0 Buffalo Bills team that enters with the attitude of an up-and-coming outfit looking to knock off the AFC East’s juggernaut.
PATRIOTS OFFENSE VS. BILLS DEFENSE
– Can Patriots receivers get open?
The Bills defense is one of the NFL’s more underrated units. This week, Bill Belichick praised them as one of the league’s best. A big part of their success comes from a talented secondary led by third-year cornerback Tre’Davious White on the outside. On the back end, Buffalo safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer are the sort of versatile, Devin McCourty-type safeties that can pretty much do everything.So far this year, the Patriots offense has thrived on Tom Brady making quick decisions and getting the ball to open receivers. However, the Bills are a more savvy defense than what the Patriots have faced the past few weeks. Those quick, open windows could be harder to come by.
If White winds up matching up against Edelman in coverage, that could wind up taking away Brady’s most reliable option. This could be a game where the team needs the likes of Phillip Dorsett and James White to step up big time.
– Life After James Develin
If the Buffalo secondary is talented, then the sensible option would be to run the ball — like they did during last year’s Super Bowl run. However, the Patriots’ rushing attack hasn’t been quite as dynamic as it was late last year — and it likely won’t be.
The Patriots’ most effective running setup last year was Sony Michel running behind fullback James Develin. So far this year, Michel has been slow to get going and Develin is on injured reserve. So that’s completely out the window.
On top of that, the team is working with a new center in Ted Karras and a backup left tackle. They’ll need to show Sunday that they can start to run the ball. Otherwise, opposing defenses might start teeing off on Brady.
It’s no secret that the Bills’ biggest threat on offense is quarterback Josh Allen using his legs to create plays. That includes him carrying the ball himself and extending plays to find open receivers.
The Patriots defense has been dominant this year. In case you haven’t heard (and if you’re reading thise you definitely have), they haven’t let opposing offenses score a single touchdown. But they haven’t faced an athletic quarterback like Allen yet.
On Sunday, the Patriots will likely rely heavily on guys like Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy to keep Allen contained in the pocket — and make him pay if he tries to force himself outside. If they can do that, then the Patriots can make Allen try to beat them with just his arm.
– Can the Patriots contain and confuse him?
If Allen is forced to simply drop back and pass, that should be considered a victory for New England. While the second-year quarterback is improving, he still has a tendency to get flighty in the pocket. The book on him is that, if you take his first option away, he’ll take off running. When he’s forced to drop back and read defenses, his decision-making and accuracy are exposed.
A big part of that comes from the Patriots’ veteran secondary, which excels at disguising coverages and putting players in positions that quarterbacks don’t expect — especially young quarterbacks who like to stare down receivers.
Patriots vs. Dolphins
Start time/date: Sunday, Sept. 22 | 1:00 p.m. EST at Gillette Stadium
TV: CBS – This is another daytime game for the Patriots this year on the normal CBS spot. This will be on regional television, so it will air in most parts of New England.