Thad’s Three Things: Bills at Patriots

NFL

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, celebrates his touchdown pass to wide receiver N’Keal Harry, right, in the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Three things to consider as the Bills get ready for another trip to Foxboro…

What To Do With Tre

The Patriots’ best receiver is Julian Edelman, who famously has made all his hay from the slot. The Patriots’ 2nd best receiver is probably Mohammed Sanu. Also a slot guy.

Tre’Davious White is the Bills’ best corner and one of the top few in the game right this second. Would Sean McDermott be willing to move White inside and put best on best against Edelman? Leaving him on an outside receiver might provide rookie N’Keal Harry with the best education of his life, but be of little help to the Bills.

I would be surprised if White is not at least moved around a bit. Maybe he only gets 4-5 snaps against a guy like Edelman (who may be way below 100% with a knee injury), but at least give Tom Brady extra things to consider at the line of scrimmage.

Keep It Clean Josh

Round one with the Patriots featured four Bills interceptions and three by Josh Allen. Along with the blocked punt for a touchdown, it was the deciding factor in a 16-10 Bills loss.

Allen says that game was a turning point for his season. It taught him what not to do. Since that week 4 loss, Allen has three interceptions the rest of the season and only two in the last nine games.

That doesn’t mean the ball security issue is gone. Allen has fumbled nine times in the ten games since that New England game. It’s a minor miracle the Bills have kept the ball seven of those nine times.

This needs to be a turnover free Josh Allen game. The Patriots aren’t going to score a ton of points on their own against an elite defense like the Bills have. The Buffalo offense can’t help them.

Finish Them

The Bills red zone efficiency has been sagging the last few weeks, in large part because the quality of defense they face has increased. Buffalo was number one in the NFL near midseason, but they go into week 16 11th.

Last Sunday in Pittsburgh, Allen scored the game winning touchdown converting a third and long. A TD there instead of a field goal was probably a monster play. Both of the final Steelers drives that ended in interceptions were also in field goal range. If Pittsburgh only needed a three to tie, maybe they do that and win in overtime.

Just like in Pittsburgh, the Bills won’t get many red zone opportunities. They put two out of three in the end zone against the Steelers. Likely the same success rate will be required against the Patriots.

The Pick

This game should be about the same rockfight the Bills just played in Pittsburgh. Both teams have elite defenses. Both teams have middling offenses. It’ll just be Tom Brady instead of a guy named Duck taking snaps on the other side this week.

However, it’s hard to say how much better Brady is these days. He’s been under 200 yards passing in three of his last four. He’s been under 60% on completions in each of his last five.

It’s hard to imagine either of those stats improving in a game against the Bills. However, Brady still does not turn the ball over much. He has only seven interceptions and is tied for the 5th lowest INT percentage in the league. If Devlin Hodges doesn’t throw four interceptions last week, the Bills probably don’t win (I know… genius analysis).

The three games New England has lost were against offenses with dynamic playmakers–Baltimore, Houston and Kansas City. All three are offenses that can push a defense. The Bills don’t have that. Buffalo wants to win low scoring, defensive battles. The Patriots are just fine playing that game, too.

This is the best chance the Bills have had at beating the Patriots in Foxboro in a legit game. New England badly needs this because it’ll probably take two wins to get a bye. Their banged up offense will be hard pressed to make the Super Bowl without a week off. Buffalo could easily derail those plans.

But, I’m not picking it. New England is at home with a slightly better quarterback and probably an infinitesimally better defense. Also, I won’t pick against the champs until Buffalo proves they can take the champs down. Give me New England 16-13.

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