If you were New England’s Offensive Coordinator, how would you attack Buffalo’s defense schematically, and which mismatches would you look to exploit?
I think Patriots will attack the Bills how they do most opponents—by getting the ball out quickly and force defenders to be disciplined and consistent with their tackling. This sticks to the strength of the Pats’ skill players, and directly challenges aggressive defenses who rely on open field tackling. Per usual, I think we can expect Josh McDaniels to use some formations that isolate Gronkowski and make it harder to allocate multiple defenders to cover him. I would expect to see a good amount of him split outside and isolated, as well as an inline tight end out of closed formations. This should make it harder to disguise how many and which defenders could be used to defend Gronkowski.
I think the Patriots will also scheme ways for their wide receivers to get easier separation versus man coverage, so I would bet we’ll see some stack releases, motions and pick plays come Sunday. While I hope they don’t use too much play action, I imagine we’ll see some max protects and 2 man route combos, allowing Edelman to run a route with multiple breaks and get separation. Pats’ also have a tendency to run a lot of empty formations (shotgun, no running back), especially against teams with talented defensive lines. When they go empty, expect some no huddle to try and tire out of the defensive line and take advantage of certain personnel groups Buffalo puts out on the field.
If you were New England’s Defensive Coordinator, how would you attack Buffalo’s defense schematically, and which mismatches would you look to exploit?
Defensively I would imagine the Patriots being their typical conservative, playing mostly Cover 1 and challenging Tyrod Taylor to make good decisions and make accurate throws to the outside. Any team with Greg Roman running the show is going to be able to run the ball well, so I think bigger defensive tackles Sealver Siliga and Alan Branch may be a bigger part of the rotation (250 pound rookie Geneo Grissom saw extensive snaps at DT against the Steelers). Roman excels at creating advantageous angles in the run game, along with utilizing a lot of misdirection, so the front seven will have to play well and maintain gap integrity in order to shut down the Bills’ running game.
With Percy Harvin, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Charles Clay, do you think the Patriots have enough talent in the secondary to contain the offense?
While there has been a lot doom and gloom about the Patriots situation at corner, I’m not as concerned as others might be about matching up with Watkins, Harvin and co. Don’t’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Devin McCourty are all high caliber plays that help control the middle of the field, and New England now has a deep rotation of pass rushers across the defensive line. I’m also a big fan of both Malcolm Butler and Tarell Brown and the swagger they play with. While their corners aren’t the most promising group, as team they should be able to challenge Tyrod Taylor to make difficult throws outside the hashes. Big Ben was able to find success with these in week 1, but you cannot expect Taylor to make those kind of throws with consistency. Last week showed that Tyrod is a QB you can with. Sunday the Pats will try to make him prove he’s a QB you can win because of.
Who’s an under the radar player on each side of the ball that Bills’ fans should keep an eye on?
Defensive player(s) to keep an eye on: Trey Flowers, a rookie defensive end who was inactive week 1, was a Draft Twitter favorite. Despite being undersized, Flowers is as strong as an ox and plays with heavy hands. I expect him to play and do so well this Sunday.
Offensive player(s) to keep an eye on: Their group of rookie interior lineman; Center David Andrews and Guards Tre Jackson and Shaq Mason. All three will most likely see significant snaps on Sunday, and will be put up to a huge test against Dareus and Williams. While that duo will do more than their fair share of damage, these young offensive lineman being able to battle and not play terrible will go a long way.