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New England Patriots Game 3 preview vs. Buffalo Bills: A fan’s take
The New England Patriots travel to Buffalo for a Sunday, Sept. 25 meeting of undefeated teams as they square off against the Buffalo Bills. The Patriots enter play on the heels of two convincing but costly wins against the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers, while the Bills have ridden an explosive offense to cruise past Kansas City and a comeback to defeat Oakland in Week 2.
In the first two contests, the Patriots have lost center Dan Koppen(notes) (ankle) and Myron Pryor(notes) (shoulder) for the season while key contributors Patrick Chung(notes) (thumb), Kyle Arrington(notes) (concussion) and Aaron Hernandez(notes) (torn MCL) have yet to practice and are doubtful for Sunday. In total, 15 Patriots players had limited or no participation in practice on Wednesday, many of who are in the defensive secondary.
The injuries come at a bad time for the Patriots as they face a Bills team that leads the NFL in total points, led by the league's top rushing attack that has accumulated 380 yards in the first two games. Running back Fred Jackson(notes) leads the league with 229 yards; his 6.5 yards per attempt currently rank as second best in the NFL. Jackson is only one of six NFL running backs averaging more than 100 yards per game.
The offense may begin with the running game but the passing of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) has been impressive as well. Currently, the Bills signal-caller leads the NFL with seven touchdowns to just one interception with a passer rating of 102.7. These current results are a far cry from the 67.6 passer rating that Fitzpatrick has in three career games against the Patriots. Second-year wideout David Nelson(notes) leads the team with 14 receptions, nearly half his season total from 2010, while last year's leading receiver, Stevie Johnson(notes), has caught 12 passes for the Bills. The surprise contributions of tight end Scott Chandler(notes) have been a welcomed addition; three of his seven receptions this season have been for touchdowns.
The current Patriots secondary will face a difficult challenge slowing a Bills offense that has averaged close to 40 points per contest entering this weekend. The injuries to all but one member of the starting defensive backfield (Devin McCourty(notes)) adds an air of uncertainty as the team looks to extend their winning streak against Buffalo to 16 games and win their 21st of 22 contests versus the Bills since December 2000.
Tom Brady(notes) will be forced to shift his focus on other receivers to compensate for the loss of Aaron Hernandez, who is expected to miss a minimum of two games with a slight tear in his MCL. With one fewer option to pass to, the opportunity presents itself for Chad Ochocinco(notes) to step up and become a more prominent fixture in the passing game. To date, Ochocinco has caught just three passes for only 59 yards.
While the Buffalo offense has been explosive, its defensive secondary will need to improve on the performance put forth last week against the Oakland where Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell(notes) registered his 10th career 300-yard passing performance—in large part due to a lack of a Bills pass rush.
The Patriots own a 60-40-1 all-time record against the Bills. For the past decade, home-field advantage has not been a factor for the Bills. In fact, the Patriots have experienced greater success playing in Buffalo, where the average score has been 31-8. When the teams meet in Foxboro, the winning margin is 27-16. Tom Brady, coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots plan on continuing that trend on Sunday.
Scott Duhaime is a fan and follower of the New England Patriots for over 30 years, witnessing the team's ascent from league irrelevance to among the league's elite franchises. His professional career includes a solid foundation of analytics that contributes to a better appreciation of player and team contributions.
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Yahoo! Sports NFL Box Score: San Diego Chargers 21 @ New England Patriots 35
Yahoo! Sports NFL Box Score: New England Patriots 38 @ Miami Dolphins 24
Yahoo! Sports NFL Box Score: Buffalo Bills 41 @ Kansas City Chiefs 7
Yahoo! Sports Box Score: Oakland Raiders 35 @ Buffalo Bills 38
Pro-Football-Reference.com New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills head-to-head franchise record
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