Patriots vs. Bills matchups

Glen Farley

Editor's note: For Sunday publication

WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL – The Bills are giving ground at an alarming rate – 355 rushing yards to the Broncos and Steelers in their two games to date. Most alarming is the fact that a defense predicated on speed is moving like a, well, buffalo. Both Travis Henry and Willie Parker exceeded 100 yards rushing versus the Bills. Figure on the Patriots continuing to use the one-two punch of Laurence Maroney and Sammy Morris, who has been better than advertised in the early going.

ADVANTAGE: Patriots

WHEN THE BILLS RUN THE BALL – After 3,365 yards over three years, the Bills have moved from Willis McGahee to the speedier Marshawn Lynch. The first-round draft pick broke in by gaining 90 yards on 19 carries against the Broncos in his NFL debut, but he ran into a Lynch mob in Pittsburgh last Sunday. Lynch picked up 64 yards, but it took him 18 tries to do it and the Steelers were pretty much able to render him useless as they pulled away for a 26-3 romp. While the score (38-14) had something to do with it, the Patriots are coming off an effort in which they limited San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson to 43 yards on 18 carries.

ADVANTAGE: Patriots

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL – With free safety Ko Simpson and cornerback Jason Webster both out for the season with injuries and corner Nate Clements having left as a free agent, the secondary is a primary concern in Buffalo, particularly when the pass rush is lacking as it was last week. End Aaron Schobel has given the Pats (specifically Matt Light) problems in the past. He’d better today because, given time, with his new stash of weapons Tom Brady will do precisely what he’s done in matching 38-14 wins over the Jets and Chargers – pick the Bills apart.

ADVANTAGE: Patriots

WHEN THE BILLS PASS THE BALL – The Bills’ offense is bad and bickering. In the immediate aftermath of last Sunday’s loss, fourth-year quarterback J.P. Losman (253 yards passing in two games) took what many perceived as a shot at coordinator Steve Fairchild in stating that the Bills’ offense was too conservative, a point that would seem to be backed by the fact that deep threat Lee Evans has caught all of four balls for 22 yards. On Monday, Losman backtracked, accusing the media of trying to divide his team while asserting that he and everyone else in a Bills uniform could have played better in Pittsburgh. Ya think?

ADVANTAGE: Patriots

SPECIAL TEAMS – You had to figure if you read long enough, at some point you’d reach the strength of the Bills’ game. Congratulations. You’ve read long enough. Despite toiling in conditions that often aren’t conducive to punting, Brian Moorman has represented the AFC in the last two Pro Bowls. Terrence McGee boasts a career kickoff return average that exceeds 27 yards over five years. Look for the Patriots to deliberately kick the ball short, conceding that in an attempt to get better coverage. Roscoe Parrish lends a game-breaking presence to the Bills’ punt return unit. Place-kicker Stephen Gostkowski (sophomore jinx?) remains under the microscope for New England.

ADVANTAGE: Bills