1. Stay home. Bills defensive tackles Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams are at their best when they’re penetrating through the line and making plays in the backfield. That can sometimes work against the Bills, though. If Williams or Dareus are overly aggressive, they can leave big holes in the middle of the defense. The evidence is in the numbers. The Bills have allowed 4.1 yards per rush before contact this season. If opposing running backs didn’t gain a single yard after contact, the Bills still wouldn’t be in the top 10 in rushing yards allowed. In the first matchup against the Patriots, New England gained 200 of its 247 rushing yards between the tackles. Williams and Dareus have to do a better job of sealing the interior of the line.
2. Listen to Fitz. Ryan Fitzpatrick said last week the Bills need to do a better job getting the ball to C.J. Spiller. As WGR’s Sal Capaccio succinctly said on Twitter, “then turn it around and hand it to him.” And there’s this from ESPN Stats and Information – over the last six weeks, 30 (30!) running backs have more carries than Spiller. There’s simply no excuse for that. Spiller is averaging 7.2 yards per carry; no other running back with at least 200 carries in a season has averaged even 6.5. Spiller and Fred Jackson had just 12 combined carries last week against Houston, a number they need to double today. Bills coach Chan Gailey will have to stay committed, though, and it won’t be easy. New England is giving up just 88 yards per game.
3. Exploit New England’s weakness. The flip side to the Patriots’ run defense is the job they’ve done against the pass. The Patriots have allowed 281 yards per game and 17 touchdowns through the air. If the Bills can establish Jackson and Spiller, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has shown an ability to make plays against New England. He’s thrown for at least 300 yards in the last three games against the Patriots. New England has allowed an NFL-high 42 pass plays of 20-plus yards. That includes seven in Week Four against the Bills, four of which went to the end zone. The Patriots have gotten inconsistent play from cornerback Kyle Arrington and safeties Steve Gregory and Patrick Chung. The key for Fitzpatrick, as it seems to be every week, is to not turn the ball over. He’s thrown 10 interceptions in the last three meetings with New England.
4. Try something new. Working against slot cornerback Justin Rogers in Week Four, Patriots receiver Wes Welker was targeted 10 times and made nine catches in Week Four. The Bills are allowing nearly 80 percent of passes intended for receivers lined up in the slot to be completed this season. If Rogers can’t handle Welker, a good bet considering the receiver’s history against the Bills, Buffalo should make a switch to rookie Ron Brooks. The LSU product was active for his first game last week against Houston, but did not see any defensive snaps. With the Bills down to four healthy cornerbacks, not including Crezdon Butler, who was signed Wednesday, it’s a chance to see what Brooks can do.
5. Make a statement. There’s no denying it. Gillette Stadium is probably the worst place for the Bills to be with their backs to the wall. They’ve never won there, after all. But if it’s a signature win this team needs to save its season, then there’s no better place to be. “What do you want to be viewed as?” Kyle Williams asked of his teammates this week. A win today would go a long way toward shaping that view.
Outlook: A shootout seems like the only chance Buffalo’s got. Bad news when the guy throwing the passes for the other team is Tom Brady. Count on it being another long day for the Buffalo defense. Prediction: Patriots 37, Bills 23