After stunning the Steelers in Pittsburgh, the New England Patriots have usurped the number one seed in the AFC. The defending champions have a solid chance to maintain that spot, with two division games left to play against meager opponents. This week, the Patriots take on the Buffalo Bills at home, in what should be an extremely winnable football game. With the AFC East crown already bestowed upon its rightful owner, the Bills are clinging to playoff relevancy by a thread.
Week 16 New England Patriots Keys to Victory
Make Tyrod Taylor Throw
Despite being disrespectfully benched for Nathan Peterman weeks ago, Tyrod Taylor has been good for the Buffalo Bills. He’s not exceptional, but he’s mobile, and extremely valuable to this football club due to his playmaking ability. That being said, Taylor is a game manager.
Patriot’s defensive coordinator Matt Patricia has the opportunity to call a good defensive game by stacking the box, limiting LeSean McCoy’s effectiveness on the ground. By doing this, he’ll force a mistake prone Taylor to put the ball in the air more than he’d like to; committing crucial turnovers that have consistently haunted the Bills down the stretch all season. Comparing this Patriots defensive backfield to years prior, this backfield would get a fairly mediocre rating. As playoff season approaches, defensive scheming will be crucial in keeping this defensive backfield competitive.
Run the Football
The Bills are 25th against the run through week 15, allowing 122 yards per game on the ground to opposing backfields. What does this mean? Two words: Dion Lewis. With Rex Burkhead out for the season, it becomes imperative for the rest of the Patriots backfield to step up their game. But that starts with the best running back on the Patriots roster, number 33.
This season Lewis has averaged 5.2 yards per carry. Expect that number to maintain (while his yards per game number increases) this week against a Bills team that has struggled to stop runners, especially on the road. Look for the Patriots to set the tempo by running early and often. The Patriots are most successful when they get an early multi-possession lead and kill the spark of their less remarkable division rivals. Sunday’s game should be a similar story.
Target Rob Gronkowski
Tom Brady is the best in business, and that statement will always be true as long as he continues to lace up his cleats on Sunday mornings. That being said, the best player on this team right now is Rob Gronkowski. Without 87 on the field, this team is hopeless, and is not a Super Bowl contender. If anything, the week 15 bout with the Miami Dolphins proves this to be true.
While Gronkowski is healthy, he must be utilized, and consistently. With a maximum of five games left to be played (including postseason) the perennial tight end needs to be peppered with targets: 15 a game seems about right. In the midst of games, the way he gains chunks of yardage is almost abusive to linebacker corps, in what seems to inevitably always be a mismatch. This guy is truly special, and football will never see anything like him again.