The Bills head into a pivotal AFC East showdown with rival New England. Given their divisonal struggles and Miami’s place in first right now, getting a win in New England will be crucial for them. As they look for their third straight win over New England, here are some guys that the Bills can’t take lightly.
Seems like somewhat of an obvious one, but the one way in which the Patriots can do something about what is a fearsome Bills attack is getting pressure on Josh Allen. Given their struggles against running quarterbacks, the Patriots will be depending on their edge rushers, particularly Judon, to put Allen under duress. There’s a pretty simple reason to be wary of Judon. He’s the NFL’s leader in sacks. There have only been three games in which he has been held sackless, and he’s a recurring threat every time he hits the field.
The Bills seemed to crack the Judon code last year in the latter two matchups, but this is a different version of Judon. Last year, he dropped off in form in the latter half of the year as linemen figured out how to hold him without being penalized, and he couldn’t compensate. This year, by being even quicker on his feet, using changes in direction and spin moves to evade tackles, and just having a stronger motor and push, he has completely tossed that aside. Buffalo will need to block him well if they want to get anywhere close to avoiding entering punt formation for the third straight game.
A lot of the hype on the Patriots secondary has been going to speedy rookie Jack Jones, CB1 Jalen Mills, and safety Kyle Dugger, among others. Not enough people are talking about Jonathan Jones, and it would be a mistake to keep it that way. He has quietly been an extremely solid corner and has made life difficult for some very talented receivers.
In coverage, he has been a bend-but-not-break kind of guy, but ultimately, it’s been hard to get much done against him. He has only allowed 21 receptions on a catch rate of just 52%, both of which are top-20 marks. He has scored as many touchdowns as he has allowed (one). Most importantly, he can get to the ball. He has had six pass breakups, three interceptions and two forced fumbles, and if the Bills aren’t careful, he can get meaningful takeaways. Of course, the Bills boast an excellent core of receivers, one that is deeper than almost any other in the league, but against the Vikings, a similarly deep passing attack, Jones had three pass deflections and an interception.
One of the reasons that the Patriots offense has had some semblance of life despite some poor playcalling and offensive line play is Stevenson. After splitting reps with Damien Harris as the number two guy, Stevenson has taken a firm handle on the number one running back spot. The former sooner has been huge for the Patriots, with over 600 rushing yards, five TD at a solid 4.5 yards per carry. At 6’0″, 230 lb, he has intimidating size and physicality, and he’s been a good inside runner who is very reliable in terms of yards after contact. However, he’s surprisingly shifty and can get to the edge from time to time.
He has also been extremely reliable as a pass catcher, and last week against the Vikings, led the Patriots in receiving. All in all, he has had 41 receptions for 283 yards and just like Stevenson the back, Stevenson the receiver is very difficult to bring down. The Patriots’ versatility in terms of having a good number of solid pass catchers – despite lacking a true WR1 – gets much stronger when Stevenson is on the field. The fact that he has been this productive with such poor offensive line play shows just how good he is. He’ll likely be the center of the Patriots’ attack axis against the Bills.
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