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Bills-Pats Keys to the Game

After back-to-back 38-to-14 victories, the high-powered Patriots offense and stingy New England defense are home again this weekend, facing their second AFC East opponent in three weeks.

The Buffalo Bills may be winless so far, but that doesn't mean the Pats will automatically stampede their way to 3-and-0. But it's still a possibility.

Here's what fans should keep an eye on this Sunday at 1 o'clock.

Offense: Limit Lee Evans

He may not have the size and speed of Randy Moss, the imposing physique of Terrell Owens, or the flashy personality of Chad Johnson.

But Lee Evans is becoming just as much a big-play wide receiver for his team as any of them are to theirs. What's more, he likes to strike quickly.

His first-ever NFL touchdown catch was a 46-yard bomb from Drew Bledsoe in October of 2004. That game was his third in a row with catches of 40 yards or more. Later that season, he added a 69-yard TD catch to his stat sheet.

The next season, he started a December game against Miami with three first-quarter touchdowns, two of which were longer than 50 yards.

And last season, in a November game against Houston, Evans racked up 205 receiving yards … in the first quarter (he finished the game with 265, a team record).

The former University of Wisconsin Badger is quietly having an impressive start to his NFL career. As he begins his fourth professional season, Evans has more receptions, receiving yards, and receiving TDs than any wideout in Bills history.

More importantly, he's already earned the respect of his Bills teammates, who last season voted him one of their team captains.

As a college player, Evans set school records for catches and yards receiving, which were previously held by former New York Jets great Al Toon. And Evans' 26 touchdowns at Wisconsin broke the old school record held by one-time Patriot Tony Simmons.

Evans' emergence as a number-one receiver is no doubt helping speed the development of Buffalo's starting QB and fellow fourth-year player J.P. Losman, who has had his struggles against the Patriots.

Last year, in the Pats' season opener, it was Buffalo's defense that struck pay dirt on the game's first play. With Evans on the other side of the ball, the threat exists for the Bills offense to do the same this time around.

Defense: Neutralize Aaron Schobel

The Patriots' Matt Light is one of the best left tackles in the NFL. Last season, he was finally recognized as such when he earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

It's not often that a defensive end or outside linebacker gets the better of Light. But on those rare occasions, Aaron Schobel is usually the one giving Light fits.

Since his rookie year in 2001, the Buffalo right defensive end has had some of his best games versus the Patriots. Even when the rest of the Bills play poorly against the Pats, Schobel steps up, particularly when Buffalo comes to New England.

In fact, the former Texas Christian University standout has more career sacks of Patriots QB Tom Brady (10.5) than any other NFL defender.

Consider some of Schobel's more memorable performances.

Last season: four tackles, a sack, and two QB hurries in the season opener here at Gillette Stadium. In the October rematch, he sacked Brady twice, forced a fumble, a led his team with nine tackles.

2005: In an October game at Gillette, had two sacks, two QB pressures and a hit of Brady. He also forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, and made four tackles. Had yet another sack in the December contest, plus three more tackles.

2001: As a rookie, Schobel introduced himself to Brady with a pair of sacks in a game here in Foxboro.

So, we've established that the guy is good, but he's also consistent. After starting 11 games as a rookie, Schobel has started all 16 regular season games for Buffalo each year since 2002.

In just his seventh season with the Bills, he only needs 1.5 quarterback takedowns to reach 62 for his career. That would propel Schobel into second place on the team's all-time sack list (the legendary Bruce Smith is first with 171).

If New England doesn't find a way to contain Schobel, he could make that move this Sunday.

Special Teams: Get Gostkowski back on track; Stop the Bills' big-play guys

In Week 1, backup QB and holder Matt Cassel fumbled the snap on a 43-yard field goal attempt. Sunday night, there was no excuse.

The snap and hold were there for him, but K Stephen Gostkowski just didn't follow through enough on his 41-yard try. He pushed the kick wide right.

Gostkowski is still a good kicker; he just needs to stop thinking so much and rushing himself.

On the Bills side, they have one of the better return games in the NFL. Terrence McGee and Roscoe Parrish have big-play potential each time they touch the ball. Pats special teams coach Brad Seely will need his players to prevent McGee and Parrish from giving Buffalo prime field position … or worse, returning one for a touchdown.

Intangibles: Avoid the trap

After a convincing win last weekend and a showdown with high-octane Cincinnati on the horizon, this could be the perfect scenario for Buffalo to pull an upset.

That is, if the team they were playing weren't the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick's players rarely, if ever, get complacent about an opponent, even one that has yet to win a game this season.

Expect the Pats to be ready on Sunday.

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