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Game Matchups: Bills haven't been strong against the pass

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WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN


It will be a surprise if the Patriots have much success in this area. New England still has many more questions than answers along its young offensive line, and will be facing one of the best run defenses in the NFL. The Bills are holding opponents to an average of 71.5 yards rushing per game. It's a defense led by defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and former New England linebacker Brandon Spikes, whose strength has always been defending the run. The Patriots running game has had its moments this season, but hasn't been consistent. If the New England offensive line doesn't get bullied, there's always the possibility that running back Stevan Ridley could have a big game, but the more likely scenario would involve Shane Vereen finding success against sub packages with Spikes potentially off the field. ADVANTAGE: BILLS

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WHEN THE BILLS RUN


Buffalo has the weapons to take advantage of a New England defense that has had trouble against the run. The Bills are a run-first offense and they get production from both starting running back C.J Spiller and backup Fred Jackson, both of whom are also receiving threats. Jackson is second on the team in rushing (152 yards on 32 carries), first in receptions (26) and second in receiving yards (228). The Patriots run defense has been at its best against the Vikings and Raiders, teams that were each without their No. 1 running back. New England held a Minnesota team (minus Adrian Peterson) to 54 yards, and limited Oakland's Darren McFadden to 67 yards. The Raiders were without running back Maurice Jones-Drew for that contest. This will be a test similar to Kansas City when the Patriots coughed up more than 200 yards on the ground. ADVANTAGE: BILLS

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WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS


It's no secret that New England has had trouble moving the ball through the air consistently this season. One could argue that the No. 1 problem has been pass protection, especially against quick defensive ends, but the receivers haven't been stellar either. It's frightening to think where the Patriots would be without Julian Edelman. Brandon LaFell was one of the few bright spots in the debacle against Kansas City (six receptions for 119 yards) and the Patriots need more games like that from him. Although the Bills haven't been strong against the pass so far, they have done a good job applying pressure (17 sacks). Dareus (three sacks last week against Detroit) and Mario Williams could make life difficult for New England quarterback Tom Brady. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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WHEN THE BILLS PASS


Buffalo made a change at quarterback before last Sunday's game against Detroit, inserting journeyman Kyle Orton for E.J. Manuel, the Bills first-round pick in 2013. Orton made the move pay off by completing 30 of 43 passes for 308 yards and a touchdown in Buffalo's 17-14 victory. It's worth noting that Orton also had a pass intercepted by cornerback Rashean Mathis that was returned 41 yards for a TD. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins, a rookie out of Clemson, is Buffalo's top receiving threat. Watkins has 24 receptions for a team-high 284 yards (11.8 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. The Buffalo passing game will have its hands full, as the New England defense has been ranked first in passing yards allowed for a good chunk of the season. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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SPECIAL TEAMS


New England's Matthew Slater has performed well in punt coverage this season and is among the best - if not the best - at his position in the NFL. The Patriots coverage will be tested, since Buffalo's C.J. Spiller (kickoffs) and Leodis McKelvin (punts) provide big-play potential in the return game. The Bills use a significant number of starters on their coverage and return units, and Buffalo kicker Dan Carpenter has made 13 of his 15 field goal attempts this season, including a 58-yarder with four seconds left that was the difference in last Sunday's 17-14 triumph over Detroit. Stephen Gostkowski has made all 13 of his field goal attempts this season (long of 48) and has been one of the team's best performers. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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OTHER FACTORS


The Bills are at home, and should be feeling good about themselves after coming from 14 points down to defeat Detroit on the road last week. The Patriots haven't had much trouble at Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium, however, winning nine of the last 10 games played there. One key may be how much Orton can improve a Buffalo offense that ranks near the bottom of the NFL in third-down percentage, fourth-down percentage, red zone percentage and time of possession. A victory in Buffalo would mean added momentum for the Patriots, who will have three consecutive home games (N.Y. Jets, Chicago and Denver) leading into their bye week. ADVANTAGE: PATRIOTS

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