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Keys to the Starting lineup presented by CarMax: Tom Brady's O battles Rex Ryan's D

It's an age-old question, but one that has nothing to do with a chicken, an egg or a road.

Rather, what's better an elite offense or an elite defense?

With Tom Brady's potentially potent Patriots (1-0) offense heading to Buffalo Sunday afternoon to take on Rex Ryan's presumably dominant Bills (1-0) defense in an early-season AFC East battle another argument in that great debate may be staged.

Brady is coming off an opener in which he threw four touchdowns and needs just four more to reach the milestone of 400 for his career.

Ryan's deep, talented defense is fresh off an opening day upset of the pass-happy Colts that's emboldened the brash coach and his talented players.

Ryan has given Brady problems at times in the past during his tenure in New York and even as a coordinator in Baltimore. While the quarterback has toasted Ryan's teams at times, he's also had some of his annual worst passer ratings against his troops.

Bill Belichick and Brady clearly have respect for Ryan's game planning style on defense and the way he fits his weekly schemes to his personnel and opponents. Really, it's a very Belichickian way to approaching things. 

Ryan is backed by impressive talent in Buffalo that starts with a well-paid, talented defensive front. But Brady also brings Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and his own impressive posse to the battle.

And while the strengths of the two teams battle it out, the perceived weaknesses of the Patriots defense and the Bills offense will also have a grand say in the way this AFC East affair plays out.

There will be plenty of talent, plenty of noise (the "Bills Mafia" crowd will actually be seeking a Guinness record), and plenty of schemes on full display this weekend at Ralph Wilson Stadium. It should be a fun game and a potential referendum on the relative importance of offense and defense to a football team.

Here are just a few of the many factors that could play role in the outcome of this intriguing contest in Western New York:

It's all on the line - Faithful CarMax Starting Lineup readers will notice this is the same key for the second straight week. Well, get used to it. The uncertainty of the Patriots interior offensive line will be a question until it consistently proves itself worthy of the tasks at hand. The group rotated four players through the mix in the opener, including a trio of rookies. David Andrews was solid playing wire-to-wire as an undrafted rookie at center. Ryan Wendell dealt with an illness and will once again be out of action. That means Andrews is in the man in the middle again. He'll face a much bigger challenge on the road in a hostile environment against a defensive line that includes Pro Bowl defensive tackles Marcell Dareus (making his season debut) and Kyle Williams. That's a lot to deal with on lots of levels. The rest of the line faces its challenges as well with what might be the best defensive front in the game, one that will be leaned on heavily by Ryan's aggressive schemes. This battle in the trenches will be where it all begins.

Gronk vs. King Kong - Rob Gronkowski will not actually be facing the movie gorilla this week, but he's certainly going to face more of a challenge than the Steelers put forth in the opener. Ryan already jokingly acknowledged that his team will at least put someone on Gronkowski, which the Pittsburgh defense failed to do last Thursday night more than once. Gronkowski has always had good games in his return home to Western New York. He averages more than a touchdown per meeting with Buffalo. Bills No. 1 cornerback Stephon Gilmore lobbied for the task of taking on Gronkowski this week. If that happens, it would be a fun matchup and open things up for other Patriots weapons. If not, Gronkowski could see linebackers and safety Aaron Williams. No matter who No. 87 sees in front of him, assuming it's not King Kong as Ryan joked, it's probably the first place that Brady will once again look with his throws. Gronkowski may just be the best offensive player in the game right now.

Patriot on edge - Defensively the Patriots face an impressive challenge with the potential playmaking ability that the Bills weapons bring to the field. That includes inexperienced starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy, athletic receivers Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin and versatile tight end Charles Clay, among others. Taylor and McCoy, in particular, are extremely dangerous if they get to the edge, as are Watkins and Harvin on catch-and-run plays. That had New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia stressing the importance of New England's defensive front - primarily ends Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones and Jabaal Sheard - setting the edge this week and keeping the Bills athletic ball carriers in the middle of the field and not out in space. Buffalo doesn't have the consistent attack to likely put together long drives to match Brady. But it has the weapons to make big plays. The defense will need to set the edge, tackle well and keep things in front. Of course with the Bills explosive weapons - as both Belichick and Patricia described them - that will be easier said than done.

Patriots Football Weekly's Andy Hart shares his players to watch during the Patriots Week 2 game against the Bills.

Spread 'em and shred 'em - The Bills indeed have a big, physical, talented front. They can get after the passer and Ryan likes to send pressure in a variety of ways. But if Brady gets rid of the ball as quickly as he's capable of, that won't matter. The Patriots often deal with such challenges by spreading things out formationally and then hitting short, quick throws. Last February's Super Bowl was an example, but just one of many. It's really not all that different an approach than Josh McDaniels offensive troops took early on against Pittsburgh. Of course Ryan has successfully dealt with this approach in the past, so it's not like it's an automatic recipe for success.

Prediction - Got off to a nice start with last week's 30-21 prediction of a Patriots win that just missed the 28-21 reality. The Bills and their fans are feeling good. They are going to be fired up and ready to make some noise on and off the field. Buffalo also has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. The scary part for the Patriots defense is that McCoy didn't really do much in the opener and Watkins didn't have a catch, so both might be due. The much-talked-about game plan idea of treating this game defensively like the Super Bowl has a couple flaws - the Patriots no longer have Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner to cover while the athletic quarterback bounces around looking for targets and the Bills targets are more dangerous than those the Seahawks had in the Super Bowl. Still, I think the Patriots defense will do enough to keep Taylor and his weapons under wraps often enough. I can't see the young passer putting together long drives, even against a New England defense that still has plenty to prove, both up front and in the back end. And I expect Brady to find the likes of Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Dion Lewis, Scott Chandler and others with effective efficiency to put together early drives. It won't be easy. It should be fun. In the end I'm going with a 24-13 win for the Patriots.

What other things will you be watching for in this battle of words and weapons in Buffalo on Sunday afternoon? Let us know with a comment below!

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