1. Shut down Willis McGaheeThis is basically the entire gameplan for the Patriots defense. The Bills were able to control the clock against the Patriots in their first meeting by running McGahee 31 times for 136 yards. He didn't have any long runs but he constantly churned out five and six yard gains to set up the Bills with a lot of third-and-short situations. Buffalo almost doubled the Patriots in time of possession in their first meeting and McGahee's performance on the ground was a big reason why. Since that game, the Bills running back hasn't topped the 100-yard mark or averaged more than four yards a carry in any game. When the team went back to J.P. Losman at quarterback, the Bills have had little success on the ground because defenses are stacking up to stop the run. New England's run defense isn't as bad as it was earlier in the year now that Tedy Bruschi and Richard Seymour are healthy so they should be able to contain McGahee this time around. If the Patriots shut down the Bills running game, they should win this game.
2. Pressure J.P. LosmanIf the Patriots do stop McGahee, that will force the young Losman to try and beat them through the air. Last week against the Jets, playing another mobile young quarterback in Brooks Bollinger, the Patriots were more aggressive and never let Bollinger get comfortable in the pocket. Look for them to use a similar approach this week. Eric Moulds, the Bills best receiver, has been suspended for this game and rookie Roscoe Parrish will start in his place. Parrish is an explosive player with blazing speed but he is nowhere near the polished receiver that Moulds is. With a young quarterback and an inexperienced group of receivers, there is no reason to believe the Patriots won't be aggressive on defense again this week. The Bills have a better offense than the Jets do but Losman is still learning how to play the position and letting him sit in the pocket with no pressure will only give him more confidence as the game goes on. Don't expect the Patriots to let that happen.
3. Keep riding Dillon and Faulk
The Patriots took a baby step with their running game last week, rushing for 146 yards as a team.Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk returned to the lineup and combined for 100 yards on the ground. Faulk was also a factor as a receiver, catching three passes on third down that moved the chains and led to the Patriots putting points on the board. The Patriots are trying to fine-tune their running game for the playoffs and what better way to do it than on a cold day in Buffalo against the 31st ranked rush defense? Dillon ran for some tough yards last week but he still isn't running with the same authority we're used to seeing from him. Last time these two teams met, an injured Dillon came off the bench to gut out 74 tough yards that helped lead the Patriots to a comeback win. Last week, with Dillon and Faulk back in the lineup, the Patriots controlled the ball for over 38 minutes and that allowed them to keep their defense off the field. Dillon may not run for 150 yards by himself but if he and Faulk can carry the ball around 30 times between them for 150 yards, it will be an encouraging sign for the Patriots offense.
4. Protect Tom Brady
Protecting Brady means two things: the offensive line needs to block for him and the Patriots should continue using the short passing game they employed against the Jets. Last week Brady was a very efficient 27-out-of-37 for 271 yards. He sprayed the ball all over, keeping the Jets defense off guard. Five Patriots receivers had at least four receptions. This is the kind of offense that seems to suit Brady the best. Plus, he gets rid of the ball quickly so he's not getting hit on every play. After struggling early against the Jets, the offensive line settled down and played well in the second half. That needs to carry over this week because in their last meeting, defensive end Aaron Schobel was in Brady's face all night long. If the Patriots can get their short passing attack going along with their running game, this will be a dangerous offense come playoff time.
5. Keep being special on special teams
The Patriots have one of the best special team units in all of football. Josh Miller leads the NFL with a 46.7 punting average and after a slow start, the kick coverage has been outstanding. They will need to keep that going this week because the Bills have one of the NFL's best special teams as well, especially in the return game. Terrence McGee, Nate Clements and Roscoe Parrish are all dangerous return men. Scoring points has been a struggle for the Bills since Losman took over at quarterback. In their last four games, Buffalo averages only 14 points per game. It will be a big boost to the Bills if they can score on special teams. Just like last week against the Jets, if the Patriots give up a cheap touchdown on special teams or defense to a team that doesn't score a lot of points offensively, it will give the Bills a much better chance to win the football game.
Patriots – Bills quick hits
· The Patriots have recorded 50 wins over the Bills, the most against any opponent.
· Bill Belichick holds a 9-3 career record against the Bills.
· The Patriots and Bills have played in 19 games that were decided by three points or less since 1972.
· The Patriots are 16-6 against the Bills in their last 22 meetings.
· The two teams have played five overtime games since 1993.
· The Patriots are a perfect 4-0 against the Bills in Gillette Stadium.