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Unfiltered Roundtable: Previewing Patriots vs. Bills

The writers of Patriots Unfiltered offer their thoughts and perspectives on the Patriots Week 7 matchup against the Buffalo Bills.

WK7-2023-UnfilteredRoundtablePDC

After a third-straight loss that dropped them to 1-5 on the season, the Patriots get little reprieve this weekend as they prepare to welcome the Buffalo Bills to Gillette Stadium, a divisional rival that has beaten them four-straight times in convincing fashion. However, Buffalo has looked beatable at various times this year, barely escaping the one-win Giants at home last weekend while also falling to the Jets in Week 1, and that could be a small reason for optimism that the Patriots could snap their losing ways on Sunday. How might they do it? The PU crew weighs in!

What's one word you'd use to describe quarterback Josh Allen and how can a decimated Patriots defense put together a gameplan to slow him down?

Playmaker. Controlled rush and take away Diggs. That means taking your chances with Allen's other weapons but so be it. It's a tall task but the Bills have been up and down offensively this season. Let's hope Sunday is a down day. -Fred Kirsch

Explosive. The Patriots will likely try to repeat the conservative approaches they've used against Miami and Buffalo in the recent past and keep everything in front of them to prevent big plays. -Paul Perillo

"Anomaly" … If I'm allowed to use two words: "Beautiful Chaos." Disrupting him in the pocket isn't enough. You have to take him to the ground because he is capable of completions that seem to defy physics. For New England, if they can disrupt Allen and comprehensively cover Diggs, they might be able to limit some of those explosive plays – especially with the shoulder injury that's kept the Bills QB limited in practice. But the game plan and execution must be close to perfect. -Alex Francisco

My nickname for Josh Allen is Captain Chaos. I don't know if I've ever seen a quarterback who can do more "no, no, yes!" plays than Allen. The down is never over with him, and there isn't a throw he won't make, so you need to fight Captain Chaos with chaos. If you can constantly keep him guessing and bring the fight to him, you have a chance. -Evan Lazar

Frustrating. And I say that from a defensive point of view because even when your coverage and pass rush are great, you still have to figure out how to cover late in the down during a scramble drill while also trying to get Allen outside the pocket. Yeah, it's been really frustrating lately, but I think the key lies in what I wrote. They have to play the entire down against him, from start to finish, and force him into mistakes with that complete coverage. Might sound easy on paper, it's anything but. ­-Mike Dussault

Choose one that will give the Patriots the best chance to win and explain.

  1. Patriots win the turnover battle +3
  2. Patriots post 175 rushing yards
  3. Mac Jones throws three touchdowns
  4. Patriots defense allows under 20 points
  5. Josh Allen takes the week off to visit Hailee Steinfeld on the set of Bumblebee 2 (just kidding, you can't pick this one)

I like all the options but I'll take No. 4. That most likely keeps the Patriots in the game. The Bills can overcome turnovers. Moving the ball on the ground keeps possession but doesn't guarantee points. Three tuddies for Mac might mean a shootout. I don't like those odds. -FK

Of these options I'd probably have to pick A. Winning the turnover battle decisively will allow the Patriots to post the upset. -PP

D. I think they need to limit the Bills to under 20 points, but not let those 20 points come too early in the game. If they can do that, I saw enough good from the offense last week to have a sense of hope that they can score more than 20 points. It's a small glimmer of hope, though, that is assuming the ill-timed penalties and drops have been shamed out of them. -AF

A. I think the obvious answer here is winning the turnover battle because that always correlates the most to winning. But I also think there's a formula where, if the Patriots can run the ball, it'll limit the Bills to 8-9 drives in the game and keep them within shouting distance. The Giants were able to limit the Bills to nine drives and were only a yard away from the upset. If you can shorten the game, it'll keep the score in a range that the Patriots can compete. -EL

 A. Allen still has some warts at times as far as decision making, so it's possible, however, the Patriots just haven't been able to force those mistakes recently against the Bills. I might say B is the most realistic if the Patriots have to only rely on themselves, but still very difficult. And for what its worth, I really liked the first Bumblebee. -MD

With Demario Douglas back at practice, Tyquan Thornton back in the mix and Malik Cunningham getting involved, do you see any creative twists and changes the team could make to ignite their offense?

I don't see any creative twists because we need to get the basics right first. But we could see some more YAC with Thronton and Douglas. And could we get at least one completed deep pass? -FK

I like the idea of using Douglas, Thornton and Kendrick Bourne together to create more speed in the passing attack. I don't think Cunningham is ready to provide much as a quarterback at this stage given how little practice time he's received at the position. -PP

Unless the passing game is atrocious, I expect Cunningham to be less of a factor than storylines of the past two weeks suggest. I hope to see some explosive catches from Tyquan, and hope the gameplan leads to a breakout game for Demario Douglas. -AF

The Patriots have been building up their pre-snap motion at the snap usage over the last few weeks, with a season-high 76% motion usage last week in Vegas. If they can dress up the running game with jet/orbit motion (Douglas and Thornton) and maybe add a Malik package in so you have some Ravens-style designed quarterback runs, that's something they could add to their toolbox. Even without Malik in there, I'd still continue to spam motion plays to make the defense respect outside runs. -EL

Play those three guys. Get them on the field early and often. Live with their mistakes. Hope they can provide some explosiveness that the offense has lacked. -MD

How can the Patriots prevent Von Miller and Buffalo's vaunted pass rush from destroying their gameplan?

Establish a run threat and get the ball out of Mac's hand fast. Max protect can help but of course that takes a target away. There's no secret formula. -FK

The best way to contain a pass rush is to avoid falling behind and staying ahead of the chains on early downs. If the Patriots dig a two-score deficit yet again, it will be a long day. -PP

It's going to take time before Von Miller returns to his pre-injury form. He said that himself this week after the Bills ramped him up last week against the Giants. Fingers crossed his feeling sore this week so the Patriots offensive line can try to negate his impact. -AF

That's the million-dollar question. When I look at this matchup, the way this game gets out of hand in Buffalo's favor is if the Bills pass rush starts teeing off on Mac leading to turnovers like we've seen in recent weeks. My solution would be similar to my previous answer. They have to find ways to start faster, run the ball, and keep the offense ahead of the chains. I would seriously try as many jet/end around motions as possible to get the ball outside the tackles, and then run downhill at these new Bills linebackers. Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds aren't walking through that door for Buffalo. Make the backups/new faces pay. -EL

Oh boy, I'm really not sure. This is where the game could really get hairy for the Patriots. Buffalo's pass rush might be the best of all the really good pass rushes the Pats have already played. They have to find a new level of playing together and coordination on the line. The tight end help has to actually help and the handling of interior stunts has to take a dramatic leap forward. A healthy Strange and Onwenu could help but I'm not optimistic either will play. -MD

Pick one Patriot player that a great game from would be a positive sign for the team, win or loss.

Mac is the obvious choice. I'll add in either of the two mentioned above, Pop or Thornton. It would be great if they started proving they can be part of the future for the offense. -FK

I'd love to see Thornton or Douglas explode onto the scene and emerge as potentially important pieces on offense for the Patriots moving forward. -PP

Mac 10. -AF

Rhamondre Stevenson. The bottom line is that the Patriots offense needs the 2022 version of Rhamondre Stevenson to turn this thing around. They need Rhamondre breaking tackles, being a reliable underneath option for Mac, and controlling games on the ground. -EL

Rhamondre. Of everything we've seen this year, he's been my biggest head scratcher. He was productive even with last year's trainwreck offense, I don't get why he can't find a way to get similar production this year. I still believe in him and Zeke, and that they can be a factor. -MD

Bonus Question: Best buffalo wings in New England?

I don't get around the wing circuit like I did in my younger days. I hear Buff's Pub in Newton is still the standard. It certainly was back then. -FK

From my old college days around BU – the Sunset Grill in Allston. Also, Buff's Pub in Newton. Rock solid.-PP

Brickhouse Tavern in Springfield! But if you prefer the "boneless" variety (chicken tenders) then I'd say The Hangar! -AF

Since New England also includes the state of Connecticut, the answer is J. Timothy's in Plainville, CT. Their dirt wings are better than any wing I've had in Buffalo. In Boston, it's Buff's Pub and there isn't a close second. -EL

I'm not a huge wings connoisseur, but let's shout out the honey hots at McGuire's in Easton, MA. I go grab those about once a month. -MD

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