The Buffalo Bills are coming off of a frustrating loss versus the Indianapolis Colts on a day where everything went south quickly. LeSean McCoy got injured in his second snap on the day, and Frank Reich and Andrew Luck figured out a way to beat down the formidable Bills defense. Buffalo is now 2-5 and will take on the 5-2 New England Patriots at the New Era Field on Monday Night Football. How will the Bills’ offense matchup versus the Patriots’ defense? Here’s my take:
Through seven weeks, the Patriots’ defense is ranked 20th in the league and allowing 114.0 rushing yards per game. Looking at total rushing yards on the season, they’re ranked 24th, allowing 798 yards on the ground so far. Despite the low rankings, one week ago Pro Football Focus released their grades for run-defense units, and New England was their 3rd-ranked team at this department, with an 87.1 team run defense grade.
Lawrence Guy is a strong strong man and is a force to deal with in the run game. Look at how he throws the RT off of him like he’s a rag doll. Incredible play stops Howard for a mere 2 yard gain. pic.twitter.com/b4gQKxoeRY
— charlie white (@_charliewhite_) October 24, 2018
Defensive tackle Lawrence Guy is their best run defender, earning a 91.9 PFF run defense grade so far. Alongside DT Malcom Brown and defensive ends Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn, this unit should dominate the Bills’ offensive line, making for another difficult contest for LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory. They struggled to contain Mitchell Trubisky running last week, but the Bears’ RBs couldn’t do anything on the day. Jordan Howard finished the day with 39 yards and one TD on 12 carries. Tarik Cohen added 14 yards on six carries.
The Bills will trot onto the field the 17th-ranked rushing offense in the league. Against the Colts, Ivory ran for 81 yards on 16 carries, gaining 4.56 yards after contact per carry, according to PFF. Buffalo’s ground game success will depend on the running backs’ ability to avoid tacklers and create space without much help from their OL. It’s tough to expect consistency running the ball with so little help from the big guys up front.
Went through every Shady run, there weren't many where a lane was created for him. Lots of guys laid out….#Billsmafia
McDermott has mentioned controlling the line of scrimmage in just about every post-game presser, when will his patience wear thin with the players/staff? pic.twitter.com/GMweo4KBPd
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) October 25, 2018
The Patriots’ pass defense is ranked 25th in the league, allowing 275.9 passing yards per game. Again, despite the low rankings, PFF loves the unit, giving them the second-best team coverage grade in the NFL, an 85.9 overall. New England is ranked 9th, allowing a team passer rating of 94.6 on the season, and their best defender in this department is our old friend, Stephon Gilmore, who’s earning an 80.1 PFF coverage grade so far.
Terrific play by Gilmore. #Patriots defending the bunch using an inside-out box at the top. Gilmore sees Watkins sneak behind Harmon and goes off-script to chase him down. He tackles him grabbing his front arm to prevent Watkins from using two hands to make the catch. pic.twitter.com/gPc8T74tKJ
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) October 16, 2018
Gilmore is having an impressive season, allowing just 13 passes completed on 37 targets, a 31.7% completion rate. QBs who tested the former Bill have a QB rating of just 52.1 when doing so. Another guy who’s really playing well is nickel CB Jonathan Jones. He’s allowing a QB rating of 66.4 for QBs throwing his way and has two INTs on the season. With defensive ends Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise as relatively productive pass rushers (2 and 3.5 sacks, respectively), New England has the personnel to give the poor Bills offense a lot of trouble.
Derek Anderson will start his second consecutive game as a Bill and should be a bit more comfortable with OC Brian Daboll’s playbook. What will not be so comfortable is his pocket behind the Bills struggling OL, which ranks 30th in the league after six weeks, according to PFF.
Derek Anderson to Zay Jones pic.twitter.com/ap4mPSDrca
— Bills QB Watch (@BillsQBwatch) October 22, 2018
If given a decent protection, Anderson showed he can manage the game and give the Bills’ WRs, especially Kelvin Benjamin, a shot at making plays. The veteran knows how to read a defense and where to go with the ball, but if New England can open up a nice lead early, it just might get ugly for Buffalo. The key will be on the field as long as possible, giving the defense time to rest on the sidelines and keeping Tom Brady off the field. With a good running game and perfect game flow, Anderson just might be capable of pulling it off, but the chance of everything working properly on this historically bad Bills offense is minimal.
Despite the Patriots’ defense not ranking well overall, they have a lot of interesting pieces capable of shutting down the Bills’ offensive players. The only hope is the offensive line stepping up and paving the way for their running backs, allowing Shady and Ivory to have good games. This could facilitate Anderson’s job and give Buffalo a shot — a pretty difficult scenario to envision on Monday night.