The Patriots are on the road for an AFC East showdown in Buffalo on Monday. While the Bills are 2-5 on the season, they own arguably the league’s worst offense and are down to their backup quarterback Derek Anderson. Anderson was only able to muster up five points in his first start of the year against the Colts, leaving the Patriots as heavy two-touchdown favorites. Here are some things to watch for in Buffalo on Monday night.
Is this game a confidence booster for the defense?
The Patriots have come away with narrow victories the last two weeks over the Chiefs and Bears, but it’s been no thanks to the defense. New England’s allowed 71 total points over those last two outings, so even against the worst offense in the league, a dominant performance from the defense could be a big boost for confidence purposes.
The Pats rank just 19th in the NFL allowing 25.6 points per game, which is uncharacteristic of their “bend but don’t break” concept. The numbers for pure yardage are even worse, allowing 390 total yards per game, which ranks 25th overall. Buffalo’s offense is practically incapable of reaching any of these numbers, and as mentioned, Anderson’s lone start yielded just five points. This could be a strong spot for the Patriots to have their best defensive game of the season.
How will the backfield be managed?
With Sony Michel going down with an ugly knee injury in Chicago, the backfield has shrunk to just two options — James White and recently re-signed Kenjon Barner. White’s been perhaps New England’s best offensive player besides Tom Brady this season, but has done the majority of his damage as a pass-catcher. With limited options to hand the ball to, White had a season-high 11 carries last week, but gained just 40 yards.
White’s in a spot for another good game this week, but if the Pats get up big in this one, as the spread suggests, it’s unlikely they’ll want to pound the ball with a player as fragile and valuable as White. Barner is the only leftover option, so this good be a game where Patriots fans start to learn his name. He gained just 36 yards against Chicago’s top ranked rush defense last week, but 10 carrier for Barner where encouraging. With a far better matchup against the Bills, Barner could see a lot of touches and production in this game if the scoreboard dictates.
Will Tom Brady continue to trust Josh Gordon?
What does Brady think of Gordon’s performance so far in New England?
“I just think it’s so impressive, in my view, what he’s done in a short period of time and how he’s assumed this specific role in our offense,” Brady told reporters over the weekend. “The receiver position in our offense takes years for most guys to understand and learn nuances and intricacies of not only our plays, but how to get open within the scheme, how to gain my trust, and he’s done it in such a short period of time. I don’t think we’re where we necessarily can be in the future if we just keep working hard at it.”
Gordon’s now seen 16 total targets over the last two games, and had his first 100-yard game in a Patriot uniform last Sunday. It sounds like Brady has all the confidence in the world in his new weapon, and if this one gets out of hand it could be a good time for this duo to work on some of their new found chemistry.