James Toscano's 3 things to watch for: Patriots set to host Buffalo Bills - Metro US

James Toscano’s 3 things to watch for: Patriots set to host Buffalo Bills

DeVante Parker and Logan Ryan battle for a ball last season.
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No Tom Brady. Essentially no Rob Gronkowski. No losses for the New England Patriots.

Based on the team’s game day roster over the first three weeks of the NFL season, you’ve got to tip your cap to the Pats.

At worst they’ll be 3-1 with a healthy and rested Brady returning to action after four weeks of rest and relaxation all over the world, including a nice little Italian vacation with wife, Gisele Bundchen.

He’ll be glued to the television on Sunday as the Patriots get set to host the 1-2 Buffalo Bills – check that, the Buffalo Rex Ryans. Ol’ Rexy is known to hog most if not all of the spotlight whenever he’s pitted against the Patriots. This week is no different.

And it makes sense. The Patriots seem to consume his life. Ryan is Dr. Claw and Bill Belichick is Inspector Gadget. Belichick and Tom Brady are the reasons he doesn’t sleep at night. And when he does actually doze off – perhaps on the recliner with a bag of Cheetos on his lap – there’s a good chance he’s dreaming about somehow, someway beating them.

Ryan began his press conference earlier this week by mocking Belichick’s podium demeanor, only to later on once again heap praise on him. A couple days later, he posed as a reporter on a conference call to Julian Edelman, asking him if he’s playing quarterback this week.

All in good fun, Rex, until the game begins, anyways. Ryan is 4-11 against Belichick over his head coaching career, spanning the Jets and now Bills.

Ryan does, however, usually put up a fight against the Pats. His Bills lost by eight points and seven points, respectively, last season. This time around he’s preparing for both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. That’s fine with him.

“One thing I know for sure is that Tom Brady is not the quarterback, and I feel good about that,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Unleash the Gronk

Technically speaking, Rob Gronkowski made his season debut last week against the Texans. But anybody who watched the game or started him on their fantasy team knows he didn’t play much or even make a catch. But just seeing him on the field – albeit sparingly – had to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Expect more Gronk this week. The Bills have been one of the best defenses in the NFL at limiting tight end production over the first three games. Opponents have combined for just seven receptions and 59 yards. But the Ravens, Jets, and Cardinals – the Jets’ first three opponents – don’t have a tight end even close to Gronk. Then again, who does?

Who are the Bills?

Great question – and one that nobody probably has a good answer for. They lost a game they needed to win at home against the Jets in Week 2, which prompted the questions about Ryan’s job security, and then they dominated the Cardinals a week later. Was firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman really the issue? We shall see. What we do know is that Tyrod Taylor has shown flashes of being a really, really good quarterback and a really bad quarterback. But he’s very versatile. In Week 2 against the Patriots last year he threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another… but he also threw three interceptions and was sacked eight times. Receiver Sammy Watkins has been plagued by a foot injury, and his status and health is up in the air for Sunday.

Look familiar?

The last three wins should seem somewhat familiar to Patriots fans in their late 20’s and older. During the first few years of Brady’s career, the Patriots won games with a strong defense and an equally strong running game. Antoine Smith and Corey Dillon were 1,000-yard rushers back then. With Brady on the couch, the team is again leaning on its run game and defense. LeGarrette Blount was just named AFC Offensive Player of the Month after leading the NFL in rushing yards (298) and being tied for first in rushing touchdowns (4). Give it up for the offensive line in helping to allow that production, too.

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