NFL Week 10: Bills @ Patriots

Will Gronkowski dominate his hometown team once again?

The second half of the season has arrived for the 2012 New England Patriots. With a roller coaster 5-3 start, Bill Belichick and crew have weathered the storm to settle on top of the AFC East. Furthermore, the Patriots went on their Week 9 bye after an impressive schoolyard stomping of the Rams – winning 45-7 and looking like the unstoppable 2007 attack. Since 2003, Belichick teams hold a record of 8-1 in games after the bye, New England lost to Pittsburgh 25-17 last year. The jury is still not out on the 2012 Patriots, three of the next four games come against division rivals.

The 3-5 Buffalo Bills will travel into Gillette Stadium this Sunday, creating an opportunity for the Patriots to distinguish themselves and cement their slot atop the AFC East for good. New England has not lost a game in the second half of the season since Week 17 of the 2009 season. Buffalo has not beat the Patriots on the road since Week 10 of 2000, will the tables turn? Check out these three keys to victory for the Patriots to extend their second half success come Sunday:

1) Run the Ball: It was not too long ago (Week 4) that the Patriots dropped a 45-point half and 580 total yards to dismantle the hopeful Bills at home. How did New England achieve their success? For starters, the team rushed 40 times – spreading the love to Bolden (16 ATT, 137 yards, 1 TD) and Ridley (22 ATT 106 yards, 2 TD). Brady even joined the mix with a four-yard TD scamper that fired up the Hall-Of-Famer and his squad on the bench.

The Patriots need to keep the Bills on their heels by executing a balanced offensive attack. Week in and week out opposing defenses face the challenge of stopping the monster that is the New England offensive unit. Buffalo is coming off a 21-9 loss to the Houston Texas where Arian Foster rushed for 111 yards and Andre Johnson hauled in 8 rec for 118 yards. The week before that, Chris Johnson ripped Buffalo for 198 yards and 2 TD on the ground. Setting up success in the pass game will rely heavily on New England’s ability to expose the Bills pompous rush defense, Buffalo ranks second to last in the NFL with 169.2 YPG and last in YPC, giving up 5.6 yards per scamper.

2) Blanket C.J. Spiller: While Fred Jackson has returned from a Week One injury, Spiller, a swiss-army knife x-factor, can hurt the Patriots on multiple fronts. His presence in the screen game and having the ball in the open field has to scare Belichick. Spiller is averaging a ridiculous 7.2 YPC on 78 ATT, netting him 562 yards and 4 TD. He also has 24 REC for 236 yards and another score.

C.J. has become an old friend as of late and you can expect New England to give Buffalo’s Reggie Bush a little extra attention on Sunday. Although QB Ryan Fitzpatrick hung 350 yards and 4 TD on our pedestrian defensive backs in Week 4, he also threw 4 INT. Expect the Patriots front seven to limit Spiller and force the Harvard grad to beat us through the air. Stevie Johnson will get his; it’s just a matter of how much and how well New England can bend without breaking.

3) Come Out Firing: In the Patriots Midseason Report Card, the glaring core competency of earning first downs and executing methodical drives rang true. The Week 4 matchup put New England on their heels for a bit due to Buffalo’s fast start, going up 21-7 right after half time. It is imperative that McDaniels and the Patriots keep the Bills off balance all afternoon. The no-huddle offense has thrown defenses for fits and even forced the Jets to identify this fast pace to league officials. Keep in mind, New England scored five touchdowns in a row against this defense. The Patriots have the number one offense in the NFL and it will be on full display at home on Sunday.

I see the Patriots earning their sixth victory with a 35-21 win. 

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