The 6-1 New England Patriots visit the 4-3 Buffalo Bills on Sunday, with a chance to build a comfortable three-game lead in the AFC East. With Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy looking doubtful to play, the matchup is starting to look more like a Patriots victory.
Tom Brady, Patriots continue interception-less streak.
The Patriots, including Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, have yet to throw an interception in 2016 through the team’s first seven games. The Cleveland Browns set the NFL record to start a season without an interception at nine games in 1960. Buffalo sports the 11th-best passing defense this season and are seventh in interceptions. So continuing this streak won’t exactly be a cake-walk for Brady.
Rob Gronkowski doesn’t break Stanley Morgan’s franchise touchdown record
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has scored touchdowns in two straight games for New England, including a franchise record-tying 68th score against the Steelers in Week 7. The Buffalo Bills and their loaded linebacking corps are arguably the stingiest defense against opposing tight ends this season, though. Buffalo has allowed just 17 catches for 228 yards to opposing tight ends this season. No tight end has scored against the Bills, either.
Players to watch
The 33-year-old, nine-year veteran defender is having a career year. During his first six seasons with Washington, two years with the Arizona Cardinals and last season with the Oakland Raiders, Alexander totaled 9 sacks. Through seven games this season, Alexander is leading the league with 9.0 sacks having switched to linebacker in Buffalo’s 3-4 defense. For the Bills to win, they’ll have to pressure Brady early and often.
While Buffalo has been stingy against opposing tight ends this season, they have been kind to running backs in 2016. The Bills have surrendered 707 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns to opposing backs this season. Meanwhile, Blount has found the end zone 8 times on his own, a Patriots franchise record and a career-high for Blount. New England found a good run-pass balance behind Blount last week in Pittsburgh. Look for Bill Belichick to continue to rely on Blount as a means to preserve Brady.
All signs are pointing to Mccoy sitting out. The shifty star has been struggling with a hamstring injury dating back to last week and has yet to see the practice field. Gillislee will get the start in McCoy’s absence. He’s been averaging 6.2 yards per carry this season, but much of that damage has come against tired defenses following McCoy’s big bursts. Gillislee rushed just 5 times for 20 yards in Buffalo’s loss to Miami last week.