What are the keys to Monday Night's matchup? We asked our Scout.com insiders to break down the needs for each team and what they MUST do to win.
1. Contain Tom Brady:
This may be an impossible proposition for Buffalo. Brady has traditionally torched the Bills. Two years ago, he erupted for 684 yards and nine touchdowns in the teams' two meetings. Outside of the Aaron Maybin pick this past spring, Buffalo hasn't changed defensively much since then. If the Bills can't get pressure on Brady, this game will be over by halftime.
2. Establish Fred Jackson:
Despite its first-team offense going 15 possessions without a touchdown in the preseason, Buffalo has vowed to stick with the no-huddle offense. Regardless, the team must ride Jackson and somehow keep Brady off the field. With Marshawn Lynch suspended the first three games, Jackson becomes the No. 1 guy. He's had success against the Pats. In last season's finale, Jackson rushed for 100 yards in one half - amid a virtual blizzard and eight defenders consistently in the box. He's waited two years for this opportunity. New England will need to zero in on Jackson.
3. Take Risks:
New England is ascending. Buffalo is descending. This is obviously a lopsided opener. So why not go for broke? Though it goes against Dick Jauron's conservative nature, the Bills should throw caution into the wind tonight. Go for it fourth down in New England territory. Fake a field goal. Razzle. Dazzle. Whatever. Buffalo shouldn't hold back tonight. With nothing to lose, look for the Bills to take the occasional - and unorthodox - risk.
1. New England must win the war of the trenches on defense:
If the Patriots front seven can get pressure on Trent Edwards, they can protect the secondary which has shown signs of vulnerability. With Terrell Owens and Lee Evans set to draw attention on deep routes, the Patriots will be in zone underneath. Without pressure up front, Edwards will have the dump off routes open much of the day. New England had trouble stopping teams on third down last year. The Patriots yielded a first down 44 percent of the time when they had teams in third down situations -- 5th worst in the league. Edwards will have that option (the checkdown) available to him if the Patriots cannot apply pressure.
2. Get the running game going:
The Patriots have to establish a running game which averages more than 3 yards per carry. With 5 running backs on the active roster expect at least one of them to be inactive on Monday night. The team leader in the preseason was second-year backBenJarvus Green-Ellis, but the Patriots aren't about to hand an undrafted rookie free agent the keys to the backfield after they signed Fred Taylor in the offseason and have a former first round back, Laurence Maroney, ready to prove he isn't a bust. Green-Ellis averaged over 54 yards per carry in the preseason, the starters were 2.3 (Maroney), 3.3 (Taylor), 3.8 Morris, and Faulk carried just two times. With expectations high, expect Taylor to see as many touches as the team can afford to give him. Maroney will mix into the lineup at some point. He has that explosive gait which netted him a 4.5 yard per carry avg. in 2007, but he hasn't been the same since his shoulder injury.
If the Patriots can control the line of scrimmage and net 4 yards each run, Tom Brady's aerial arsenal will be available without limitation. That could lead to a very lopsided outcome in tonight's game. It's also one reason the Bills are planning on doing everything possible to preventBrady from teeing off on their secondary.
3. Protect Brady:
Tom Brady cannot get hit low or the Patriots 2009 season could be over as fast as theri 2008 season ended. Brady is nursing a knee injur which he claims he's over. That part is debatable. Brady looked as if he had some rust to knowck off in the preseason, throwing off his back foot, not setting up in the pocket, overthrowing recivers who were open. Brady says he's all set, but if the Bills can get close enough to knock him around a little, Brady's confidence could take a beating. Never one to lack in that department, the move won't make the Patriots signal caller skittish, but it would reduce his effectivetivness in finding that third or even fourth option in pass routes. When Brady has time, he can dissect any defense.Tuyrn the page back to 2007, and that's exactly where the Patriots hope to be. The Past time Brady player the Bills he turned in performances of 311 yards 4 TDs and 373 yards 5TDs.
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