1. Air Brady.
QB Tom Brady (2,686 yards and a NFL-high 33 touchdowns) lights up defenses with an array of weapons. WRs Randy Moss (NFL highs of 924 yards and 11 TDs) and Donte Stallworth are deep threats. WR Wes Welker excels on crossing routes, while TE Benjamin Watson has speed to stretch seams of a defense. . . . Bills' unique pass rush schemes and blitz packages must succeed in pressuring Brady. Bills CBs Terrence McGee and Jabari Greer must disrupt routes by jamming outside receivers, but Welker and Watson will do damage over middle if safeties play too deep. Losing nickel CB Kiwaukee Thomas (groin) will hurt. . . . Keep an eye on RB Kevin Faulk, who has killed Bills in past years on screens and short passes out of backfield.
2. Losman's big chance.
Coming off a sub-par performance last Sunday, QB J.P. Losman must play a lot better for team to have a chance tonight. . . . Losman is always looking for big play and will try to hook up with WR Lee Evans deep. But Losman can't force it downfield because Patriots are good at disguising their man and zone coverages. . . . Bills need to get ball to WRs Roscoe Parrish and Josh Reed more and isolate RB Dwayne Wright and tight ends on aging Patriots linebackers. . . . OLB Mike Vrabel leads a Patriots pass rush that has 25 sacks. Bills' offensive line has protected well, but Losman has to help by getting rid of ball.
3. Playing keep-away.
The absence of RB Marshawn Lynch (ankle) could affect Bills' ability to control time of possession. Wright and Anthony Thomas are hard runners, but neither has Lynch's speed nor his ability to gain extra yards after contact. . . . Bills haven't been good on third downs, so they need Wright and Thomas to have success on first and second downs. It also would be wise for Bills to use short passes to augment running game. . . . Patriots are good at taking away a team's strength. With Lynch out, they may focus on neutralizing Evans. But Patriots won't ignore Bills' run game. Their front seven is stout and SS Rodney Harrison is a head hunter in run support.
4. Striking a balance.
Because Patriots have thrown ball so well, people forget they have NFL's seventh-ranked rushing attack. RB Laurence Maroney has been slowed by injuries, but he averages 4.7 yards per carry and his only 100-yard game was against Bills in Week Three. . . . Bills have been better against run, though they had trouble stopping Miami RB Jesse Chatman last week. Winning line of scrimmage is a key for Bills, whose penetrating D-line and run blitzes could neutralize Maroney. . . . Patriots run mostly out of three-receiver formations. Threat of pass will keep Bills safeties and linebackers off line of scrimmage and create running room for Maroney and Faulk.
5. Turnovers and special teams are equalizers.
Bills and Patriots are among best in NFL at forcing turnovers. Winning this battle would give Bills' offense more chances while keeping Brady and company off field. . . . McGee and Parrish are scoring threats returning kickoffs and punts, but Patriots' Ellis Hobbs is tied with McGee for fifth in NFL with a 28.2-yard kickoff return average. Patriots are first as a team, averaging 28.5 yards per return with two touchdowns. . . . Welker is not as explosive as Parrish on punts, but has a knack for finding holes and setting up blocks.
Prediction: Surging Bills have home crowd behind them, but Patriots are on a mission to continue their quest for perfect season. New England, 31-19.