Here are my five takes on the Buffalo Bills' game against the New England Patriots Sunday at Gillette Stadium:
1. Do not seek revenge against Gronk.
I can't begin to understand the emotions that Tre'Davious White or teammates of the Bills' rookie cornerback are feeling. I do get the idea that he and they would want some payback for the vicious cheap shot Rob Gronkowski delivered to the back of White's head when White was face-down on the ground after intercepting a pass intended for the Patriots' tight end on Dec. 3.
The hit was extremely dangerous and not even remotely justified. But retaliating would be every bit as wrong and downright stupid, given the potential for a Bills player or players receiving discipline similar to the one-game suspension Gronkowski received.
Given that playoff tie-breaking scenarios actually make the Dec. 31 season-finale at Miami more vital to the Bills' fortunes than the New England game, losing anyone for the trip to South Florida could be the difference between ending the 17-year postseason drought or not. That seems like too high a price for vengeance.
2. This time, play a full four quarters of solid defense.
The Bills actually did a whole lot right defensively in the previous meeting with the Patriots. Coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier put together a sound game plan that included coverage disguises that caused Tom Brady to hold the ball too long at times and allowed pressure to get to him.
The Bills succeeded in often frustrating Brady, who lost his temper with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels after the Patriots' first drive ended with a field goal. Brady didn't throw a single touchdown pass and was intercepted once.
The Patriots did manage to make some adjustments in the second half that allowed them to drive to their only TDs, on a pair runs by Rex Burkhead. The Bills also had a mental lapse in a blitz call that resulted in Gronk catching a 19-yard pass to help set up the first scoring run.
Assembling effective strategy will, again, be critical for the Bills. However, it is every bit as important for them to adjust as the Patriots adjust.
3. This time, have a more sustained rushing attack.
The Bills ran well on Dec. 3. LeSean McCoy carried 15 times for 93 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per rush. That's the kind of ground game that can go a long way toward helping to produce a win.
But the Bills need much more of it Sunday. The Patriots are vulnerable everywhere defensively. They rank 29th overall, 26th against the run and 29th against the pass.
The Bills should make their share of plays, but if McCoy and the offensive line are able to take control early, they need to ride that as far as it will take them. The Patriots' offensive success is predicated on their quick-strike ability, and keeping Brady and his supporting cast on the sideline for long stretches could go a long way toward disrupting their rhythm.
4. Tyrod Taylor doesn't allow himself to be confused or stifled by the Patriots' pass defense.
If ever there's a game Taylor needs to be at his most cerebral, this is it. Coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia are the NFL's best at finding ways to exploit everything opponents do.
In Taylor's case, they did a superb job on Dec. 3 of limiting the effectiveness of his tremendous mobility by constantly keeping a defender or two ready to pounce whenever he took off running. They also confused him by dropping linemen into coverage, as they did on the interception former Bills practice-squad member Eric Lee made at the Pats' 1-yard line to foil the game's opening drive.
Taylor is trying to make a case that he should be someone's franchise quarterback. If he's ever going to convince McDermott and General Manager Brandon Beane of that, he needs to deliver when sharing the stage with the greatest who has ever played his position.
5. Find a way to avoid being trampled on the ground.
The Patriots ran well in the previous meeting, with 191 yards and an average of 5.5 yards per carry. Dion Lewis did the most damage with 92 yards and an average of 6.1 yards per rush. Most of his production game on a 44-yard run to help set up a field goal.
Winter weather will likely make it imperative for both teams to lean heavily on their running games. The Bills, who rank 25th in the league against the run, have to somehow become stout up front.
That means being sound with gap assignments and tackling, which has rarely been the case this season.