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Bills are in turmoil, but Pats have own woes

The last seven days must have seemed like an eternity for the Buffalo Bills. As if dealing with last Sunday's devastating 24-23 loss in Miami wasn't enough, they had to deal with the week-long distraction of wide receiver Eric Moulds' one-game suspension.

Oh, by the way, the Bills (4-8) play the New England Patriots (7-5) today in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

As for the Patriots, they have their own problems to deal with, mainly injuries and a defense that has given up points and yards by the bushel.

But after escaping with a 21-16 win over the Bills in the first meeting, the Patriots know they can't afford to let their guard down against a team desperate to salvage what's left of its season.


Breaking down the Bills

Rushing: Bills need to get RB Willis McGahee back on track. He's had one 100-yard outing in six weeks and hasn't scored a touchdown in that span because he's not being utilized enough in red zone. . . . McGahee had a big day against Patriots in last meeting (136 yards), so look for Bills to give him a lot of touches in an effort to shorten game. . . . Patriots' run defense has improved in recent weeks. Tedy Bruschi, who is regaining his stride after missing half of the season while recovering from a stroke, and versatile Mike Vrabel have solidified the inside linebacker position. The defensive line is looking better with DE/DT Richard Seymour back from knee injury. . . . Bills will likely try to get McGahee outside by getting extra blockers on Patriots' perimeter.

Passing: QB J.P. Losman, who is coming off best game of career (224 yards and three TDs versus Miami) faces Patriots' 31st-ranked pass defense that has lost six players in secondary to injuries. . . . Losman must be a good decision maker as Patriots coach Bill Belichick and his defensive assistants are known for devising schemes that force young quarterbacks into bad decisions. . . . With Moulds out, WR Lee Evans (career highs of 117 yards and three TDs last week) will see more double coverage. . . . Bills have allowed 35 sacks and must give Losman time to find open receivers. . . . Patriots are last in NFL in sacks, but a healthy Seymour can be a disruptive force. OLBs Rosevelt Colvin and Willie McGinest will bring pressure as well. . . . Losman's mobility is a concern for Patriots, who must keep him contained in pocket.

Special teams: Belichick has a lot of respect for Terrence McGee, who returned a kickoff for a TD against Patriots last season. . . . Patriots' coverage hasn't been great, so look for shorter kickoffs to limit big plays. . . . P Brian Moorman will have a huge say in determining field position.


Breaking down the: Patriots

Rushing: RBs Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk are finally healthy and should give offense a spark. Dillon is physical workhorse who can move chains. Faulk plays in Patriots' sub packages and his quickness is a nice change of pace. . . . Patriots desperately need to re-establish run, so look for game plan that features Dillon and an improving offensive line. . . . Bills are making steady improvement stopping run. But they are still 31st in NFL, so there is room for more improvement. . . . Bills must be disciplined and stay in their gaps. Dillon lacks great speed, but he can get around corner if Bills lose containment.

Passing: A running game would take pressure off QB Tom Brady, who has carried offense. Brady is efficient passer who is good at finding receivers in short and intermediate areas. . . . WR Deion Branch is team's best deep threat. He and fellow wideouts David Givens and Troy Brown are disciplined route runners with a knack for getting open. . . . TEs Ben Watson and Daniel Graham, if healthy, have speed to stretch middle of field. . . . CB Nate Clements and Bills' secondary are looking for bounce-back game. It would help if Bills can rattle Brady with pressure. Expect an overload of blitzes from left side of Patriots' offensive line, which is manned by two rookies -- LT Nick Kaczur and LG Logan Mankins. . . . Sending a linebacker, cornerback or safety should create some one-on-one rush opportunities for DE Aaron Schobel, who sacked Brady twice in previous meeting.

Special teams: K Adam Vinatieri is just 3 of 7 beyond 40 yards, but he's still Mr. Automatic in clutch. . . . P Josh Miller is having career year (46.7-yard average). . . . Bethel Johnson and Tim Dwight are capable of springing big returns.



Patriots are very beatable, but Bills will be challenged to overcome turmoil that's enveloped this team. Figure on a close game, but as usual, Patriots find a way to win. Patriots 20, Bills 13.

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