1. Tom Terrific
QB Tom Brady's preseason showed he has fully recovered from season-ending knee injury. He has familiar weapons in WRs Randy Moss and Wes Welker (questionable with knee injury), as well as some new ones in RB Fred Taylor and WR Joey Galloway. The Patriots hope Welker can play because they don't have anyone better at finding open spots in coverage. Led by DEs Aaron Schobel and Aaron Maybin, the Bills must generate a pass rush. Blitzing Brady is risky because he reads and reacts in a split second, but the Bills have to make him uncomfortable.
2. K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, stupid)
Newly installed offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt takes over a no-huddle attack that will be simplified from the one run by his predecessor, Turk Schonert. But will fewer plays mean more production? It will if QB Trent Edwards can attack downfield throwing to WRs Lee Evans and Terrell Owens. The Bills could exploit a Patriots secondary that has a lot of new faces. But Edwards needs to be protected by a very young offensive line. Look for the Patriots to use blitzes and stunts to try to expose the Bills' inexperience up front.
3. The two Freds
For all the focus on both teams' passing attacks, the team that runs best might have the upper hand. RB Fred Jackson takes over for the suspended Marshawn Lynch as the Bills' main ball carrier. Jackson had a career day against the Patriots in the 2008 finale (136 yards), though he was running behind a more seasoned O-line. RB Fred Taylor, a 10,000-yard rusher in Jacksonsville, is one of several backs the Patriots will throw at the Bills. The Patriots' run "D" has been weakened by trade of DE Richard Seymour, but NT Vince Wilfork and MLB Jerod Mayo anchor a stout interior. The Patriots ran a lot of 4-3 in the preseason, but could switch back to the 3-4, which has given the Bills problems.
4. Special teams edge
The Bills usually win this matchup against most teams because P Brian Moorman and great coverage create field position advantages and explosive return men Roscoe Parrish and Leodis McKelvin are threats to score every time they touch the ball. A big play or two here could make all the difference. The Patriots' return game might miss Ellis Hobbs, who was traded. They might turn to RB Laurence Maroney, who was among the NFL leaders with a 28-yard average as a rookie. One of two rookies -- Patrick Chung or Julian Edelman -- will return punts if Welker is out.
There are unknowns on both sides. Is Brady truly back? Is Welker going to play? How will the Patriots' defense be affected by the losses of linchpins Seymour, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Rodney Harrison? On the Bills' side, how well will the no-huddle function under Van Pelt or what impact will Owens have on the passing game? The one thing the Bills have going for them offensively is the Patriots don't yet have a feel for how Van Pelt calls a game. But Patriots coach Bill Belichick always has something up his sleeve that opponents aren't ready for. And don't forget the Bills have never won in Gillette Stadium and have lost eight straight in Foxborough, Mass.
Prediction: The Patriots have never beaten an opponent 12 straight times. Until now. Patriots, 34-17.