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Solid defensive play could keep Pats in check

1. Run and gun

The Bills won't be able to keep New England off the field forever, and at some point the defense is going to have to force the Patriots off the field on third down. Easier said than done. New England has a conference-high eight Pro Bowlers on its roster including five on offense starting with quarterback Tom Brady. Brady is dealing with a sore left shoulder but is expected to play today and needs just 188 yards to pass Dan Marino's old mark of 5,084 yards passing in a season, which was topped by New Orleans' Drew Brees last Monday. His favorite targets are Wes Welker, who leads the NFL with 1,518 yards, and Rob Gronkowski, who has 15 TDs -- a league record for tight ends. If Gronkowski is the league's premier player at the position, Aaron Hernandez isn't far behind. The Patriots don't run the ball well which could be a problem in the postseason.

2. Keep 'em off the field

During their first matchup in Week 3, the Bills could match the Patriots point for point but that was before Buffalo was hit hard by injuries. Now the offense has to play keep away. The best way is to establish a successful ground game with C.J. Spiller. The Bills averaged nearly seven yards a carry last week in the win over Denver with Spiller rushing for a career best 111 yards. Meanwhile, New England has been patchy defending the run and yielded 115 yards and 4.3 yards a carry last week against Miami.

3. Create turnovers

The main reason why the Bills were victorious in their first matchup against New England was because they forced Brady into four interceptions, including Drayton Florence's 27-yard interception return for a touchdown on a pass tipped by rookie Marcell Dareus, right. The Bills produced three interceptions and a fumble recovery for a TD against Tim Tebow and the Broncos and will need the same kind of effort today. One of Tebow's interceptions and the fumble recovery by Spencer Johnson were a direct result of pressure from defensive end Chris Kelsay. If the Bills allow Brady to scan and dissect the secondary, it's going to be a long afternoon. Since his four-INT afternoon against the Bills, Brady has thrown just six interceptions.

4. Spread the wealth

While quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick didn't throw a touchdown last week, he didn't have any interceptions either and completed 15 passes to eight different receivers. Fitzpatrick will have more opportunities through the air going up against a horrific New England secondary that ranks last against the pass.

5. O-line shuffle

Injuries have once again hindered the offensive line. Center Kraig Urbik and left tackle Demetrius Bell are both out with knee injuries so Colin Brown will play center and rookie Chris Hairston starts at left tackle. The Patriots have improved pressuring quarterbacks and are tied for 13th in the league with Arizona and Detroit in sacks with 38. The Pats will be without Pro Bowl defensive end Andre Carter, who leads the team with 10 sacks and is on injured reserve. The Bills have allowed just 21 sacks this season.


Outlook: New England has already claimed the AFC East title, but don't bet on Bill Belichick resting his starters if the game gets out of hand. The Patriots remember all too well what happened in Week Three. Prediction: New England 30, Bills 17.