Here are my five takes on Sunday's game between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots at New Era Field:
1. LeGarrette Blount is not Jay Ajayi, and the Bills need to keep it that way. First, the Bills' defense can't possibly be as dreadful as it showed in allowing Ajayi to run for 214 yards in Sunday's loss at Miami. It might be a long way from elite, but it's hard to fathom that it's that close to awful.
The Dolphins' rushing success began with an offensive line that was more physical than the Bills' defensive front, consistently knocking it off the ball. However, according to the analytics website ProFootballFocus.com, the Bills also missed 16 tackles, which speaks largely to Ajayi's ability to add yardage beyond the line of scrimmage.
Poor tackling notwithstanding, Ajayi did an exceptional job of finding cutback lanes and knifing through them. That is not Blount's strength. He's a collision runner who does his best work slamming through the initial openings his line provides.
It's fair to say the Bills will be determined to avoid being overmatched physically, something that doesn't figure to happen against an offensive line that isn't as good as the one they faced at Hard Rock Stadium. It's also fair to say that they can, and probably will, clean up the issues they had with cutbacks and missed tackles.
2. Tom Brady will do Tom Brady things, but he'll be facing as strong a pass rush as the Bills have fielded since the one they unleashed on him during last year's Monday night game at Foxborough, Mass. It still might not make a major difference, because of Brady's incredible talent, especially when it comes to getting the ball out of his hand quickly.
But something special has been happening with Lorenzo Alexander, who has become one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL and is a legitimate candidate for the league's Defensive Player of the Year.
Brady has no book on him, and as he studies him, he will see is that Alexander's nine sacks are no fluke. He's flourishing with a combination of exceptional power and quickness. Alexander's 10 years of experience have taught him how to anticipate the snap count and his extensive study of the opposition allows him to consistently put himself in the right position to make plays.
Fellow outside linebacker Jerry Hughes is also performing at a high level, and he and Alexander are complementing each other well. If Marcell Dareus is finally able to play after missing the last three games with a pulled hamstring, he not only should enhance the Bills' ability to generate interior pressure but also help allow for more heat to come from the outside.
Provided Brady doesn't get the same sort of over-the-top rushing help that Ryan Tannehill received from Ajayi, the Bills should be able to get some sacks and hits on the Patriots' quarterback that could end up impacting the outcome.
3. Tyrod Taylor might be running out of receivers, but he'll probably have more time to find the ones he will have. As bad as the Bills' offensive line was against the Dolphins in getting virtually no push for the running game, it was equally poor in pass protection. Taylor was sacked four times and pretty much harassed from start to finish.
However, during the Bills' 16-0 victory on Oct. 2, Taylor had plenty of time to function from the pocket while keeping the chains moving with short and intermediate throws. Some of that was because the offensive line won most of its individual battles against a defensive front that hasn't done a good job of generating pressure all season. And some of that was because of smart scheming by offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn and the rest of the Bills' offensive coaches.
The Bills gave the Patriots a heavy dose of their own quick-slant medicine that worked to near perfection in allowing them to keep the chains moving and New England's defense on its heels. Taylor was decisive and accurate in developing a good rhythm with his receivers. Now, one of his key targets that day was Robert Woods, who missed the Miami game with an injured foot. The Bills desperately need him back, especially if Marquise Goodwin -- the lone big-play maker in the passing game -- isn't cleared to return from concussion protocol.
Tight end Charles Clay has to be a difference-maker and Justin Hunter and Walter Powell have to be more than just "guys" filling out a receiver depth chart.
And Taylor has to be every bit as sharp as he was in the previous outing against New England. He doesn't necessarily need to be spectacular, because, frankly, that isn't what he seems capable of delivering as a passer. But he must be more consistently accurate while continuing to avoid interceptions.
4. Don't get Gronked. Rob Gronkowski is healthier now than he was when the teams met the first time this season, and it shows. He's taking over games, as he did against the Steelers, and that opens up everything else in the Patriots' offense.
Impossible as it might be, the Bills have to do whatever they can to devote enough coverage attention to the Western New York native to at least keep his customary difference-making plays to a minimum.
They will do it at the risk of allowing the Patriots' other dangerous tight end, Martellus Bennett, and receivers Julian Edelman and former Bill Chris Hogan to do significant damage. But it must be done.
5. Maintain composure. The play in Miami became exceptionally chippy in the late stages of the game, especially after Jarvis Landry's brutal crack-back hit on Aaron Williams. At times, the game threatened to get out of control.
There's plenty of bad blood between the Bills and Patriots, and it spilled over on Oct. 2 during an altercation in pregame warmups. Officials no doubt will be paying extra-close attention this time.
Still, the Patriots know there are buttons to push with some of the highly emotional players on the Bills such as Hughes, who is prone to drawing personal-foul penalties, and Aaron Williams, if he plays.
They also haven't forgotten the Bills' over-the-top celebrating of the rare victory against their AFC East nemesis and even rarer triumph in Foxborough. The Bills can't let emotions lead to their undoing, even though Rex Ryan and his coaching staff will be looking to give the pregame dressing room the feel of a nest of angry hornets.