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News' Bills reporter Mark Gaughan answers the keys to Bills winning against Patriots, AFC playoff race projections, and more

Buffalo News sports reporter Mark Gaughan covered the Bills for more than 23 years, tracking every Bills play for more than two decades.

This season, he specializes in X's and O's and film breakdowns such as how Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly makes the middle a danger zone, how Denver Broncos Von Miller could run a game, how the Bills defense kept Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce under wraps and more.

On Nov. 28, Gaughan answered some questions. Here's a transcript:

 Mark Gaughan: Greetings Bills fans. Thanks for joining this chat. Some may remember I used to do a weekly Friday chat during the Gregg/Mularkey/Jauron "eras" on Fridays. It was a lot of fun. Appreciate you taking the time to check in. And much thanks for your support of BN-Blitz, which has the most comprehensive Bills coverage (and it's not close). Enough promotion. Let's talk Bills and the Evil Empire, NFL, draft, whatever you want. Our chat will be starting in about 10 minutes. . .

u/seanmcd1515: Approximately what percentage of Tyrod's short passes are designed by Dennison's play calls as opposed to Tyrod choosing to check down?

MG: Well 1515, tough to answer with a number because there are no stats on throws not made. The Dennison-GaryKubiak offense is highly schemed, and I think it's good for Tyrod in the sense Rico is doing best to play within Tyrod's limitations. I'm not trying to bash TT but he can't effectively run the horizonatal quick-game offense that is run by Pats-Saints-Packers-Chargers. So I think Tyrod's throws are within the scheme (besides when he breaks contain) and I think there are a handful of plays per game where he does not pull the trigger on anticipation. If it's a 3-level concept against zone, Tyrod is more likely to not trigger on the deeper option. Actually Alex Smith in KC is similar. Tyrod's arm is better than Smith's.

Rick McGuire: Mark...historically going back to the Brady to Welker combo, the New England passing game has dominated the Bills defense. Why should we think this year will be any different even with 4 new starting DBs, a new head coach and whole new defensive scheme? Can we realistically believe our DBs can keep up with Gronkowski, Amendola, Cooks and possibly Hogan? My only guess would be getting to Brady and making him pay severely every time he drops back. Your thoughts?

MG: Good points, Rick. First, just to emphasize the obvious, NO defense is a good matchup with the Pats offense. Nobody. That's why they're No. 1 on offense. And no, I don't think this Bills D matches up well. The ways to contain Brady are: Pocket Pressure Up the Middle (best example NYG in Super Bowls) and Press Coverage to take away the 5-yard quick horizontal throws. (HOU did it in playoffs LY and ATL did it for 3qtrs in SB). Both are really tough to execute. The Bills aren't great at either. SeanMcD's Carolina D was a better matchup, due to speed at LB and stud DL. Best Bills' hope: Pound the rock and keep TB12 off the field. Bend but dont break and play great in the red zone on D. Get 2 "breaks" - a special teams big play, lucky bounce, turnover (except TB12 doesn't make turnovers).

Bill Babbington: Hi Mr Gaughan, The Bills struggle with a strong pass rush. Do you think the Pats have a strong pass rush? Will it be a problem for the Bills? Thanks

MG: Hi Bill. The Pats rank 24th in sacks. The edge rush is poor. So no. The problem will be the opposite, actually. If you can't get there with 4-5-or-6, rush 3. That's what Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia do more than almost anybody. (They were No. 1 in NFL in 3-man rushes in 2016.) Look for them to keep Tyrod in the pocket, flood the zones with coverage, make Tyrod be precise and make the Bills go on long marches.

Phillip A. Boni: Alright, its New England at home. What is the key to winning this game? Im going to say discipline. We shoot ourselves in the foot with penalties against these guys too often.

MG: No Question, Bills operate on a small margin for error . . . So a 10-yard hold (as Dion Dawkins had, wiping out 19-yard run in KC) is going to be tough to overcome) . . . Keys: Hit a couple deep throws downfield . . . Tyrod makes plays with his feet to keep chains moving . . . Pound the rock on NE front . . . Keep Brady off field. . . . Brandon Tate has 1 big PR . . .

Brian Michel: So what was the point in pulling Tyrod two weeks ago if coach was going to play him again? Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to see a win this past weekend but it seemed to send mixed messages at best about what the "long game" is here...

MG: Point was McD took a shot at getting something more than Tyrod gives (given his limitations). It blew up. So the mixed message was unavoidable . . . He had no choice but to go back to Tyrod (I think we all can agree on that). One more point: I do not think McD was secretly playing for next year and looking to see what Peterman looks like. . . . I think he truly was hoping Peterman would bring something more to the passing game.

Alex Collura: So what needs to happen for the bills to make the playoffs?"

MG: AFC Playoff Race Projection . . .
No. 5: Seems clear second place in AFC South (TEN or JAX) is going to get to 10 wins.
No. 6. Better than 50 percent chance nobody gets to 10 wins in race for final wild-card spot.

So the race for No. 6 SEED: I see Baltimore losing to DET and PIT - then winning next 2 to get to 8 wins. Baltimore finishes at home vs. CIN . . . Looks like BAL would have AFC tie-breaker edge on BUF given AFC record . . . unless it's a 3- or 4-way tie.

I think Bills get to 9 (D Miami twice, D IND) . . . KC will get to 8 . . . but maybe not 9. Oak won't get to 9. SD wins AFC West . .. .

Scenario: Week 17: Bills need to win at NE or have BAL lose at home to CIN.

Correction: Bills at NE in Wk16, at MIA in Wk17. Regardless, Bills will not get benefit of NE having nothing to play for - it'll go down to last week for HFA between Pats and Pitt . . .

Anthony Lo Pro Collier: Bills Vs Patriots. What’s the final score going to be ??

MG: Hmm . . . Pats 30, Bills 17

OK. We're going to call it a wrap. Thanks for the questions and thank you for reading!

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