Mark Gaughan's Matchup Watch: Patriots at Bills
LeSean McCoy vs. Kyle Van Noy
The question will be whether the Bills can get McCoy into one-on-one open-field situations against Van Noy. The expectation is Bill Belichick will work to take McCoy away and say to Tyrod Taylor: "Go ahead, beat us with these wideouts, if you can." If the Patriots go with a reduced front, playing three interior defensive linemen tighter to the middle, it may be tough for the Bills to get the inside zone game going. That was the case in the road loss to the Jets. The Bills might be better off working the outside run game. Hitting first-down, play-action passes to loosen up the defense likely will be critical.
Rob Gronkowski vs. Micah Hyde
It's the No. 87 double-header for the Bills. Fresh off a coverage victory over a great tight end wearing 87 (Travis Kelce), Buffalo faces New England's No. 87. This will be tougher, because New England has more weapons than Kansas City. The expectation is the Bills will rely mostly on zone coverage. When they go man, Hyde is the better option because he's bigger and a bit more athletic than Jordan Poyer. The Pats have a great play-action game. They sometimes sell it by pulling a guard, getting the linebackers to bite, and creating more room for a pass to Gronk in front of the deep safety.
Dion Lewis vs. Bills LBs
With the Bills likely to be protecting deep, that will force Tom Brady to work his magic underneath. Yet another of Brady's strengths is his ability to read and recognize when the check-down is his best option. He gets the ball out to backs as quick as any QB (Philip Rivers is great at it, too) and puts it in-stride so backs can get the maximum yardage out of their receptions. Alexander drops into coverage on 53 percent of the pass plays he's on the field for, by News statistics. But he was down to 20 snaps last week. This will be a challenge for Alexander, Ramon Humber or Matt Milano.