Here are my five takes on the Buffalo Bills’ game against the New England Patriots Monday night at New Era Field:
1. Is it possible for Derek Anderson to rebound from his horrific Bills debut last week?
Counting on that is probably a reach. An extra week of practice is unlikely to bring any sort of transformation for a quarterback who threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in the 37-5 humiliation the Bills suffered at Indianapolis.
At this stage, Anderson’s shortcomings don’t figure to stem all that much from a lack of knowledge about the Bills’ offense or what to expect from an opposing defense. His understanding of the scheme and the plays is sufficient and in line with what one would expect from a quarterback in his 14th NFL season. The bigger problem is that Anderson simply doesn’t have the physical conditioning to perform at a credible enough level to allow the offense to be competitive.
Players don’t get in shape during the season, especially at age 35. That’s something that must be constantly maintained, and let’s face it: Anderson had pretty much entered retirement after spending last year with the Carolina Panthers. The Bills didn’t sign him to play, but are forced to go with him because of Josh Allen’s elbow injury and Nathan Peterman’s ineptitude.
2. Is it possible for the Bills’ run defense to rebound from its terrible showing a week ago?
Now we’re talking about something that actually has a chance of happening. It’s hard to imagine the Bills being as utterly incompetent as they were dealing with the Colts’ rushing attack.
Allowing big chunks of yards seemingly is uncharacteristic. As they’ve shown multiple times this season, Kyle Williams, Star Lotulelei, Jerry Hughes and the rest of the Bills’ defensive front are capable of much better.
It was disturbing that outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander told reporters after the Indianapolis game that the Bills’ defense was caught off-guard by some of what it saw from the Colts’ offense. Midway through the season, this unit, which has plenty of smart veterans such as Alexander and the combined guidance of defensive-rooted coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, should have few surprises from the other side of the line.
3. Tom Brady is going to have his way with the Bills’ secondary.
This pretty much falls into the like-death-and-taxes category. The Bills will try, but it’s hard to see them preventing Brady from having yet another big game with his golden passing arm.
Even at 41, Brady is playing at a dominant level. The fact that he’s six years older than Anderson yet makes him seem like the guy who is too old to play effectively is a testament to both Brady’s incredible talent and the way he takes care of his body.
The deafening noise and over-the-top energy the crowd is expected to generate won’t bother Brady in the least. In anything, he and his teammates, who have had plenty of experience in hostile environments, will thrive off of it.
4. Rob Gronkowski is looking to make a statement as the numbers of games he gets to play in his home area dwindles.
By all accounts, Gronk intends to finish his career with the Patriots and will exit the game with Brady, who seemingly could retire after this season, especially if the Patriots win another Super Bowl, which is hardly out of the question.
Gronk continues to struggle to stay healthy, but when he plays, he is generally good for at least one or two game-breaking catches. The Bills’ secondary doesn’t seem any better equipped to shut him down than it has been in previous encounters with the All-Everything tight end.
5. It will be fun to see Thurman Thomas have his No. 34 retired at halftime.
That will likely be the only moment Bills fans get to enjoy Monday night.
Thomas arguably was the most valuable member of those Super Bowl teams. Jim Kelly might have been the face of that era. Bruce Smith might have possessed the greatest athletic ability of anyone to ever don a Bills uniform.
However, Thomas delivered the greatest overall production because of his equal effectiveness as a runner and a receiver, thanks to his off-the-charts physical skill and instincts. He also brought an unprecedented passion that was contagious to teammates and fans alike.