The New England Patriots have played three of their first seven games on the road this season. They lost the first two to the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Detroit Lions and narrowly escaped with a win against the Chicago Bears. As the Patriots head to New York to take on the Buffalo Bills, this less-than-stellar road streak should come to a screeching halt, and the Patriots receivers will play a pivotal role in putting points on the board in Buffalo.
New England Patriots Receivers Continue
Buffalo’s Defensive Outlook
Through seven games, the Bills have one of the best receiving defenses in the league in terms of yards allowed. The Bills defense is allowing a fifth-best 224.6 receiving yards per game. That’s a relatively surprising statistic given that the Bills have faced talents like Philip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck in the first half of their season.
But yards cannot tell the whole story. The same defense that ranks in the top five for receiving yards allowed has also given up 1.86 receiving touchdowns per game, good for the ninth-worst in the league.
An Early Lead Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Light Work Later
The Bills have given up ten of their 13 receiving touchdowns this season in the first half of games. Regardless of how Josh McDaniels draws up the offensive playcalling this week, there is a strong chance that the Patriots will jump out to an early lead.
That means that the Patriots playcalling in the second half is going to rely heavily on James White and new start Kenneth Farrow to chew up clock in the second half. Unfortunately for the Patriots, the Bills have one of the better run defenses in the league, and Farrow is an unproven talent heading into this matchup. Tom Brady is going to have to rely on his talented wide receiver corps to pick up yardage on second down or convert long third downs. This is where the Bills receiving defense wins out.
Opposing offenses have attempted to convert third downs of seven or more yards 27 times this season. Opposing offenses have been successful only eight times.
As expected, the Patriots had a momentary relapse in letting Josh Gordon soak up all the offensive looks last week in favor of getting the ball out quickly to James White. But he performed like the star he was born to be, racking up 100 yards against the Chicago Bears defense.
Gordon had a lot of impact after the catch, as evidenced by his bullying, tackle-shedding 55-yard reception in the second half of the Patriots week seven matchup. Gordon is going to be best used sparingly, but in space, for chunk yardage.
Edelman has returned to form as Brady’s favorite receiver. So far, he has played some excellent football. Sure hands, above-average separation. The only thing keeping him from leading the receivers in scores outright is Cordarrelle Patterson sharking that touchdown from him in his first week back.
Buffalo actually has a surprisingly good pass rush. Through the first six weeks, they had the fourth-best graded pass rush in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. The Bills actually ranked right behind Chicago in those grades. Believe it or not, Buffalo’s best pass rusher, Jerry Hughes, was graded above Khalil Mack during that time frame.
Facing a decent pass rush for the second time in two weeks, Tom Brady is going to continue looking for his squirrely little slot receiver to get the ball out quickly. Edelman should be good for at least
Patriots Wide Receiver Quick Notes
- Phillip Dorsett has played more career games against the Bills than Chris Hogan since Hogan was injured for both 2017 games against his former team.
- Dorsett, however, has all but disappeared from this offense with only four targets in the last three games.
- Patterson has four career kick returns against Buffalo, including one for 43 yards in 2017.
- Buffalo’s receiving defense is particularly bad at defending against passes of <15 yards over the middle, according to Football Outsiders.
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