Monday Night Madness
So Monday night we get the Patriots at New Era Field for our first hosted MNF game since 2008. While Vegas and all the sportscasters see this as blowout potential you can never over look our beloved Bills. Need an example? Go ask Kirk Cousins and the Vikings what happens when you do. Clearly they won't forget that game anytime soon. It's going to be the Brady led offense against our 4th ranked defense. I know I'm pumped for the game. The Bills Mafia is going to be loud, crazy, and ready to rock. It's going to be even more madness since it's Tom Brady and Co., our division rival, and on Monday night at home. If we win this game it can change the rest of the season. The Bills need to play a perfect game to pull this off but it can be done.
First, we'll start with the Patriots. Even typing that P word fills me with anger and rage. As usual the Pats are top in the division and steamrolling opponents. They've scored 214 points so far this year in 7 games and the last 4 games they've scored at least 38 points. Now they're going up against the 4th ranked defense in the league on Monday night and may be without Gronk and Sony Michel. However, Gronk did just log a full practice so I suspect he will not carry an injury designation into the game. Regarding Michel I don't think he'll be playing. He wasn't present at practice on Friday, but did practice today. But, I'd be surprised even with the extra day if he suits up for Monday night as the Pats may not want to chance playing him if he's not 100%.
If Gronk does play this should just add more fuel to the fire for the Bills. I know we all remember his late hit on White last year, it was a cheap shot and injured White. There was no reason for the hit and it was totally uncalled for. White had this to say last year about the hit. "I'm laying there he snuck me, my back turned. He could have broken my neck." "I got a son to raise. People don't think about that when they react, but that's here or there. It is what it is." White took the high road going on to say. "But I get the film Sunday, and the best way that I can handle that situation and just try to go in there and just get a big old 'W' in their stadium and try to help our playoff chances." "So yeah, I'm not a guy who's going to try to do a cheap shot after the whistle. Nothing. I'm gonna play the game the way it's supposed to be played. Respect the game. Just like I said, going in there and winning would be the best revenge." We did lose that game vs the Pats 16-37 but I can tell you one thing White and the team did not forget about that hit.
Now the Bills do have the 4th ranked defense which have the potential to smother teams as we did against the Vikings. We'll need that to try to slow the Patriots and get decent field position. The defense on average gives up 25 points per game. Belichick is aware of how strong the secondary is in particular and had this to say about Hyde and Poyer. "Hyde has very good ball skills and has corner experience." "So when they're in man to man coverage situations and he's asked to do that he's pretty competitive as a coverage player. They play both split and post safety coverages (and Hyde) is a pretty versatile guy. "Poyer is similar but is a little more of the strong safety role, but again they work very well together and they're somewhat interchangeable because the defense is balanced." So clearly he's aware of the threat that looms downfield. If the Bills can force some good pressure on Brady we may be able to force some turnovers. They're tied for 29th with 26 sacks, but they lead the league in sack rate so pressure is key. But, if Brady gets time to throw this could get ugly quickly. Brady is 28-3 against the Bills so it's a tall task but again anything can happen.
The Patriots may also have a tougher time running as I think Sony Michel may not play. While he did practice today I'm not sure the Patriots will risk him playing unless he's real close to 100%. They tend to be pretty cautious with injuries and may feel they don't need him to win against the Bills. However, White is much more of a receiving back and if Michel is out this could force Brady to throw more into a dangerous defense. The Vikings literally abandoned the run in their loss logging six rushes for 14 yards. But, this could allow Gronk to have a huge stat line as he typically plays well against the Bills. As we all know Gronk grew up in Williamsville, N.Y, and has enjoyed his homecoming weekends, going 6-1 all time in Orchard Park. In those seven games, Gronk has collected 44 catches for 730 yards and 7 touchdowns. The Bills have to find a way to cover him and take him out of the fold.
Now for the Bills offense there's a lot of question marks as we all know. First, they have to get points on the board. Currently, the entire league is averaging 363 yards per game. Buffalo is averaging just 234 yards per game, over 1/3 less than the league average. NFL teams are averaging 24.1 points per game and the Bills have less than half that, at 11.6 points per game. The Bills average 3.92 yards per play compared with the league average of 5.67. They lead the league with 12 interceptions. They rank 31st in third-down conversion rate at 27 percent. Finally, the Bills rank 28th with 3.85 yards per carry.
So where do we go from here. McCoy may be out as he is in concussion protocol so the extra day is huge for his status. Currently, he is not cleared but hopefully will be. Penalties have to be cut down. The Bills have already amassed over 400 yards in penalties so far this season. Turnovers are a killer last week alone we had 5 (3 interceptions and 2 fumbles). With the lack of scoring we can't afford to be giving the ball away that easily. Anderson is starting again which I'm not surprised. I think he can play better and will. Let's remember he only logged 3 practices before the Colts game. Plus, Anderson was due to have some rust from not playing this year so a bad stat line was not totally unexpected. While he's a veteran to learn enough of the offense that soon is an almost impossible task. With having a full week to prepare and learn more of the offense this should allow for some additional plays to be run. Also, with Anderson not having played this season until last week there is limited game film for the Pats to review and use for their game plan.
Also, there's one other key critical component to the success of the team Monday night and that's the atmosphere. The Bills have a lot to play for and have a lot to prove. A win changes a lot, a loss just continues the walk down the road to a long struggling season. Now, I'm going to assume that no sex toys will be thrown on the field Monday night. But, maybe there's a third time and it is the Pats coming to town so it wouldn't surprise me. The Patriots know what they're walking into. On Thursday Devin McCourty said “Playing here and playing in Buffalo before — I know that’s not going to be a game where we come in and it’s like the stadium’s half-empty. It’s not going to be like that,” “When we get there, that stadium’s going to be packed, we’re going to be getting booed, we’re going to get the middle fingers. It’s going to be a high-energy atmosphere.” “It’s obviously going to be negative energy towards us but you’re talking about Monday Night Football, in Buffalo, for a division game,” McCourty said. “I think one thing I’ve learned here is every time we go on the road to play a team in a big game, it changes for that team. So like it’s not like they’re coming in here 2-5 like, ‘Let’s get this game over with.’ They’re like, ‘This is where we turn our season around. We beat the Patriots on Monday Night Football, we turn it around.’ Being 2-5 and 5-2 in this league, it’s different but you go on a winning streak, you have a totally different season.”
So let's circle the wagons, beware the stampede, and get fired up for the Patriots and Tom Crybaby to come town. Let's make it a MNF game that the Pats will never forget when the Bills Mafia is in full force cheering on our Bills. So make the plays, get the big W, and start to turn it around Buffalo. This is a chance to have the whole country watching and show why you should never overlook our team. I love football Sundays but I can't wait for the Monday night madness!