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Bills Defensive Line Is a Major Challenge for the Patriots

By on September 19, 2015 at 11:21am
hi-res-a340436e4fa50693ea1547866e9b51de_crop_north Photo Courtesy Bleacher Report.

When the Patriots travel to Buffalo to face the Bills on Sunday, they will have to deal with a dominant and supremely talented defensive line that is now being coached by Rex Ryan. The Patriots, who could likely start two rookies along the offensive line again, will face a massive challenge protecting Tom Brady and opening up holes in the running game.

Marcell Dareus, the biggest star defensive lineman the Bills have, will be playing his first game of the season on Sunday after serving a one game suspension. He is dominant interior presence and was rewarded as such by the Bills with a massive contract extension last week. He can disrupt an entire offensive line on his own with his ability to stuff the run and push the pocket in the passing game.

The Bills spent big money on free age Mario Williams in 2012 and that investment has paid off handsomely. In three full seasons with the Bills, Williams has 38 sacks and five forced fumbles. He is a dominant outside player who needs to be accounted for on every snap and throughout his career has proved himself worthy of being selected number one overall in the 2006 draft.

Although Kyle Williams has no relation to Mario, his excellent inside play make them kin of offense wreckers. Coincidentally selected in the 2006 draft as well, Williams has been a very good defensive tackle his entire career. His best season was 2013 when he recorded 10.5 sacks and a forced fumble, which he followed up with 5.5 sacks and an interception in 2014. Although he has not always piled up high stat numbers, he is an invaluable space eating piece on the Bills defensive line.

Last but not least for the Bills on their defensive line is end Jerry Hughes. Entering his sixth season, Hughes has established himself as a premiere edge rusher in the NFL. His breakout year was 2013 in which he took the opposing quarterback down 10 times and followed that up with 9.5 sacks last season. His three forced fumbles in 2014 were huge for Buffalo and cemented Hughes as perhaps the most dangerous player in an already dangerous Bills’ front.

Given that the Bills have all four of these players in their primes, their defensive line has a legitimate chance to be the best in the NFL. The Patriots will have their hands full preventing the Bills defensive line from dictating the play of the game.

For the Patriots, they will be likely starting two rookies once again. Rookie center David Andrews played well in week one against Pittsburgh, but has never seen the quality of talent that will be across from him on Sunday. Tre Jackson was up and down in his debut last Thursday and will need to have a strong and complete outing in order to slow down the Bills. Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer will have their hands full on the outside and they both won’t be getting help on every play. The Patriots will likely employ a quick passing game and try to catch the Bills moving too far upfield with draws and screens.

The Bills are going to have success up front. The Patriots job is to limit how much success the Bills have. If New England can get ahead early and limit the effectiveness of the Bills front four, they will have a good chance of ending the day with a win. However, if the Patriots are sluggish and the Bills defensive line gets off to a dominating start, it could be a long afternoon in Orchard Park.

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brady sack

Usually when a team scores 30 points en route to a road win, there is not much that goes wrong for them. For the Patriots on Sunday against Dallas, they did many things right in all three phases of the game en route to an impressive road win. One area that is a concern from Sunday, however, is pass blocking.

Tom Brady was sacked five times in the first half, including two drive killers on their first two possessions. New England was moving the ball well on each possession, but managed a total of three points from the two of them. The pressure was especially difficult around the edges, as Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer got beat several times.

Solder was playing against Greg Hardy, an elite pass rusher, so him having some difficulty is not completely surprising. What is surprising is how much difficulty he had and that it took until after halftime for the Patriots line to finally slow down the Cowboys pass rush. If the Cowboys had Tony Romo and Dez Bryant playing yesterday, the game could have looked a lot different especially early on.

The Patriots offensive line is still in a much better place now than it was last season even with starting center Bryan Stork unavailable. Things will not get easier for the Patriots line with games against the the Jets and Dolphins following this weekends trip to Indianapolis to face Robert Mathis and the Colts. New England is by no means in bad shape, but other teams will see first hand on film that if they want to slow the Patriots down, they need to get to Brady as fast as Dallas did. Not every team has the level of pass rushers the Cowboys do, but now every team will be attacking Solder and Vollmer.

It is up to the two tackles to prove those teams wrong for the Patriots offense to continue at its record pace.

Is it time to rely on Philip Rivers to lead your fantasy team?

Week 5 is upon us which means the bye week is in full swing as four teams — including the 4-0 Carolina Panthers — are going to be off a week. So, without Adrian Peterson or Cam Newton, how will your team win? Well, here are some of my suggestions:

Start ‘Em

Philip Rivers (vs. Pittsburgh): The Steelers defense is strong against the run and Rivers will see plenty of opportunity to throw the ball. Expect 300+ yards and at least two scores this week in a high-scoring affair. Continue reading Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 5, 2015 »

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Heading into this weekend’s game in Dallas, much of the focus will be on who is not playing. Tony Romo and Dez Bryant will be unavailable for the Cowboys due to injuries and Lance Dunbar has been lost for the year with a knee injury. One unit that is healthy and menacing is the Cowboys offensive line.

If Dallas is to beat New England, they will have to run the ball well. Brandon Weeden cannot win a game on his own and the Cowboys will also want to keep Tom Brady on the field. They have spent high draft picks on the offensive line, with Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, and Travis Frederick all being first round picks since 2011. These three players form a nucleus that has dominated opposing defenses over the last two years. Their play helped propel Demarco Murray to the league rushing title in 2014 and they have opened up 2015 playing well.

The Patriots have had one major weak spot on defense thus far and that has been stopping the run. Although part of this has been because they have jumped out to big leads therefore leading teams to throw more. This then forces the Patriots to use passing personnel, which means it is easier to run when the offenses choose to. Despite this qualifier, the team’s run defense should still be better. New England is giving up 4.9 yards per carry, tied for worst in the NFL. They are also giving up 117 yards rushing per game, which ranks 23rd.

Dallas no longer has Murray, but can still be formidable when blocking in the run game. The wild card for the Patriots defense is Weeden. With Romo and Bryant out, the Patriots can play more slanted to the run game and play seven or eight players in the box. However, if Weeden begins the game playing well, New England will have to play more sub packages and put more pressure on their defensive line.

The Patriots trip to Dallas is a very winnable game, as long as they don’t allow the Cowboys to push them around at the point of attack. This offensive line is the best the Patriots will face all season. Their front seven has played well against the pass and played better in the run game against Jacksonville, but it is still not a sure thing. The bye week may have come at a good time for the unit, as they got time to improve and practice more together.

The proof will be in the pudding on Sunday. Either the Patriots run defense will continue to improve or New England will get pushed around.


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Last night in a game against Dallas, Saints quarterback Drew Brees tossed the 400th touchdown pass of his career, joining legendary company. Seven days earlier, Tom Brady also threw his 400th touchdown pass in New England’s win over Jacksonville.

The two quarterbacks are still playing well late into their hall of fame careers with Brady opening the season on an MVP pace and Brees still leading the charge on a Saints team that has struggled out of the gates. Last night, the Patriots took to twitter to congratulate both Brady and Brees on their milestones.

Neither player appears to be slowing down and both are likely to pursue membership in the “500 Club” before their careers are over.

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Matthew Stafford might be in for a long night at Seattle (USATSI

It’s officially the first bye week, which means those without New England Patriots and the few Tennessee Titans players worth starting need to find some players to start in Week 4. Sure, most of these players are owned, but there could be a few surprises in the shallower leagues still out there on the waiver wire.

Here are some starts/sit for Week 4:

Start ‘Em

Cam Newton (vs. Tampa Bay): With 16 total touchdowns in six career games against the Buccaneers, Newton should be a go-to guy in Division matchups every single time this season. Sure, this is the second straight week Newton is a start, but you need to ride him while he is hot. Continue reading Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 4 »

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When undrafted rookie free agent center David Andrews entered training camp in late July, the expectation was that he would be backing up starter Bryan Stork for this season and beyond with the possibility of getting reps at guard. Stork’s concussion in August was followed by his being placed on short term injured reserve, meaning he will not be back until week nine. This thrust Andrews into the spotlight.

The 6’2″ University of Georgia product has been the only Patriots player to play every possible snap through the first three games of the season. More importantly, he has been a key part of an offensive line that has kept Tom Brady mostly clean. The protection issues from the beginning of the 2014 season have not resurfaced, even with more than one rookie along the offensive line.

Andrews is very athletic, which helps him in pass and run blocking. He is also fundamentally sound, a quality necessary if the Patriots are to play him. He did not allow a sack in his final two seasons at Georgia and has continued that trend into his NFL career. He performed admirably against a dominant Bills defensive line and followed that up with another strong outing against Jacksonville.

It is unlikely that Andrews will supplant Stork as the starter once Stork is healthy, but New England has to be happy with what they have seen. They are now assured of having strong depth at center for at least the rest of this year and probably longer. Andrews, for his part, is increasingly making harder for Patriots coaches to sit him when week nine arrives.

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Is it time to trust Cam newton again?

Two weeks off the table and the bye weeks are nearly upon us, but Week 3 is the final full week until later in the season. So, make sure to get all your superstars in there and make sure to bench players who have bad matchups before you have to play your bench players due to bye-week replacements. Here are some of my recommendations:

Start ‘Em

Cam Newton (vs. New Orleans): The Saints’ defense have the third-worst passer rating against QBs and Newton put up a huge game in Week 14 last year with three passing touchdowns and a rushing score. If you are planning to play Newton based on matchups, then this is one of those times to put him in your lineup. Continue reading Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 3 »

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