Ravens safety Ed Reed tops the list of active players, and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco was up there during his days as a New England opponent. Bills running back Fred Jackson might be underrated on the scale of national coverage but certainly not in the New England locker room, and it all starts with Belichick.
"He's been doing it his whole career," Belichick said. "There are really no weak points with that guy. He does everything well, runs hard, breaks tackles, good vision, good balance, catches the ball well, outstanding as a blocker, exceptional blitz pickup, even when they ask him to run block, which occasionally they do with their different personnel groupings. He's good at everything. We know he can return. We know he can play in the kicking game. It's just a question of what they ask him to do. He's really outstanding. He's one of the best backs in the league. I would say no weak points. I don't know what the weak points would be."
There are times when coaches and players — those in New England included — blow some smoke to talk up an opponent, but that's not the case with Jackson. Belichick routinely fawns over the guy.
In seven games against the Patriots, Jackson has 391 rushing yards, 16 receptions, 146 receiving yards and one touchdown. Those numbers are decent on the surface, but they're a little more impressive considering how much effort the Patriots have placed on trying to stop Jackson. Plus, the running game hasn't always been an option for the Bills during their string of losses against New England.
Jackson has been off to a brilliant start to this season, amassing a league-high 229 rushing yards and four runs of at least 20 yards. He's also fifth in the NFL with 6.5 yards per carry and sixth with nine first-down runs.
"The guy can run," Patriots defensive end Shaun Ellis said. "He has great vision. He's able to see the holes and cut off blockers. Also, in the passing game, can catch the ball out of the backfield. Sometimes, they line him up at receiver. He's just an overall threat that can pose a lot of problems for the defense."
Jackson has paced Buffalo's top-rated ground attack, and it's even more eye-popping that the Bills have used their ground game to help propel the offense to an NFL-best 39.5 points per game. There's no doubt why the Patriots are high on Jackson, even if he doesn't get the attention they believe he deserves.
"I tell you what, Fred Jackson, he is so underrated," Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said. "This guy, I think I said it a couple of years ago, and I know I said it last year — he is so underrated. He's just one of those tough backs. You can give him the ball 30 times if you want to."