ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss offers five storylines to watch in the Patriots' season opener against the Bills, and the majority of them are based around New England's defense. Luckily for this group, Monday's season opener will be a good first test for the new-look cast of characters.
There shouldn't be much to worry about when facing a squad that features Trent Edwards taking the snaps, but Buffalo's offense can offer a handful of problems to the Pats' defense.
In its first official game without Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, Ellis Hobbs, Tedy Bruschi and Richard Seymour, there's no telling how defensive coordinator Dean Peas' crew will match up.
The Bills may not have to rely on new addition Terrell Owens as much as one would think. Buffalo's attack also sports wide receiver Lee Evans (1,017 yards, three touchdowns in 2008) and running back Fred Jackson (1,378 total offensive yards in last two seasons). Owens, however, won't make life easy for the Pats' inexperienced secondary, which will have to deal with his size while keeping an eye on fellow wideout Roscoe Parrish and not letting deep threat Evans sneak behind them for the long ball.
According to Reiss, one interesting factor with the Pats' defense heading into this game is the matchup between defensive end Jarvis Green and Bills offensive lineman Demetrius Bell. Bell is expected to be making his first career NFL start at left tackle while Green is likely to take over for the recently departed Richard Seymour.
"Bell is expected to be making his first career NFL start after Buffalo released Langston Walker. At times, Bell and Green will be locked up against each other, creating an individual matchup that few could have seen coming just a few weeks ago. In addition to Green, the Patriots have five-year veteran Mike Wright and rookie Ron Brace as options at end."
Something else to keep an eye on when Buffalo has the ball is what scheme — either the 3-4 or the 4-3 — the Pats favor. New England has played the majority of the preseason in 4-3, but the versatile defense will likely stick to 3-4 based on the following numbers: According to Reiss, the Bills were 1-8 last season against teams that played the 3-4 and 6-1 against the 4-3.
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