After dispatching the Chicago Bears in dramatic fashion Sunday afternoon, the New England Patriots will close out the first half of their 2018 schedule with a Monday night visit to the Buffalo Bills.
Here’s are five things to know about the Bills, with whom the Patriots are very familiar:
1. To put it bluntly, they’re not very good
The Bills currently sit at 2-5 — last place in the AFC East — after enduring a 37-5 shellacking at the hands of the mediocre Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. It was another sorry performance by their anemic offense, which ranks dead last in scoring at 11.3 points per game.
One alarming stat: Buffalo has failed to score a touchdown in three of its seven games this season, tied for the most in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans. Fittingly, one of the Bills’ two victories came over the Titans in an unwatchable 13-12 affair two weeks ago. (The 1-6 Arizona Cardinals are the only other team with multiple touchdown-less games. They have two.)
The Bills have lost games by 44, 32, 22 and 11 points this season, and their lone truly inspiring result — a stunning 27-6 road upset of the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3 — looks very much like a fluke at this point.
2. They’re starting Derek Anderson at quarterback
Big-armed rookie Josh Allen remains sidelined with an elbow injury, meaning Anderson — Cam Newton’s longtime backup in Carolina before joining the Bills two weeks ago — will start his second consecutive game Monday night. The 35-year-old struggled against the Colts, tossing three interceptions and losing a fumble in the blowout loss.
Anderson is getting the nod over Nathan Peterman, who’s completed just 11 of 30 passes for 85 yards and one touchdown with four interceptions in two appearances this season. A late Peterman pick-six proved to be the difference in Buffalo’s narrowest defeat this season: a 20-13 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 6.
Combined, the Bills’ three quarterbacks rank last in the NFL in essentially every passing category, including yards per attempt (5.4), yards per game (129), completion percentage (52.7), touchdown passes (three), interceptions (12) and passer rating (48.8). They’ve also taken 26 sacks, tied for third-most in the league.
3. Their best offensive player is banged up
Six-time Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy was knocked out of Sunday’s game with a head injury and remained in concussion protocol Tuesday. If McCoy, who already missed one game earlier this season with a rib injury, can’t go against the Patriots, the Bills will rely on Chris Ivory and Marcus Murphy to get the job done on the ground.
Ivory tallied 81 yards on 16 carries against Indy, with Murphy contributing 53 yards on four carries. The duo also combined for eight catches on 12 targets for 42 yards.
Despite his track record, McCoy hasn’t been much of a factor this season, logging 10-plus carries in just two games, and there’s talk he could be moved ahead of next Tuesday’s trade deadline.
The Bills as a team rank 28th in the league in yards per carry (3.9).
4. They’re better defensively
Though they gave up 37 points to the Colts, the Bills rank highly in a number of conventional and advanced defensive metrics, including fourth in yards per game and passing yards per game, ninth in takeaways, tied for eighth in sacks, sixth in DVOA and fourth in DVOA against the pass. In terms of scoring defense, they’re in the middle of the pack, ranking 16th at an even 25.0 points per game.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had plenty of nice things to say about Buffalo’s defense during his Tuesday conference call.
“They force you to be patient and disciplined and execute a significant number of plays to drive the ball and finish drives with points, which has kind of been the hallmark of this team,” McDaniels said. “They’re in the top-10 in turnovers and sacks, which when you put those two things together, force you to drive it a long way, and then really do a good job of putting pressure on the quarterback and taking the ball away.”
5. Wins against the Patriots have been hard to come by
The Bills are an unremarkable 3-28 against Tom Brady during the quarterback’s Patriots career. And the most recent of those wins came in a meaningless Week 17 game in 2014 that Brady exited at halftime. Buffalo hasn’t won a game Brady started and finished since 2011.
The Patriots won easily last season in their annual visit to New Era Field, dismantling their division rivals 23-3 in a game best remembered for the cheap shot on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White that earned tight end Rob Gronkowski a one-game suspension.