Monday Night Preview: Can the Bills Knock Off the Patriots?
This week's edition of Monday Night Football features the 5-2 New England Patriots hitting the road to face the 2-5 Buffalo Bills. The Patriots come into tonight's contest on a four-game winning streak after recently topping the Chicago Bears, 38-31. Conversely, the Bills have dropped their last two, including a 37-5 defeat against the Indianapolis Colts last week.
With the Bills reeling, the Patriots will attempt to take a stranglehold of the AFC East in this divisional showdown.
In his age 41-season, Tom Brady continues to quarterback the Patriots at a high level. Coming into Week 8, Brady has 1,876 passing yards, 16 scores and 7 interceptions. Brady has also defied Father Time going by our in-house Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. Among 26 quarterbacks with at least 175 drop backs, Tom Brady's 0.23 Passing NEP per drop back ranks sixth in NFL.
On the other side, the Bills have turned to career-journeyman Derek Anderson in the wake of Josh Allen's elbow injury. Anderson predictably disappointed last week with 175 yards, no scores, and 3 interceptions against the Colts. Attempting only 33 passes, Anderson does not quality for our subset above. However, his -0.74 Passing NEP per drop back would rank dead last if he did. The Bills simply don't have the personnel to play successful offense on a weekly basis in the NFL.
Running Back Breakdown
For the Patriots, James White and Kenjon Barner project to shoulder the load after Sony Michel suffered a knee injury last weekend. White and Barner have only 40 and 16 carries, respectively, but the Patriots' backfield has found production from stranger places in the past (read: Jonas Gray). White is known for this passing-down prowess, and he's got 45 catches this season. He could see an uptick in rushing usage with Michel out, and his mark of 0.01 Rushing NEP per carry looks solid when compared to the league average (-0.04).
For the Bills, LeSean McCoy has cleared concussion protocol, but he comes into this game with a mere 244 yards for the campaign. Among 35 running backs with at least 60 carries, McCoy's -0.10 Rushing NEP per attempt ranks 25th. Playing in the league's worst offense, according to our schedule-adjusted metrics, McCoy shouldn't be expected to improve his numbers any time soon.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bills check in with the 6th-best defense, per our numbers, while the Patriots slot in 16th. The Bills come in 11th against the run and 8th against the pass. On the other side, the Patriots rank 17th against the run and 15th against the pass. The Bills' strength (defense) will need to top the Patriots' strength (offense) for Buffalo to make this interesting.
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