It seemed like just yesterday that the season was just beginning, but we have finally made it to the final week of the 2013 NFL season. The Buffalo Bills will be playing the New England Patriots for the 2nd and final time of the season. The Bills will be finishing their season on the road in Foxboro, where the Bills have historically struggled.
When I was looking ahead to this game a few weeks ago, I figured the Patriots would have nothing to play for going into this week because they would have already wrapped up their playoff position. Turns out that I was wrong. The Patriots are still fighting for the #1 seed in the AFC. If the Broncos lose and the Patriots win, the road to the Super Bowl will pass through Foxboro, because home field advantage is still on the line.
So now, let’s look at the game.
It looks as though Bills rookie quarterback, E.J. Manuel, will not be playing the final game of the season. Manuel sat out against Miami last week with an LCL injury. When coach Doug Marrone was asked about it, he said there would be no surgery required, just some rest and strength training over the offseason.
This means that Thad Lewis will be manning the Buffalo offense. Lewis played well last week, throwing for 192 yards with only 1 interception, but wasn’t able to find the end zone. Lewis has been playing well while filling in for Manuel, and I expect him to have a decent game.
As it has been all season, the Bills will be leaning on their running back duo of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. Last week, these 2 combined for 203 rushing yards. With all of the injuries on the New England defense, I expect them to run the ball efficiently again.
Defensively, the Bills are going to have their hands full with Tom Brady. Last week, the Bills absolutely dominated the Miami offense. But, Miami doesn’t have Tom Brady or Bill Belichick. Their secondary is going to have to force Brady into third downs, where he struggled without his go-to-target in Rob Gronkowski. Without Gronk, this Patriots offense isn’t nearly as potent as it is with him. Hopefully the Bills can keep them in check and keep the game close.
The one thing that has been improving all season has been the run defense. Last week, the Bills only allowed the Miami running backs to rush for 14 yards. 14 YARDS!!! That was hands-down the best defensive effort the Bills have put up in a while. The Bills will have to turn in a similar performance against LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen. These two backs have been punishing defenses and opening up the pass game for Brady. If we can shut the run down, we have a chance to put Brady in uncomfortable situations.
Turning to Vegas one last time, the bookmakers have the Patriots favored by 8.5 points. Last week the Patriots dominated the Ravens, so I see why this line is so high. The Bills have always played New England well, even when the Patriots where winning Super Bowls. I see this one being a close contest. My final prediction of the season, Buffalo 17, New England 13.
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