Buffalo Bills (1-2) at New England Patriots (3-0)
SERIES HISTORY: Bills at Patriots: 112th regular-season meeting. Patriots lead series, 68-42-1. The battles date back to the original AFL days, but of late New England has dominated the Bills as much as any opponent in the Brady/Belichick era. The Patriots are 27-3 against Buffalo since 2001, including a 14-1 mark at Gillette Stadium. The Bills have often put up a fight despite all the losing, with six of the last seven games decided by one score.
The team evaluated Garoppolo's throwing shoulder on Sunday morning and it was determined that he would not be ready to play, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported.
KEYS TO THE GAME: New England will look to remain balanced on offense. LeGarrette Blount leads the NFL in rushing yards and attempts through three games. The offensive line has been better in the first month at giving the big back room wear down defenses and hit big runs late. Assuming the score remains close or in New England's favor, balance will again be key.
With Sammy Watkins out for the Bills, you can be sure that coach Bill Belichick will concentrate on taking LeSean McCoy out of Buffalo's attack and make Tyrod Taylor try to beat the Patriots through the air, a proposition that seems almost impossible. Without Watkins, the Bills probably won't have a choice but to try to establish McCoy, which they did successfully last week as McCoy gained 110 of Buffalo's 208 rushing yards.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Patriots LB Jamie Collins vs. Bills RB LeSean McCoy. These two might be the best all-around athletes on the field. McCoy is coming off a big 100-yard day in beating Arizona. Collins is coming off a 14-tackle performance with an interception against the Texans. Buffalo's focus will be on running the ball with McCoy. New England will focus on stopping the run with Collins. It's a battle that will be a first step toward deciding how the game plays out.
INJURY REPORT: BILLS --Out: T Cyrus Kouandijo (ankle), C Patrick Lewis (knee), WR Greg Salas (groin), WR Sammy Watkins; Questionable: S Colt Anderson (foot), TE Charles Clay (knee), CB Ronald Darby (hamstring), T Cordy Glenn (ankle) QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder), S Jonathan Meeks (foot), S Aaron Williams (ankle). PATRIOTS -- Questionable: QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb), T Marcus Cannon (calf), G Jonathan Cooper (foot), LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder), QB Jimmy Garoppolo (right shoulder), TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring), LB Dont'a Hightower (knee), CB Eric Rowe (ankle)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Bills LB Zach Brown. When Brown signed in the offseason after four years with the Titans, it was thought he would be a third-down linebacker and a special-teams player. However, with rookie second-round pick Reggie Ragland out for the season, Brown has stepped up as a starter next to Preston Brown in the middle of the 3-4 scheme, and he has far exceeded expectations. He's the Bills' best coverage linebacker and, even more impressive, he's tied for the NFL lead with 34 tackles.
FAST FACTS: Bills RB LeSean McCoy rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns last week. He's the only NFL player with 7,000 rushing yards (7,277) and 2,000 receiving yards (2,315) since 2010. ... The Bills recorded five sacks and four interceptions in a win over Arizona in Week 3. ... The Patriots have won 21 of the past 22 division home games. They have won 23 of the past 25 vs. Buffalo and are 14-1 (.933) in the past 15 home meetings.
PREDICTION: Bill Belichick simply knows how to beat the Bills in Foxborough, no matter the quarterback. LeGarrette Blount looms large in this one.
OUR PICK: Patriots, 23-21.