The New England Patriots will head back into action this weekend when they take on the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium. Stopping the Bills offense will consists of stopping running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. Last year Jackson was the starting running back for the Bills but after an early injury, Spiller has taken over and he is the key to the Buffalo offense.
This season has been a breakout for the Bills third-year back. In the Bills’ eight games so far Spiller has carried the ball 78 times for 562 yards. He currently leads the league in yards per carry with 7.2. After the Bills ran the ball just 16 times and just 5 times in the second half in a 21-9 loss to the Houston Texans Sunday, head coach Chan Gailey was heavily criticized for his love of the pass. Those results and reactions could change the game plan this week.
If so it will be up to the Patriots to stop the run. The good news for the Patriots is that their run defense has been solid this season ranking seventh in the league giving up just 88.6 yards a game on the ground. The team’s run defense success has been mainly centered on 330-pound defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and linebackers Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower.
In the first matchup between these two teams the Patriots were able to stop the Bills running game holding Spiller to 33 yards on 8 carries and Jackson to 29 yards on 13 carries. Even with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing for 350 yards and four touchdowns in that game, the Patriots were able to force four interceptions leading them to a 52-28 win.
While the Bills were able to gain yards with relative ease against the Patriots weak pass defense in their previous matchup, the Bills passing attack continues to struggle and recent criticism may force them to depend on the running game. If the Bills do rely on Spiller and Jackson, stopping them will be the top priority for the Patriots defense. That may very well be the difference in Sunday’s game.