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5 Things We Learned From New England Patriots’ Week 1 Win

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5 Things We Learned From Patriots Week 1 Win

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Timothy T. Ludwig-USA Today Sports

It was a heart-breaking loss for the Buffalo Bills and yet another clutch win for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday, as the Patriots handed Buffalo their first loss of the season, 23-21 on a late-game field goal from Stephen Gostkowski.

There was good news and bad news for both teams once the dust settled, and despite a predictable outcome, this season opener was very unlike most Bills-Patriots games in recent memory. For one thing, E.J. Manuel actually outplayed Tom Brady for most of the game. This no doubt had a lot to do with Brady being surrounded by young, inexperienced players on offense, but the same argument could be made in Manuel's case. Regardless of the loss, Bills fans should be excited by the prospect of Manuel as their quarterback of the future. The rookie looked poised and confident, and showed continual improvement not just from his last preseason game, but as the afternoon went on.

Another thing that made this game unusual is that for most of the second half, the Bills appeared to have momentum and were actually beating the Pats. Aside from the crushing inevitability of that final field goal drive, it seemed as though Buffalo might actually pull of the upset. The Bills were just a few missed plays -- most notably Stevie Johnson's crucial drop on third and short -- from beating New England and flipping the AFC East on its head.

It was an unusual game, and there were plenty of interesting developments throughout. Here are five things we learned from the Patriots' Week 1 win.

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5. Patriots Might Not Be A Powerhouse in 2013

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Kevin Hoffman-USA Today Sports

The Patriots likely won't face very steep competition in the AFC East this season, but their sloppy, uninspiring play against the Bills calls into question their status as a truly elite team this year. Any team with Tom Brady as their starting quarterback has a chance to win enough games to make the playoffs, but a deep postseason run in 2013 seems unlikely. Brady has very few legitimate options on offense, and even the return of Gronk won't fix everything. With the apparent rise of teams like the Dolphins and Bills, New England's current reign of dominance may be drawing to a close.

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4. Tom Brady Needs More Time With New Recievers

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Timothy T. Ludwig-USA Today Sports

It was very apparent on Sunday that Brady was out of sync with his young receiving squad. That problem should correct itself in time. Until then, it's hard to imagine the Patriots playing mistake-free football. Once Brady has had more games to develop chemistry with the rest of the offense, games like the season opener will be more likely to end in blowouts than game-winning field goals.

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3. The Bills' Defense Looks Much Improved

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Timothy T. Ludwig-USA Today Sports

If there was one thing that set this game apart from previous meetings between these two teams, it was the competent play by the Buffalo Bills defense. They were aggressive and opportunistic, two things any defense has to be if they hope to slow down Tom Brady. The pieces appear to be coming together for new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, and the Bills may finally have a defense capable of keeping them in games against an elite offense.

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2. E.J. Manuel Is The Real Deal

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Timothy T. Ludwig-USA Today Sports

For those who didn't watch him in the preseason, the most surprising development in this game was the capable play of rookie QB E.J. Manuel. It was shocking to see Manuel out-play Brady for most of the game, and it was a very encouraging sign of things to come for Bills fans. Manuel looked like a savvy veteran on and off the field, and did enough to help the Bills win if the defense had been able to capitalize on that final drive. Against the Patriots, that's pretty impressive. It looks like Buffalo has found their franchise quarterback.

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1. Julian Edelman Is The New Wes Welker

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Kevin Hoffman-USA Today Sports

This is great news for The New England Patriots and any fantasy owners who managed to scoop up Julian Edelman this week. Edelman made plays all day long and came up big in the clutch. He and Brady demonstrated chemistry early on, and the scrappy slot receiver should be in for a big season as a result. Even though Wes Welker is busy tearing it up in Denver, Brady wasted no time in finding a comparable replacement.