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5 New England Patriots Players Key To Week 17 Win

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Five Players Key To Week 17 Win

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The New England Patriots are once again in position for a top-two seed in the AFC. This feat will be accomplished if the Patriots defeat the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium this Sunday. While that may seem like an easy accomplishment, this Bills team is very feisty.

Much has changed since these two squads met in Week 1. On the Bills side of things, it has all been about E.J. Manuel’s various knee injuries. He has been ruled out for this game, which will cap off an injury-riddled season for him. His performance has not been much better either, as Manuel has looked to be as raw as advertised. His scattershot accuracy is a questionable fit for the West Coast Offense.

The running back situation has been no clearer. Fred Jackson has actually picked up more rushing yards than C.J. Spiller (836 to 822). While neither running back has been terrible, this was supposed to Spiller’s time to shine, and he has not. He must have his carries limited, as he does not possess the overall strength to get 250-plus carries in a season.

Robert Woods has been a nice find in the draft. His stats might not be there yet (39 receptions, 560 yards, three touchdowns), but Woods has flashed at times. There is no doubt that the rookie wide receiver can evolve into a quality player down the road.

Now we move onto the defense, which features a couple of surprises. The biggest surprise is that three of the front four Bills' pass rushers have double-digit sacks. Mario Williams leads the way with 13 sacks, proving that he is indeed a franchise pass rusher. Then there is Kyle Williams, who has 10.5 sacks despite being more-known for his run-stuffing ability. As if that were not surprising enough, Jerry Hughes has 10 sacks. Most draft pundits were calling him a bust, but it appears the former first-round pick has found a home in Buffalo.

Kiko Alonso is yet another playmaker on this defense. The inside linebacker has 145 tackles, putting him in line for Defensive Rookie of the Year. His play is reminiscent of Luke Kuechly.

There are two ballers in the secondary. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore is the first one. He was considered a reach as the 10th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but has proven to be worth the pick thus far. Free safety Jairus Byrd has finally gotten back into football shape after holding out and missing the first couple of games due to injury. He is going to get paid this offseason.

This game is still very winnable for the Patriots, but it will take some solid performances from key players for this to happen. Here are those players.

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5. Marcus Cannon

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Cannon has to face off against Hughes, and must be able to hold his own in a one-on-one battle.

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4. Dont’a Hightower

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Hightower will likely be tasked with covering Scott Chandler, who has surprisingly been the leading receiver for the Bills this season.

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3. Julian Edelman

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Edelman will get anybody but Gilmore, who is not a slot cornerback. If so, that is a matchup that he should constantly win.

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2. Sealver Siliga

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Siliga has proven to be the key run-stuffer for the Patriots over the last couple of weeks, and must be so again to help stop Jackson and Spiller.

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1. Logan Mankins

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Whether he plays left tackle or left guard this week, Mankins will have to stop either Mario Williams or Kyle Williams. It’s basically a pick-your-poison situation.