Three things to know before the Patriots (5-2) visit the Bills (2-5) on Monday Night Football (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).
1. Bills first-round rookie linebacker Tremaine Edmunds has read the field better lately than he did in mid-September, but the 20-year-old, understandably, still struggles with zone awareness at times. Tom Brady will attack that early and often. Look for inside throws to Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, misdirection backfield screens and option routes for James White, and plenty of New England’s patented quick-hitting play-action slants and skinny posts.
2. Josh Gordon is coming along. Patriots players and coaches are—at least publicly—marveling at how smoothly he is learning the system, and each week we’ve seen a few more “raw talent” plays from the 27-year-old receiver. Besides being (pardon the cliché) big and fast, Gordon has other traits that can’t be coached. He tracks the ball well. He’s patient when it’s in the air, keeping defensive backs in the dark by showing late hands when reaching for it. Many of his actions look effortless. Brady has noticed and is starting to heave balls to Gordon purely on faith.
3. We think of a good bull rush as being where one defender overpowers another, but much of it comes down to technique. Perhaps we’ll get a chance to see that Monday night. Bills right defensive end Jerry Hughes has one of the NFL’s best pure bull rushes. Patriots left tackle Trent Brown has the NFL’s biggest body. Can the 255-pound Hughes stay low and move the 380-pound Brown?
Bold Prediction: The Patriots will lead by enough early in the fourth quarter that everyone will wonder why in the world their star players (including the quarterback) are still in but, out of respect for the “Bill Belichick knows all” code, no one will actually ask it aloud.
Score prediction: Patriots 35, Bills 13
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