OK, gang. We’re almost there. Just hold your breath a little longer and we’ll have our Brady-back Brady-back Brady-back. He reports to practice on Tuesday, after getting an extra four weeks to rehab and train and…

But if he’s going to inherit a 4-0 team, a battered Patriots squad is going to have to hold up against a Buffalo team that put up 33 points against a tough Cardinals’ defense last week in a 33-18 rout that wasn’t even as close as the score makes it sound.

Injuries Slow Down Both Squads

Even without their biggest playmaker, Sammy Watkins (who’s been placed on IR as of yesterday with “major” concerns about his injured foot), the Bills still bring an explosive offense.

Sammy Watkins has been ruled out Sunday, and Rex Ryan says there is “major concern” over his foot: https://t.co/pLqQnUhHGO

— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) September 30, 2016

Watkins, who was drafted ahead of OBJ in 2014, has been slowed quite a bit this season with this foot injury. After a 1-2 start, the Bills have clearly decided that discretion is the better part of valor, and are taking Watkins out of the equation for at least the next 8 weeks.

Tyrod Taylor

They still have weapons on offense. Of course, they have their young QB Tyrod Taylor, who lit them up for 3 TD’s in their first 2015 matchup. I have personally been high on Taylor for a couple of years now (thank you, fantasy football). While the Bills haven’t figured out a way to fully utilize his skill set, he’s the kind of QB that is going to give fits to a depleted Patriots linebacker corps.

Tyrod tends to have a pass-first mentality, but he is never afraid to run, particularly on with and medium-to-long to go. He’s perfectly willing to read the field and pick up short gains with his legs if presented with the opportunity. Check out this great breakdown from last year’s game to see how the Pats can stop him from getting away — spying on him with linebackers, and staying in their rushing lanes (“do your job”).

Here you can see Collins fake a pass-rush, then drop back to the first-down line and just hang out, daring Taylor to try the pick up the first. Taylor reads that, realizes he doesn’t have a lane to run, and ends up taking the sack.

Of course, the spies still needs to do their job — if they don’t, Taylor can make you pay.

The Real Shady

Belichick defenses have also had a tough time slowing down Shady McCoy, whether he’s been on Gang Green or the Buffalo Bills. LeSean began to look like the real McCoy last week after a slow start to the year, putting up 110 yards and 2 TDs. And he’s consistently put up big numbers against the Patriots, both through the air and on the ground, getting into the endzone 4 times.

The numbers don’t tell the full story, either. In his breakdown of the Bills win over the Cardinals, Bill talked about the explosiveness that McCoy brings to a matchup, and how hard it is defend against, especially when the Bills’ blockers are doing their job. And in a world where the Patriots don’t have Nink back from suspension yet, and are still trying to sort out their linebacker situation, if McCoy can get through the initial line of attack, no matter the terrain, he’ll be gone.

The Bills also boast a defense that is fresh off shutting down a Cardinals offense that was consistently ranked in the top 3 in the league coming into the season.

On the Patriots side…

Jimmania Returns!

Jimmy Garoppolo will start Sunday for the Patriots, per source.

— Kirk Minihane (@kirkmin) September 30, 2016

We all remember that ridiculous first half that Jimmy put together before getting his shoulder slammed into the turf. It’s a lot to ask that he be back to 100% already, but if he’s remotely healthy, we can hope to see a lot more of this:

Gronkowski’s Back!

Glenn Gronkowski is heading to the practice squad.

— BostonSportsPub (@BostonSportsPub) October 1, 2016

Also this Rob fellow is talking about playing for the Patriots too.

He appears to be healthy(er) than he was, although he’s said that he has to be “careful.”

Rob Gronkowski: “Definitely have to be careful” coming back from hamstring injury. “I can’t wait to be back out there going crazy again.”

— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) September 28, 2016

If that translates to more than the 14 snaps and 1 target he saw last week, that would be great news for the Patriots, who will need all the help they can get against a solid Bills defense that has given a hard time to opposing tight ends this year, holding them to an average of 2 receptions and under 20 yds/game (with no TDs) thus far.

AirBlount

There’s also not a whole lot left to say about how great Blount’s been to start off this season, and the league agreed, naming him the AFC Offensive Player of the month for September. It’s hard to argue with — he’s leading the league in rush yards and rush TD’s, in an offense that is traditionally extremely pass-heavy. We’ll see if that changes when Brady comes back, but against a very middle-of-the-road rush defense, he may have a big day on Sunday.

Rex and Bill

There’s not a whole lot left to say about Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick. I suppose you could talk about how Rex Ryan can’t seem to help guaranteeing Super Bowls. Or how he tried to sneak into a press conference just this week to find out who the Patriots are starting at QB. Or we could just focus on how Belichick has completely owned him over the course of his career.

It’s not just Rex, though. The Bills have managed just 3 wins against the Patriots since Belichik took over, and only one of those was on the Patriots home turf. That makes them 26-3 in the Brady/Belichik era vs their division rivals.

Smart Money*

*For entertainment purposes only.

Patriots are favored by more than a touchdown, and Buffalo hasn’t won back-to-back games where they’ve been underdogs in more than 6 years.

Take-aways:

-Patriots have historically dominated the Bills; and Bill has historically dominated Rex.
-If Gronk’s not targeted, the offense will likely have to look away from their TE’s to put up early points.
-Despite being down a weapon, the Bills’ offense is explosive and has big-play capability.
-Prediction: Patriots 33, Bills 24.

Enjoy the game, everyone! Let’s give TB12 a 4-0 start!