The New England Patriots visit the Buffalo Bills in Week 13 of the 2017 NFL season. PFF previews the top player matchups of the game.
Coverage by: Andrew Fleischer
Matchup: New England Patriots offense vs. Buffalo Bills defense
- RB Dion Lewis vs. Edge Lorenzo Alexander – Dion Lewis’ overall grade of 86.9 is the highest of his career and stands as the fourth-highest grade among qualified running backs. Out of 51 running backs with 51-plus attempts, Lewis’ 101.8 elusive rating is the second-highest. He’ll often draw the assignment of edge defender Lorenzo Alexander, which may pit his biggest strength against his opponent’s biggest weakness. Alexander does have a run stop percentage of 8.1, 15th out of 54 qualified edge defenders, but he’s also missed eight tackles, the most among all edge defenders.
- WR Brandin Cooks vs. CB E.J. Gaines – When Tom Brady throws in Brandin Cooks’ direction, good things happen. Cooks’ 125.9 wide receiver rating is the second-highest mark among 37 qualifying wide receivers. After logging catches of 22 and 37 yards in Week 12, Cooks’ 56.5 catch rate percentage on deep passes is No. 1 among 53 qualified wide receivers. Cornerback E.J. Gaines, who lines up on the right side for 95 percent of his snaps, will be the Cooks’ primary defender, as Cooks lines up to the offense’s left for 65 percent of his snaps. Gaines’ 81.5 overall grade stands at 30th out of 118 qualified cornerbacks, and he’s played 8.1 coverage snaps per reception allowed, tied for the sixth-lowest mark among qualified cornerbacks.
- T Nate Solder vs. Edge Jerry Hughes – Nate Solder has had some struggles at left tackle through the first half of this season, but he’s rounded into form since the team’s bye. His overall game grades of 82.8 in Week 11 and 88.8 in Week 12 were his highest of the 2017 season. His run-blocking grade of 96.3 in last week’s game against the Dolphins was the highest grade given to any a player for any assignment in that game. He’ll be up against Hughes often this week. Hughes’ 85.2 overall grade is 18th out of 112 qualified tackles, and his 90.5 run-defense grade is tied for the third-highest mark. His 15 stops on 169 run snaps amount to an 8.9 run stop percentage, tied for seventh-highest among edge defenders.
PFFELO Ranking: 15
Coverage by: Elliott Rooney
Matchup: Buffalo Bills offense vs. New England Patriots defense
- RB LeSean McCoy vs. LB Kyle Van Noy – McCoy has been one of the biggest homerun threats this season. His 40.5 breakaway percentage is the ninth best by a runner this year, as he has earned 306 of his 756 rushing yards on runs of 15 or more yards. McCoy has 11 such runs, which is the second most in the NFL. Van Noy has been suspect against the run this season, as his 43.1 run-defense grade ranks 70th out of 88 linebackers. He has missed the second-most tackles (eight) in the run game this season.
- T Jordan Mills vs. Edge Trey Flowers – Mills has done a solid job in pass protection this year. He ranks 30th with a pass-block grade of 75.3 and has recorded the 22nd-ranked pass-blocking efficiency rating (95.8). Mills will be in for a tough test against Flowers, who is the Patriots’ best pass-rusher. Flowers’ pass-rush grade of 82.0 is the 22nd-best among edge defenders this season, and his 46 total pressures rank 13th.
- QB Tyrod Taylor vs. S Devin McCourty – Taylor will look to pass the ball deep against the Patriots defense, something he has done on just 14.3 percent of his dropbacks in 2017, the third-highest rate among quarterbacks. McCourty has been questionable in coverage this year, as his coverage grade of 61.7 ranks 64th among safeties. He is also allowing a passer rating of 122.1 when targeted, which is the sixth-worst.