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5 things to know about Bills: Buffalo’s fortunes tied to health of RB LeSean McCoy

10.25.16 at 11:12 am ET
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LeSean McCoy's health will bear watching this week. (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

LeSean McCoy’s health will bear watching this week. (Kevin Hoffman/USA Today Sports)

Five things you have to know about the Bills, who will host the Patriots Sunday at New Era Field.

1. They run the ball better than almost anyone else in the league. It remains to be seen just how impactful LeSean McCoy’s hamstring issue is going to be — he left last Sunday’s game against Miami after re-aggravating the injury — but when McCoy is right, the Bills have one of the best running games in the NFL. They average 152.3 rushing yards per contest, the second-best total in the league behind the Cowboys (161.2). McCoy leads the team with 112 carries, 598 yards and six touchdowns. (The 5.3 yards per carry is second in the league.) Quarterback Tyrod Taylor has 41 carries for 271 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Buffalo topped the 100-yard rushing plateau four times in its first seven games of the season, including 134 in the first meeting with the Patriots and (Are we sure this isn’t a misprint?) 313 yards on the ground against the Niners. The key to everything? McCoy, who is as dynamic a back as you’ll find. His health will certainly bear watching over the course of the week. There was plenty of debate surrounding the wisdom of having him try to play against the Dolphins. If Rex Ryan blew him out against Miami and isn’t available for this week’s showdown with the Patriots, the folks in upstate New York won’t be happy.

2. They struggle in the passing game. Taylor has made real gains under center over the last year, but the bottom line is that, at least statistically, he’s no better than a middle-of-the-road quarterback. In seven games, he’s completed 60 percent of his passes (116-for-192) for 1,297 yards, nine touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 91.9. When he throws it, he’s going to look for wide receiver Robert Woods (25 catches on 37 targets, 240 yards, 1 TD), tight end Charles Clay (24 catches, 36 targets, 268 yards), McCoy (20 catches, 23 targets, 97 yards, 1 TD) and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (12 catches, 32 targets, 258 yards, 3 TDs). At 21.5 yards per catch, Goodwin is the closest thing to a true deep threat/home-run hitter the Bills have, at least until Sammy Watkins comes back from his foot injury.

3. They’ve been really good at turnover ratio. The Bills are good at taking care of the football, and also good at taking it away. Buffalo is second in the league when it comes to turnover rate at plus-eight, trailing only the Vikings (plus-11). Cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Nickell Robey-Coleman have two interceptions each, while linebacker Preston Brown has two fumble recoveries and Lorenzo Alexander has three forced fumbles. On the other side of the ball, while Taylor isn’t overwhelming on offense, only three other teams have thrown fewer picks this season than the Bills (New England, Dallas and Minnesota).

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Report: Jonathan Kraft, Jerry Jones get into disagreement at owners meeting over NFL social media policy

10.25.16 at 10:31 am ET
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This is a photo of Jonathan Kraft of the New England Patriots NFL football team. This image reflects the New England Patriots active roster as of Friday, July 25, 2014. (AP Photo)

Jonathan Kraft

The NFL has come down against teams posting highlights and GIFs to official team Twitter accounts while games are in progress this season.

A lot of teams are upset with the new rule and some have even mocked the new policy on several different occasions.

One of the owners firmly against the new policy is Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, Jones got into it with Patriots president Jonathan Kraft, who is a co-chair of the NFL’s digital media committee, at a league meeting last week.

Jones stated that highlights were generated by the NFL’s individual teams and therefore individual teams can do whatever they want with them. Kraft became upset with Jones’ remarks — potentially taking them as direct attacks — and became so upset at one point that he walked out of the meeting, all according to La Canfora.

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Following the flags: How do Patriots’ stack up against rest of NFL when it comes to some common penalties?

10.25.16 at 10:23 am ET
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On Sunday against the Steelers, the Patriots were hit with four penalties for 40 yards, not including the calls that were declined or offset. Through seven games, New England has been whistled for 42 penalties (11th fewest in the NFL) and 379 penalty yards (12th fewest in the league). Here’s a breakdown of the flags that have gone against the Patriots after seven regular-season games:

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Target Practice: Though 7 contests, Julian Edelman remains top option in Patriots’ passing game

10.25.16 at 7:57 am ET
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Julian Edelman

Julian Edelman

Targets have been compiled by the NFL since the start of the 2009 season, and while it remains a vaguely imperfect stat — a badly thrown ball from a quarterback can often go against the record of the receiver as opposed to the quarterback — it remains a good indication of the confidence level a passer or coach might have in said pass catcher. With all that in mind, here’s a look at the target breakdown through the first seven games of the regular season.

WR Julian Edelman: 37 catches on 55 targets (67 percent)
TE Martellus Bennett: 27 catches on 35 targets (77 percent)
RB James White: 27 catches on 37 targets (73 percent)
WR Chris Hogan: 15 catches on 23 targets (65 percent)
TE Rob Gronkowski: 17 catches on 23 targets (74 percent)
WR Danny Amendola: 13 catches on 16 targets (81 percent)
WR Malcolm Mitchell: 6 catches on 13 targets (46 percent)
RB LeGarrette Blount: 6 catches on 6 targets (100 percent)
RB Brandon Bolden: 2 catches on 4 targets (50 percent)
RB D.J. Foster: 1 catch on 2 targets (50 percent)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: 1 catch on 1 target (100 percent)
WR Matthew Slater: 0 catches on 1 target (0 percent)

Breakdown of targets by position
Wide Receiver: 71 catches on 100 targets (71 percent)
Tight End: 44 catches on 60 targets (73 percent)
Running Back: 36 catches on 49 targets (73 percent)
Quarterback: 1 catch on 1 target (100 percent)

By way of comparison, here’s a look at the target breakdown through seven games last season. Two things that really stand out when comparing last year to this season: James White has been able to replicate Dion Lewis’ production in the passing game, at least from a target perspective: Lewis had 32 catches on 45 targets through seven games last year, while White is at 27 catches on 37 targets this season. And despite the fact that he’s still the top target in the passing game, Julian Edelman’s targets are off significantly when compared to last year. Through the first seven games of 2015, he was at 75 targets. Through the first seven games of this year, he’s at 55. That’s likely a byproduct of the likes of Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan finding more opportunities, as well as the shuffling at quarterback over the first four games. From this viewpoint, it’s nothing necessarily to be concerned about, but it was still interesting to see.

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Rex Ryan on Patriots-Bills rematch: ‘I don’t know how much more important it could be than this one’

10.24.16 at 8:42 pm ET
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Rex Ryan knows how important Sunday's game against the Patriots is. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Rex Ryan knows how important Sunday’s game against the Patriots is. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game in Buffalo could have been a battle for first place in the AFC East if the Bills would have taken care of business Sunday in Miami.

Instead, after the Bills’ loss to the Dolphins they are 4-3, while the Patriots are 6-1 and now the Bills must win to have any sort of shot at the AFC East title this season.

Rex Ryan knows how big of a game it is.

“I don’t know how much more important it could be than this one,” Ryan told reporters Monday via ESPN’s Mike Rodak. “I could lie to you and say it’s not important, but this is a critical game for us. There’s no doubt about it. Does it break your season if you lose? I hope I don’t have to worry about that. We got to find a way to win this game.”

It’s also the first meeting following the Week 4 matchup where the Bills beat the Patriots 16-0 at Gillette Stadium, but the Patriots were without Tom Brady. Also, there was a pregame dust-up between the Bills’ secondary and Patriots quarterback Jacoby Brissett and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell when the two ran on to the field on the Bills’ side during pregame warmups.

“These two teams don’t like each other, there’s no question about that,” Ryan said. “But I don’t think there was a real fight, you know? A real fight would be outside in a parking lot, you know what I mean? Then you really got something to write about. But that thing was hardly a fight.”

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Upbeat Bill Belichick praises Malcolm Butler’s week of practice in locker room following win over Steelers

10.24.16 at 7:14 pm ET
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Bill Belichick was satisfied with his team following Sunday's win. (Jason Bridge/USA Today Sports)

Bill Belichick was satisfied with his team following Sunday’s win. (Jason Bridge/USA Today Sports)

A good week in practice generally carries over to games.

That appeared to be the message Bill Belichick gave to his team following the Patriots’ 27-16 win over the Steelers Sunday in Pittsburgh.

(Click here for the complete video courtesy of

“How ’bout Malcolm? You catch ’em in practice, you catch ’em in the game. How ’bout that,” Belichick said referring Malcolm Butler’s interception in the first quarter. “It all starts right there.

“Way to run the rock LG [LeGarrette Blount]. That is the way to run the rock. Great job. Look fellas, it’s tough to come in here and win. It’s a battle. Every time. It’s tough to come in here. It’s a tough football team. They’re well-coached, they’re disiplined. Fast, and they’re big. It’s a good job here, alright. Division game on the road, doesn’t get any bigger than this. It’s a good job here today, fellas.”

The Patriots are now 6-1 on the season and will play in Buffalo next Sunday.

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Patriots release DL Anthony Johnson from active roster, CB Vinnie Sunseri from practice squad

10.24.16 at 7:01 pm ET
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The Patriots made two roster moves on Monday as they released defensive lineman Anthony Johnson from the active roster and cornerback Vinnie Sunseri from the practice squad.

New England now has an open roster spot on the 53-man roster and an open spot on the practice squad.

Here is a portion of the release from the team:

Johnson, 23, originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Miami Dolphins on May 12, 2014, out of Louisiana State. The 6-foot-2, 295-pounder, made the Miami 53-man roster as a rookie and played in seven games, recording two tackles and recovering one fumble. He was released by Miami at the end of training camp in 2015 and was signed by the Washington Redskins’ practice squad in November. Johnson was released by Washington on May 2, 2016. He was signed by the Patriots on May 9, 2016, and began the season on the 53-man roster. Johnson was released on Sept. 26 and was signed to the practice squad on Sept. 28. Johnson was signed back to the 53-man roster on Oct. 15. He has played in four games with one start for the Patriots and posted nine total tackles and two passes defensed.

Sunseri, 24, was originally drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the fifth round (167th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Alabama. As a rookie, he played in nine games and finished with one defensive tackle before finishing the season on injured reserve. Sunseri spent the entire 2015 season on injured reserve. After being released by the Saints on April 25, 2016, he signed with New England on July 24, 2016, before being released at the end of camp and being signed to the practice squad.

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