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Ten Final Thoughts on Patriots-Bills

09.26.10 at 8:55 am ET
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As kickoff looms, here are 10 final thoughts on Patriots-Bills:

‘€¢The promotion of outside linebacker Shawn Crable to the 53-man roster is intriguing. There’€™s no telling what sort of impact Crable is going to have on the field ‘€” he could come out of the gate on Sunday and finish with three sacks, he could go down after one play from scrimmage. There’€™s just no telling with Crable. Whatever happens, his fortunes may be tied to those of Jermaine Cunningham. If Cunningham can go, Crable won’€™t play a whole lot. If Cunningham can’€™t go, Crable will likely see some playing time.

‘€¢In that same vein, the inclusion of Brandon Spikes on the injury report (he’€™s probable with a calf injury) could signal some personnel changes at both inside and outside linebacker on Sunday. Inside linebacker Dane Fletcher could be active for the first time as a professional.

‘€¢The closer we get to kickoff, I’€™m starting to believe that Sammy Morris is going to have more on his plate when it comes to the passing game. I was struck by the numbers that were provided to us by Pro Football Focus: Kevin Faulk caught 77.1 percent of the passes thrown his way in ‘€˜09 and gained 8.1 yards per catch. Morris caught 71.4 percent, but gained 9.7 yards per reception. ‘€œIn terms of replacing him, their best bet is probably plugging Morris in as a 3rd down back and relying on Fred Taylor and BenJarvus Green-Ellis to split the carries in the run game,’€ wrote Sam Monson in an e-mail to WEEI.com.

‘€¢Not sure that 5-foot-9 Danny Woodhead will be ready to go on Sunday, but as his nascent Patriots’€™ career continues, it’€™s clear that he’€™s not just a signing meant to stick it to the Jets in the days before last week’€™s game. The undersized Woodhead ‘€” who was working out with running backs this week ‘€” brings some depth to the running game, and could serve as an option in the (no pun intended) short passing game.

‘€¢There is more and more talk around the team that Kyle Arrington will replace Darius Butler at right cornerback against the Bills. Butler appears to be at the crossroads of his career ‘€” in the wake of a miserable performance against the Jets, these next few games are critical to his overall professional development.

‘€¢While the Patriots have been unable to get much of a rush from the outside, they’€™ve been successful at creating havoc up front. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork has overmatched his two opponents at center and done a nice job caving in the pocket, while Gerard Warren had the best defensive game of maybe anyone on the roster last week, coming away with a pair of sacks in the loss to the Jets. Buffalo is tied for third-most in the league with seven sacks allowed through three games.

‘€¢Speaking of things up front, it’€™s clear the Patriots have a renewed confidence in second-year defensive lineman Ron Brace. The Boston College product, who was inactive for seven games and a healthy scratch for an eighth, has started both games for the Patriots this season, and has five tackles in two games. Facing a talented group of running backs, the New England coaching staff will expect a lot of its defensive front on Sunday, a group that will include Brace.

‘€¢In much the same way the Patriots used to be bedeviled by their annual trip to South Beach, the 11-game win streak New England has on the Bills has to have some sort of psychological impact on the Bills and their fans. Last season, we saw these two teams play two of the closer games in recent memory ‘€” the two were decided by a total of eight points, with one game turning on a last-second comeback guided by Brady. If Buffalo does get down early, there could be at least one or two of the Bills’€™ veterans who look at each other and think, ‘€œHere we go again.’€

‘€¢Strange to see Stephen Gostkowski struggle ‘€” he’€™s 1-for-4 on field goal attempts through the first two games, and while one miss was from 56 yards, he did miss on 47- and 37-yarders.

‘€¢Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick got a perfect score on the Wonderlic. Check out WEEI.com’€™s Rob Bradford try and replicate that performance here.

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