NFL Week 16 Preview: Bills at Patriots
The Buffalo Bills visit the New England Patriots in Week 16 of the 2017 NFL season. PFF previews the top player matchups of the game.
PFFELO Ranking: 15
Coverage by: Elliott Rooney
Matchup: Buffalo Bills offense vs. New England Patriots defense
- QB Tyrod Taylor vs. S Duron Harmon – 14.4 percent of Taylor’s passes this season have been targeted 20 or more yards downfield, which is the fifth-highest rate of any quarterback in 2017. Despite him continuing to pass deep, he hasn’t found much success when doing so, as his passer rating of 75.0 ranks 20th while is adjusted completion percentage of 33.3 ranks 24th. As the Patriots’ deep safety, Harmon will be responsible for disrupting these deep passes. Harmon has been one of the best coverage safeties in 2017, with a coverage grade of 87.9. When he is the primary defender in coverage he has only allowed a passer rating of 22.9, fourth among safeties.
- G Vladimir Ducasse vs. DI Malcom Brown – The veteran offensive lineman is on course to have his best year since his rookie season back in 2010. Ducasse has graded slightly better in the pass game (76.6) as opposed to the run game (73.9). In Malcom Brown the Patriots have one of the best run stoppers at his position, as he currently sports a solid 82.8 run-defense grade. Brown has one of the best run-stop percentages (10.5) of any interior defender this season. He has accumulated 22 stops on 210 run snaps.
- WR Andre Holmes vs. CB Stephon Gilmore – With the status of fellow receiver Kelvin Benjamin still up in the air, Holmes could get the start versus the Patriots. Despite not grading well this season(58.2), he has been the Bills’ most productive receiver when targeted. Holmes leads all Bills receivers with a wide receiver rating of 110.5 on 23 targets, which would rank 15th if he had enough targets to qualify. Gilmore has been the Patriots highest-graded corner this season with an overall grade of 84.6, he also leads all Patriots corners in coverage snaps per target (7.5), yards per coverage snap (1.02) and coverage snaps per reception (12).
Coverage by: Andrew Fleischer
Matchup: New England Patriots offense vs. Buffalo Bills defense
- TE Rob Gronkowski vs. LB Preston Brown – Through 15 weeks, only eight players have over 1,000 receiving yards, and Rob Gronkowski’s the only one that isn’t a wide receiver. His 92.0 overall grade is the highest among all tight ends and makes him 2017’s only elite-level tight end. He’s performed particularly well running routes from the slot; his 547 yards from that alignment are the second-most among 36 qualifying tight ends, while his 31 receptions are tied for fifth, all while not having dropped a single pass. The last time these two teams met, Gronkowski ran 82 percent of his routes on the right side while Bills linebacker Preston Brown lined up on the defensive left for 65 percent of his coverage snaps. Brown’s 50.6 overall grade is 56th out of 92 qualifying linebackers. His 498 coverage snaps are the second-most among qualifying inside linebackers, while the 481 yards he’s allowed in coverage are the fifth-most.
- RB Dion Lewis vs. S Jordan Poyer – Dion Lewis is in the midst of his best season as a pro, and his overall grade of 89.5 ranks him fourth among 58 qualifying running backs. In Week 13 versus the Bills, the Patriots ran the ball a season-high 32 times, and Lewis tied a season-high with 15 attempts. His elusive rating on the year of 95.0 is third among 51 qualifying running backs, and his perfect pass-blocking efficiency of 100.0 makes him valuable even on snaps in which he doesn’t touch the ball. He’ll be regularly opposed by safety Jordan Poyer, whose 85.4 overall grade is 14th out of 88 eligible safeties. Poyer’s the definition of hit-or-miss against the run; his 32 tackles are the tenth-most among 69 qualifying safeties, while his 11 missed tackles are the most among his position.
- RB James White vs. LB Ramon Humber – James White’s receiving grade of 82.3 is ninth out of 58 qualifying running backs. He saw six targets in the passing game in the Week 13 matchup against Buffalo, his most since Week 8. With Rex Burkhead out, White should see an increase in snaps, and when Bills linebacker Ramon Humber draw him in coverage, White will have the advantage. Humber’s 5.3 tackle efficiency rating in coverage is tied for the tenth-worst among 65 qualifying linebackers, and he’s allowed a reception for every 7.3 of his snaps in coverage, the ninth-lowest mark among qualifying linebackers.