Game Overview ::
By Hilow >>
- Bills RB Damien Harris (neck/concussion) is unlikely to play this week after a scary incident in Week 6 that required an ambulance to escort him from the field of play.
- Patriots TE Hunter Henry has not practiced this week (as of Thursday) with an ankle injury suffered in Week 6.
- In standard Bill Belichick fashion, the Patriots list 17 players as limited as of Thursday, with five additional players DNPs on both days and Rhamondre Stevenson removed from the injury report after a limited session Wednesday.
- The emphasis on 12-personnel with rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid hasn’t forced opponents into base and away from nickel at the rates the Bills would have expected to this point, making the mismatch over the middle of the field more muted than we would otherwise expect to see from a player like Kincaid.
- The Patriots are broken, broken on offense – 12.0 points per game through six weeks is #notgood.
How Buffalo will try to Win ::
Pull up the most recent game log from the Bills and you’ll see a video excerpt from Pat McAfee titled “McAfee confused by Bills’ offensive struggles.” That seems to be the consensus around the media – why are the Bills struggling!? Maybe it’s because their three nationally televised games were an opening weekend loss to the Jets in overtime, a loss to the Jaguars in London, and a 14-9 win over the hapless Giants on Sunday Night Football. Look, the Bills are third in the league in scoring at 28.8 points per game and won their other three games by an average margin of 30 points (against Las Vegas, Washington, and Miami). We’ve played six weeks, teams are still figuring out their end state. The Buffalo Bills are fine and will be fine – they’re just finding their way amidst the multitude of changes that a team goes through from year to year, just as every other team is right now. Oh yeah, and they also rank third in points allowed per game at just 14.8. Now, there are some legitimate changes going on with this offense, primarily centered around Josh Allen and the team’s attempts to prolong the career of one of the most physical quarterbacks in the league to this point in his career. Allen regularly hit double-digit carries earlier in his career and has a season-high of just six in 2023, which came in Week 1. All is fine, just slightly different, in Buffalo, fam.
The other major media talking point revolving around this Bills team is the increased utilization from veritable dinosaur Latavius Murray, or at least that’s what the industry would have you believe. The truth of the matter is that the veteran back has been the most efficient back on the roster – so yeah, feed the man his touches. Murray has created 10 percent more yards per touch than backfield mate James Cook, a metric designed to remove the effectiveness of the offensive line. At 6’2”, 223 pounds, he’s also better equipped to handle the gritty work in the red zone as compared to the 5’11”, 199-pound James Cook. Furthermore, his seven targets on 111 offensive snaps (6.3 percent) are not far off from the targets per snap rate of Cook, who has seen 18 targets on 219 snaps (8.2 percent). Whether or not the dead even split in snaps from Week 6 carries forward or the backfield reverts back to a 65-35 split in the absence of Damien Harris remains to be seen, but Murray has most certainly earned an increase in involvement. Harris appears set to miss this week, at minimum, after suffering what is being called a neck injury and concussion in a scary incident in Week 6.
Stefon Diggs is beyond the alpha he has been previously in his career in 2023, setting career highs in target market share (33.8 percent) and targets per game (11) through the first third of the season. His aDOT remains a non-elite 10.7, but his returns have been stellar with three of six games of 28.1 or more DK points and 22.1 or more DK points in five of six games. Enter a matchup with a Belichickian defense that aims to actively scheme against an opposition’s top option. Even so, there aren’t many players on this slate that can put up 30+ DK points, making Diggs completely worth consideration in a perceived difficult spot. That notion is furthered due to the continued injury concerns with the New England secondary. Jonathan Jones has yet to practice this week while Jack Jones, Jabrill Peppers, and Cody Davis have been limited both days of practice. The standard counter, for DFS purposes, for the Belichick defense has historically been to play the secondary option through the air against them, which thrusts Gabe Davis up the potential ladder after his streak of four consecutive games with a touchdown was broken in Week 6. He’s not going to be some volume magnet in this offense, but his big play ability and knack for the end zone keep him in consideration on a weekly basis. Finally, both Dawson Knox and Dalton Kincaid have been full participants in practice this week, which should shift the offense back to a 12-personnel base. The biggest problem with that has been its influence on opposing defenses has been less than optimal as it hasn’t forced opponents into base and away from nickel at the rates the Bills would have expected to this point, making the mismatch over the middle of the field more muted than we would otherwise expect to see from a player like Kincaid. That should also keep Trent Sherfield, Khalil Shakir, and Deonte Harty in the sub-30 percent snap rate range.