Each Wednesday throughout the season we'll indentify one player, coach or area of the team that is most under the microscope. This week, ILB Gary Guyton is the choice.
Guyton has stepped into the starting role with Brandon Spikes suspended for the remainder of the regular season. Against the Bears, Guyton scooped up a fumble and took it back for six points. He also had an interception.
He notched eight tackles on Sunday night against the Packers, but the overall run defense wasn't pretty, and Guyton needs to be a better replacement against the Bills in Week 16.
The Packers ran the ball 38 times and the Bills might try to do the same with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. The Pats missed tackles and seemed to miss Spikes' presence in the middle defending the run. Guyton is a playmaker, as illustrated by his two interceptions and two touchdowns this season, and solid in coverage, but he needs to be a better run stopper this week.
Why is so much more pressure on Guyton when there's a guy like Jerod Mayo next to him? The D-line injuries are piling up, putting more pressure on the linebackers to keep backs from getting to the secondary. The Bills will provide a good test for the Patriots to get them ready for running teams they might face in the playoffs.
Sure, come playoff time, Guyton will return to his role as a third-down, nickel ’backer with Spikes back, but for now, he needs to do a better job helping the team stop the run. The Patriots still have plenty to play for with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs still up for grabs. One way they can falter in Buffalo is if they can't stop the run, putting pressure on their corners and allowing the Bills to throw. You know what you will get out of Mayo and NT Vince Wilfork, so Guyton needs to be the man to help slow down any Bills attack.