Patriots-Bills matchup of the day: Friday

Posted Sept. 23, 2011 @ 4:32 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Here's a key matchup to watch in the Week Three game between the Patriots and Bills:

Patriots DEs Andre Carter and Shaun Ellis vs. Bills OTs Demetrius Bell and Erik Pears

One of the biggest surprises to come from the Bills' 2-0 start is their O-line play. Buffalo has allowed only one sack and the line has created big holes for the backs, helping the Bills lead the league in rushing.

But that doesn't mean that Bell and Pears are suddenly Pro Bowl tackles.

The Patriots' revamped front four looks improved compared to last season, but doesn't appear to be wreaking havoc in a way that would affect quarterbacks, considering the Pats are giving up plenty of yards through the air.

Ellis and Carter get the most playing time on the end, with Mark Anderson being involved on some passing downs. Bell and Pears can be beaten; the question is, can Ellis and Carter get to Ryan Fitzpatrick before he throws the ball? Like Tom Brady, Fitzpatrick effectively has been very quick decisions this season.

If the Patriots can get to Fitzpatrick, they are better off doing it through D-linemen winning one-on-one battles, especially on the ends, as the Bills have a very solid interior on the O-line. Fitzpatrick remained poised and precise when the Raiders brought blitzes last week, especially on the Bills' game-winning drive.

Another pass-rush option for New England is OLB Rob Ninkovich, who has been very good getting after the passer in two seasons.