Here's a key matchup to watch in the Week 17 regular-season finale between the Patriots and Bills:
Bills RB C.J. Spiller vs. Patriots' defense
For the third game in a row, the Patriots allowed an opponent more than 100 yards rushing, giving up 115 to the Dolphins, 113 of them to Reggie Bush. Spiller is in a similar mold to Bush when it comes to running backs. He is best in space and would rather bounce outside than go between the tackles.
Spiller has emerged of late and is finally proving that he is no bust. He went 16-111-1 rushing last Saturday against Denver and added two catches for 27 yards. The previous week, against a very stout Dolphins defense, Spiller had 12 carries for 91 yards and nine catches for 76 yards, adding a touchdown both running and receiving.
Spiller is averaging over five yards a carry this season and 7.2 in the last two games. The Patriots will need to shut him down and force Ryan Fitzpatrick into difficult situations. The Patriots can hold on 3rd-and-long, and Fitzpatrick has struggled with those long throws in the winter months.
To contain Spiller, it starts with the edge setters, Rob Ninkovich and Dane Fletcher in the linebacking corps and DEs Brandon Deaderick, Shaun Ellis and Mark Anderson. Spiller can be electric when he gets toward the sideline, and the Patriots will need to force him into the middle, where DTs Kyle Love and Vince Wilfork and LB Jerod Mayo will be waiting. The Patriots' front seven should be able to take advantage of a very banged-up Bills offensive line that is without three Week One starters — OLT Demetrius Bell, C Eric Wood and OG Kraig Urbik.
Fred Jackson had success against the Patriots in the Bills' Week Three upset, going 12-74-1 rushing and 5-87-0 receiving. The Bills will want to chip away at the Patriots' defense and keep Tom Brady off the field, and Spiller provides a good test for a Patriots run defense that needs to get better for the postseason.
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