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Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Getting to know the Bills

By Field Yates

The Patriots not only get two weeks to prepare for their next opponent, the Buffalo Bills, they also have a game to look back upon from earlier this season.

In Week 4, the visiting Patriots cruised past the Bills in the second half, rushing for nearly 250 yards and scoring on six straight possessions during an offensive barrage. The Bills don't exactly qualify as unfamiliar territory, but nonetheless, here's a brief introduction to the Patriots' Week 10 opponent.

Record: 3-5 (T-3rd in AFC East)
Head coach: Chan Gailey (third season, 13-27)
Offensive coordinator: Curtis Modkins
Defensive coordinator: Dave Wannstedt

THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, OFFENSE
1. RB C.J. Spiller: Spiller's torrid pace to open the 2012 season has slowed in recent weeks, but he remains a threat with the football in his hands on every touch he earns. Spiller is incredibly explosive, with blazing speed and quickness to make a defender miss. He's best on the perimeter and when he's in space, and can be lethal as a receiver. He hasn't been used there yet this season, but Spiller is a sparkplug as a kick returner as well. He was largely contained by the Patriots during their last meeting, totaling just 38 yards on 10 touches, but is averaging an incredible 7.2 yards per carry, best in the NFL.

2. RB Fred Jackson: Spiller's backfield mate, Jackson is a dependable veteran leader for the Bills who can impact the game as both a runner and receiver. He toted the heavier load against the Patriots in Week 4, with 13 carries for 29 yards and three catches for 50 yards. The 31-year old hasn't been the same player that he was for much of 2011, but is a respected back and a player that the Bills like to get involved within their offense. He has 81 total touches thus far in 2012.

3. LT Cordy Glenn: Drafted in the second round in 2012, Glenn has stepped in to become a key cog along the Bills' offensive line. In fact, he's been the primary blindside protector on a team that has allowed just 11 sacks thus far in 2012, the third-lowest total in all of football. Glenn's massive frame led some to believe he would best project as a right tackle or a guard coming out of Georgia, but he's quickly put to bed any doubts that he would be able to handle the left side of the line. The Patriots did well to rush the passer in Week 4, coming up with three sacks, and will need to do so again this Sunday.

THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, DEFENSE
1. DE Mario Williams: The Bills' "$100 million" man has been on the upswing of late, notching three sacks in his past three games and finishing Week 9 with a season-best seven tackles. Williams arrived in Buffalo this past offseason with absolutely mammoth expectations, and though he has put up just 4.5 sacks through eight games, he remains a potent pass rusher. He has very good athleticism to couple with his powerful frame, and while the Patriots held him without a sack in Week 4, they know that blocking Williams is no easy feat.

2. CB Stephon Gilmore: The Bills invested heavily in Gilmore, picking him 10th in the most recent NFL draft. While the interception numbers may not suggest it -- he's yet to record one -- he's been a sturdy player in the secondary who really impressed in Week 4 against the Patriots. He did well to cover up Brandon Lloyd for much of the afternoon, and looks already to be a player that Buffalo can assign to an opposing receiver in man coverage and allow him to work on an island. He's not afraid to get involved as a tackler either, as he finished with seven stops against the Patriots back in the late September meeting. With 11 pass breakups already, this youngster has the makings of a fine cover corner.

3. S Jairus Byrd: Since entering the NFL in 2009, Byrd has effectively established himself as a ballhawk. The University of Oregon alum has three interceptions and three forced fumbles (two of which came against the Patriots) already this season, and 42 tackles to boot. He's the type of player that a quarterback must account for, which Tom Brady has done in their previous meetings (Byrd has yet to intercept a pass against the Patriots in seven career games).

2012 RECAP THROUGH EIGHT GAMES
Titanic expectations have not been met halfway through the season for the Bills, as a team that was hoping to challenge the Patriots in the AFC East has fallen to 3-5 and 0-2 within the division. The Bills showed signs of life with consecutive wins early in the season over Kansas City and Cleveland, but have dropped four of five games since and are struggling in a major way on defense. They're yielding just fewer than 418 yards per game, nearly 170 of which are coming on the ground. The Bills believed their defensive line to be one of the best in football prior to the season, but a lack of production and ability to stop the run has halted that notion in the eyes of many. Offensively, while the Bills have quick-strike ability and playmakers, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is already up to nine interceptions and four fumbles. With four division games remaining, hope isn't lost entirely for the Bills, but it will take a dramatic turnaround for the ship to be righted in 2012.