Boston (CBS)- This season has been one of surprises for Patriots fans and not in a good way. The team's 2-4 record after six games places them third in the AFC East, looking up at both the Dolphins and Bills in the standings. And, heading into their Week 8 clash in Buffalo, they're underdogs for the first time in 30 divisional games.
The reasons why are obvious, led by an offense that has scored just one touchdown since returning from an unexpected bye after the organization's battle with COVID-19. A large part of that is the play of quarterback Cam Newton, who came out of the gates firing this season but has looked off in the past few weeks. Newton continues to say the right things about improving and knowing he needs to be better, but as NFL on CBS play by play man Ian Eagle notes, something seems off.
"Cam doesn't look like himself, mechanically doesn't look like the guy who won MVP five years ago. He's not throwing the football to the right, he's not even looking towards the right," said Eagle. "Early in the season, where he was picking and choosing his spots to run, I think most defenses now are aware and they're forcing him to do things that he doesn't want to do and it shows."
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Currently 29th in the league in touchdowns this season, the Patriots are in the company of other less than effective offenses like the Broncos, Giants and Jets. How does it get fixed? Eagle points to the run game.
"I think at some point they're going to have to probably commit to the run and become more confident in that power running attack," said Eagle. "That seems to be what they're built for but they're yet to do that on a consistent basis."
And there would appear to be opportunity to do just that this Sunday against a Bills team allowing 4.6 yards per carry and 126 yards per game on the ground.
Also of note entering Sunday is the job that Belichick and the defensive staff have done in the last two years of keeping Bills quarterback Josh Allen under wraps. He's completed 46 of his 95 pass attempts (48.4%) for 578 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions in three starts against the Patriots. In each of the last two games, he was sacked four times.
But, there are major differences in the Patriots defense this year from a personnel standpoint, leaving Eagle to wonder if they can reach the same level of play against Allen as they have in the past.
"Bill Belichick has done an excellent job confusing Josh Allen in the previous meetings. The question is whether they have the horses to actually do it now," said Eagle.
Meanwhile, as mentioned above, things are different this year from a record standpoint as well. This week's meeting is the first since Week 16 of 2000 in which the Bills are three wins better than the Patriots. With a win, they can further extend the lead atop the division making them difficult to catch in the second half.
"If you're Buffalo, this is what you've been waiting for. This is what you've been waiting for as an organization for this opportunity to take control of the division. Potentially, hand the Patriots a loss at a crossroads moment that they may not be able to recover from," said Eagle. "And do it on your terms with your style of play. The Bills got off to such a terrific start this season, they were one of the real nice stories in the NFL and now the last few weeks they have come back down to earth. I think they are looking at this as one of those pivotal games that could help make their season and help fuel a legitimate run."
Ian Eagle will be on the call this Sunday alongside Charles Davis and Evan Washburn when the Patriots meet the Bills in Buffalo at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time on CBS.
Tune in to Sunday's Patriots-Bills matchup on WBZ-TV! Pregame coverage begins at 11:30 a.m. with Patriots GameDay, kickoff is set for 1 p.m., and after the game stay tuned for full reaction and analysis on Patriots 5th Quarter!
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