FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts -- The Patriots faced their toughest challenge of the season a week ago at MetLife Stadium against the Giants, a team -- and coach -- that never seems to roll over for Bill Belichick and the machine despite a constant fluctuation in talent and personnel. Now, the Patriots are at home for a game against Rex Ryan, a coach that always talks about not rolling over to the Patriots, but often does. Will Monday be any different?
Here's what we're watching for:
- I picked the Bills tonight because, like Rex Ryan, I'm a fan of history. While this game doesn't have the stage or atmosphere of the playoffs back in 2010, it does feel like Ryan has been painted into a similar corner and is trying to punch his way out. He is a man that ebbs and flows with narratives, and after hanging on to beat the Jets at MetLife last week -- in full view of the fans that used to love him and now think they are better off without him -- he parks the revenge tour bus behind the giant light house in Foxborough. Is there a chance this is a media-created dud and Ryan sees the Bills get thrashed by the Patriots despite so many moving parts on their offense? Sure. But could he hit on one of those once in a lifetime game plans again? Why not?
- Danny Amendola was assumed by many to be the next Wes Welker, but in fact ended up being a solid possession receiver and a nice hidden threat once teams exhausted themselves covering all of Tom Brady's other favorite targets. But there is no doubt now, with Julian Edelman nursing a broken foot, that Amendola will need to see his role evolve within the offense. Edelman might have been one of the most important players to his offense in the NFL.
- Ryan was taken aback when Belichick decided to split his defense across the field during their first matchup this season and throw the ball. While that might be the case again, leaving Ryan at least a little more prepared, we would be stunned to see him try to give Belichick a taste of his own medicine. Ryan finally has a version of the offense he's always wanted and with LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams both rolling -- especially McCoy -- it's worth watching how, exactly, the Bills plan to run on New England. Bills running backs coach Anthony Lynn has done a great job elevating the talent of his established and budding stars over the last few weeks, but as a true technician, his skills, in conjunction with Greg Roman's game plan, could be the star of the show on Monday night.
- Belichick's offensive line deployment will be interesting. Ryan has teetered between a heavy rush and game plans that focus more on fanning back into coverage. Against New England, he has always had his best games while creating pressure on Brady. Belichick knows this and might actually be in a good place when it comes to protection from his backs and receivers. But with a constant rotation up front, his choices will be telling.
- The hope is that Sammy Watkins gets at least a few snaps against Malcolm Butler on Monday night. Watching Butler and Odell Beckham jab at one another for the better part of 60 minutes was a delight a week ago. Watkins is not as much of an extrovert as Beckham, but he is just as physical and has an excellent counterpunch. Darrelle Revis remembers as much from a week ago.