FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the points Bill Belichick made when he met with reporters Wednesday was how the New England Patriots didn't fare well in their quick-turnaround rematch with the Miami Dolphins (win on Nov. 26, loss on Dec. 11), and that can be a lesson as the team prepares for a similar situation with Sunday's home game against the Buffalo Bills.
The Patriots beat the Bills on Dec. 3. What is different with the Bills since that time?
Kelvin Benjamin a big receiver: The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Benjamin missed the Dec. 3 game with a knee injury, but he has played the last two games. "He's obviously a big-size receiver, primarily at 'X,' so a lot of single coverage out there," Belichick said. "He's a guy that's a target that [Tyrod] Taylor can look at out there and toss it up to either as part of a play or as part of an extended play -- that type of thing, scramble play. He can go up and get the ball and has a good route tree, inside routes and vertical routes, a strong player after the catch.
BC's Matt Milano playing more on defense: The 2017 fifth-round pick out of Boston College, whom the Bills selected with the draft pick they received from New England for the signing of restricted free agent Mike Gillislee, played 22 defensive snaps and 15 special teams snaps in the Dec. 3 game. He's playing more now (50 defensive snaps, 10 special teams snaps Sunday against Miami). The 6-foot-0, 223-pound Milano is playing over Ramon Humber, who is now assuming a larger role on special teams.
Reduced role for rookie Zay Jones: The second-round draft choice from East Carolina played 65 of 67 offensive snaps against the Patriots on Dec. 3 as the No. 2 receiver, but six-year veteran Deonte Thompson is now stepping in to his role. Thompson (6-0, 205) has a different physical makeup than Jones (6-2, 200), and obviously more experience.
Eddie Yarbrough in for Shaq Lawson: A first-year player out of Wyoming, the 6-foot-3, 259-pound Yarborough has stepped in for the injured Lawson, a 2016 first-round pick out of Clemson. That appears to be a downgrade against the run, which the Patriots might attempt to exploit.
Mike Tolbert a big back: The 5-foot-9, 250-pound Tolbert missed the Dec. 3 game with a hamstring injury and is a player Belichick mentioned as well now that he's off the injury report, even though his role is minimal and he might be inactive anyway. Tolbert, 32, has traditionally been one of the tougher tackles in the NFL but doesn't move as well as he once did.
Nick O'Leary provides 2-TE option if healthy: The 6-foot-3, 252-pound O'Leary wasn't active Dec. 3, and while he didn't practice Wednesday (back injury), he still could be back Sunday. "I think O'Leary gives them their two tight end sets with two guys I think they really like whether running or blocking with [Charles] Clay and O'Leary," safety Devin McCourty said. "That's something to us we've got to prepare for and we didn't see it last time. ... O'Leary had a big catch [Sunday] that started to get them going for their first touchdown."