by Dan Zeigarnik, Patriots Daily Staff
September 13, 2009

The much anticipated season opener against the Bills is exciting because of what it represents for Patriots fans. It’s less about this week’s opponent and more about beginning our retribution for that wretched Giants loss. Last season was knee-capped in week one, literally, and now the fans are ready for the Pats to take back the mantle as the league’s best team. Before this can happen, several internal team questions need to be answered. With this in mind, here are 5 key matchups to look for during the Monday Night Football game against the Bills:

1) Dean Pees Vs. Alex Van Pelt

Dean Pees is a thirty-seven year coaching veteran entering his fourth full year as defensive coordinator. Despite the fact that under his tutelage the Patriots have not exactly been a defensive juggernaut, Bill Belichick and the front office seems satisfied with him. Opposing him this week will the newly minted offensive coordinator, Alex Van Pelt. He has been on the job since September 4th, after his predecessor, Turk Schonert, was unceremoniously fired after a lackluster pre-season performance. It will be interesting to see how the play calling on both sides will turn out

2) Buffalo Receivers Vs. Pats Corners

With the addition of Terrell Owens, the Bills receiving corps is clearly a strong suit. Besides T.O., the Pats secondary has to contend with Lee Evans, Roscoe Parrish, and Josh Reed. This is a tall order for the Pats’ weakest unit. Strong play from the secondary should mean success in the playoffs, and this is their first big test.

3) Tom Brady vs. Bills Pass Rush

Teams will be gunning for Tom Brady to see if he still has that pocket maneuverability. The opposing pass rush will try to frazzle Brady into making premature and errant throws. So far this preseason, Brady has performed reasonably well, but all eyes will be on him to show that he can do it when it counts.

4) Special Teams vs. Special Teams

Considering that Belichick consistently praises the Bills’ special teams, headed by Coach Bobby April, and they have been ranked best special team by the Dallas Morning News three of the last five years. This will be a formidable challenge for the Patriots.

5) Fred Jackson vs. Patriots Linebackers

With the trade of Mike Vrabel, the retirement of Tedy Bruschi, and the placement on the IR of Tyrone McKenzie and Shawn Crable the Patriots have depleted their already thin lineup at linebacker. It will be interesting to see how the Mayo, Guyton, Thomas, Woods, and Banta-Cain will come together to defend against the run. While Fred Jackson is no Marshawn Lynch, he is no slouch either, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

Dan Zeigarnik is the newest addition to the Patriots Daily staff. Dan will contribute to our pre-game coverage this season with this weekly summary of the coming game’s top matchups. Welcome aboard, Dan.