NFL ANALYST

Cassel: Advice for Mac Jones on dealing with Bills Mafia, bad weather

NFL ANALYST

The Bills Mafia is legendary. 

The Buffalo Bills have great fans. They love their team, they love the Bills, and it’s definitely a unique experience playing there as an opponent.

Buffalo has that "college atmosphere" feel. It’s a rowdy crowd; they get after you, throw insults at you and use vulgar language.

It’s all part of the experience. You pull up to Orchard Park and enter this really small locker room where guys are just on top of each other, and from the time you leave the tunnel -- even for pregame warmups -- the fans are already talking smack to you.

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Mac Jones and the Patriots will need to have good communication in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage Monday night, because it’s going to be loud. They'll probably use a silent count, so they’ll need to be disciplined there all night long.

They can manipulate the silent count as well. Under center, you can use one tap, two taps or a slow tap, and in shotgun, you can do two kicks or three kicks to get a read on defensive coverages. So, there are ways for Jones to use the silent count to his advantage as long as everyone's on the same page.

 

I think weather could be a bigger factor in Monday night's game, though. It looks like there's rain and potentially snow in the forecast with the chance of some wind.

Wind is the No. 1 factor for a quarterback. It impacts the trajectory of your ball and your accuracy, especially throwing downfield.

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It depends on the strength of the wind, too: Anywhere from 15 to 20 mph can start to impact your ball a bit. When I played in Buffalo with the Patriots in 2008, there were 50-60 mph wind gusts. They were holding up the goalposts with ropes while were trying to kick field goals.

The crazy part about that game was, we probably had 110 plays in the game plan. I met with Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick the night before and they said, "Look, we’ve got to condense this. Give us your favorite plays." And we probably cut it down to 50 plays that we felt confident in -- most of which were short passes and screens, because throwing the ball down the field into that type of wind is almost impossible.

There were 50-60 mph wind gusts. They were holding up the goalposts with ropes while were trying to kick field goals.

Matt Cassel on the Patriots' 2008 road game in Buffalo.

With rain, it’s all about ball security. Your grip, the way you carry the ball -- it’s just a slippery mess. Wind is awful, but I think rain might be worse, because you’re just thinking about getting the snap. It's the most elementary play in football, and you’re worried that it’s going to go through your hands because it’s so slick.

I'd argue the offense actually has the advantage when it’s snowing because of the change-of-direction aspect. You understand where you’re going and the defense is reacting to what you’re doing. The defensive backs don’t have good footing, so they’re not going to close on the throws as quickly, and it really slows down the defensive line because they’re not able to get their footing and get after the quarterback.

The good news for Jones is that Belichick and McDaniels do a great job of keeping you up to date on the weather conditions. They give you a day-to-day update leading up to the game, then tell you how it can impact the game and what we need to concentrate on in practice, whether that's ball security, securing the snap or footing.

The conversation the night before the game is always, "Get out on the field early, check the conditions, check the wind." They give you options for your cleats and tell you, "These are the best kinds of cleats to wear on this type of field," and then based on the conditions they might give you a specific recommendation.

A case of the Mondays

Winning percentage of rookie QBs in road Monday night games, all time
19.4%

So, it’s your responsibility as a quarterback to get out there early, check your footing and get a feel for how the wind may impact your throws during warmups.

The Bills will be the most challenging defense Jones has faced all year, because of its complexities and the disguises they use in the back end with Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. They're going to give him a ton of different looks and challenge him mentally on every single play.

 

Aside from being prepared for the elements, the best thing Jones can do on the road in a hostile environment is get off to a good start, because that really calms the crowd down.

That's the fun part for football players, at least in my experience. I always enjoyed those games where you’re on the road, your back is against the wall and people are screaming and yelling at you.

If you can get out of an environment like that with a victory, those are some of the most fulfilling wins you can have as a quarterback.

Editor's Note: Matt Cassel played 14 years in the NFL as a quarterback, including four with the Patriots from 2005 to 2008. He serves as an analyst for NBC Sports Boston, appearing on Pre/Postgame Live, as a guest on Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast every Thursday, and as a columnist each week during the season.