As they prepare for their Sunday’s clash (Dec. 24) with the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is wary of Bills tight end Charles Clay and the damage that he can do against them. “He's always involved,” Belichick said of the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Clay, calling him a really good player. A report from website Pats Pulpit relayed these quotes. Belichick said Clay possesses the discipline and great speed in his route, adding that he could run away from a lot of guys. Since entering the NFL as a sixth-round pick by the Miami Dolphins in 2011, Clay has faced the Patriots 11 times, catching 31 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns.

While Clay has gone 3-8 against the Patriots, Belichick expects Clay to exploit mismatches and explode anytime against their defense, which could derail New England's chances of clinching the top seed in the AFC.

Clay opens up scoring opportunities

Belichick said Clay could give other Bills offensive players scoring opportunities, especially running backs LeSean McCoy or Travaris Cadet. Belichick said Clay hasn't been the primary target for the Bills, but he creates lots of openings for other players that can catch opponents off-guard. This season, Clay has caught 39 passes for 457 yards and two scores. McCoy, for his part, rushed 259 times for 1,057 yards and six touchdowns and caught 52 passes for 350 yards and two touchdowns for the Bills, who need a win over the Patriots and the Miami Dolphins to shore up their postseason hopes.

The Bills are 8-6 and still in contention in the AFC Wild Card race. In their 24-16 win over the Dolphins, McCoy ran 20 times for 50 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 46 yards and a score. McCoy also reached the 10,000 rushing yards plateau, becoming just the 30th NFL player in history to accomplish the feat.

Branch, Burkhead remain on DNP list

For the second straight day, the Patriots held practice Thursday (Dec. 21) without defensive tackle Alan Branch and running back Rex Burkhead. Branch and Burkhead are both dealing with knee issues. According to earlier reports, Branch is expected to miss a few weeks but could return in time for the playoffs.

The Patriots are also hoping that Burkhead could return for the postseason. Limited in practice were rushers Brandon Bolden and James White, wide receivers Chris Hogan and Matthew Slater, defensive back Brandon King, defensive end Eric Lee, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, and offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle.