Penalty watch: Patriots vs. Bills

Every Thursday during the season, we'll lead off the day with a look at the New England Patriots' penalties and how they stack up with the rest of the NFL.

Every team starts with a fresh slate when it comes to penalties in 2013.

Looking back over the past two seasons, the Patriots have had solid results in this area. In 2012, the team was flagged for 98 penalties (an average of 6.13 per game), the ninth-fewest in the league. In 2011, the Patriots had just 80 penalties called against them in the regular season, fifth-fewest.

The Patriots obviously hope to continue that trend into the season opener against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The early signs are encouraging.

While it's dangerous to read too much into preseason football, the Patriots were penalized 19 times over four games, totaling 120 yards. Six of those flags were thrown against players who are no longer on the club.

Contrast that to the Bills, who were penalized 39 times for 278 yards in the preseason, and it's a noticeable difference.

Penalties can often be a difference-maker and this will be something to watch Sunday to see if preseason trends turn into regular-season reality.