FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (WKBW) – With a win, the Bills can take the lead in AFC East. With a loss, the Patriots will clinch and Buffalo can say goodbye to the idea of a home wild card game. Can the Bills do it on Sunday?
This is the classic case of going with your brain or going with your gut. My brain and guts have been telling me different things about this game all week as the Bills prepare for their biggest regular season game in years.
With one win, the Bills will control their own destiny and are two back-to-back AFC East title wins. If they lose, Buffalo could very well be outside the player image with two games to go.
On our weekly show, Leading the Charge, I predicted the Bills would win. That was before they lost wide receiver Gabriel Davis and offensive lineman Cody Ford on the COVID-19 roster. Ford’s absence isn’t a big deal for the Bills as it looks like Dion Dawkins will be ready to play. But losing Davis is a big deal for the Bills.
On offense, the Bills are much more effective when Davis is on the pitch. Without him and his compatriot Cole Beasley [also on the COVID-19 list], the Bills will have to rely on Emmanuel Sanders to come back from injury and play a big role. Isaiah McKenzie will likely fit in where Cole Beasley would line up, but getting into a must-have game without two of your top four options is anything but ideal.
Defensively, the Bills will face an attack from the Patriots that can do a bit of everything. Their bread and butter, as posted three weeks ago, is running the game. The Pats will be without Rhamondre Stevenson, who had 24 carries for 78 yards the last time the two teams met. But it looks like they’ll have Damien Harris, who hasn’t played since the Patriots won over the Bills on Dec.6. In that game, Harris torched the Bills for 111 yards on 10 carries.
To make matters worse for the Bills, they’ll be without Star Lotulelei, who didn’t make the trip for personal reasons. They will rely on Harrison Phillips to play a big part down the middle of the line.
If, and it’s a big if, the Bills can stop the race and take the lead against the Patriots, they can win this game. In fact, my brain tells me that they have the best team with the best quarterback. But my gut tells me they will fail in a close game, as they have done several times this year.
Patriots 26, Bills 23
Season record: 9-5
Everyone knows what’s going on this weekend. It really is the BIGGEST game of the year for the Buffalo Bills so far and with so many rides on this weekend’s game, it will truly be a dog fight, as Josh Allen said. at his press conference earlier this week.
The last game was really hard to assess as it wasn’t an accurate description of how these two teams line up on a level playing field. This Sunday, when it’s a December game, should give us a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses that really help and hurt them.
We know the Bills defense needs to stop the run after giving up over 200 rushing yards in the first meeting. The Bills’ defense hasn’t been horrible against the run when you look at the big picture, but those long wins (some for touchdowns) definitely hurt them. Bridging these gaps, controlling the line of scrimmage and tackling is key. I don’t know how much Mac Jones is going to throw in this game since the Patriots had so much success on the field weeks ago. If they can force that to happen, I think it would strongly favor the Bills secondary, especially with a depleted Patriots wide receiver room.
As for the offense, Josh Allen and the passing game should be unleashed. They entered the red zone FIVE times in the last go-around, they just couldn’t capitalize when it mattered most. They did it in brutal weather conditions .. so this weekend’s game should favor their passing attack as long as everyone is healthy.
This one will be close because you are going to get the best out of BOTH teams. That being said, who would have thought I would take the Patriots win at Orchard Park and the Bills win at Foxborough?
Tickets: 24, Patriots: 18
Season summary: 10-4
Despite all the talk about forcing an opponent to become one-dimensional at One Bills Drive, the elements made it FOR them the last time Buffalo played against the Patriots. It was one of the windiest days in recent memory, and New England quarterback Mac Jones only threw the ball three times.
We all remember how that one happened.
Jordan Poyer called the 14-10 loss Buffalo’s worst tackling performance of the season. The run defense has been far from perfect since (see: Leonard Fournette), but keeping Chuba Hubbard and Cam Newton under control, especially in a game where the Panthers’ play script indicated the run was coming, was a promising sign.
On the other side, Buffalo has always been in the air, but not like they have in the past two seasons. Josh Allen’s 30 attempts a few weeks ago are tied for third in 2021, and his 50% completion rate was the lowest since 2019. This year’s Josh Allen is NOT Josh Allen 2019. And I expect him to prove it.
He’s going to miss one of his safety blankets on Sunday – Cole Beasley’s presence on the COVID-19 roster is going to hurt Buffalo’s rhythmic passing game. But the amount the Bills should aim for in the air on offense should overwhelm the Patriots’ defense.
Allen said all he wanted was to perform for Christmas. It’s not going to wait under the tree; he has to go out and get it. And I think he will.
Tickets: 23, Patriots: 17
Season record: 9-5