By Kelly Reed
New England Patriots vs Buffalo Bills
Saturday – January 15 – 7:15 p.m.
Highmark Stadium – Orchard Park, NY
Records Before the Game
New England Patriots (10-7, 6-2 Away)
Buffalo Bills (11-6, 6-3 Home)
The Evil Empire of the NFL. Bills Mafia. Two teams that hate each other. The perfect recipe for a Saturday Night Wild Card playoff game. These two AFC East foes are quite familiar with each other. Tonight’s game will be the rubber match in the series this season with the winner moving on to the next round and the loser going on vacation. Let’s take a look at the stars of these teams and their match ups for this Saturday night special.
New England Patriots
For the Patriots their fate lies in the hands of rookie Mac Jones. Jones has the Alabama pedigree and knows how to win however he doesn’t have all the tools at his disposal in the NFL that he had in college which gave him and the Crimson Tide an advantage throughout the season. To be fair though, Coach Belichick knows he can’t put the weight of the world on Jones’ shoulders so expect lots of run plays, sprinkled in with a few screens and the occasional shot down field. Jones has decent stats on the season with 3,801 passing yards, 22 TDs and 13 interceptions. RB Damien Harris is still listed as questionable with his hamstring injury. He’s the workhorse the Patriots need for their ground game. If Harris can’t go, back up Rhamondre Stevenson will have to step up. He’s a fellow rookie on the team and a hard runner. Jones has plenty of receivers to make passing plays succeed. WR Nelson Agholor is a savvy veteran who continues to excel in the Patriots scheme. Look for WR Jakobi Meyers to be the featured target of Jones. Coach Belichick is a defensive guru. He’ll come up with a few new surprises to throw at QB Josh Allen. How Allen reacts to these surprises will impact the game.
The Bills have won the AFC back-to-back seasons thanks to the leadership of QB Josh Allen. The dynamic helmsman can do it all: passing to all three levels of the field, extending a play with his legs, scramble, planned qb keep etc. He’ll need to reach deep in his bag of tricks against the Patriots. The Patriots will disguise their coverages and bring all sorts of different blitzes in this playoff game. On the season Allen has over 4,400 yards passing, 36 TDs and 15 Ints which shows me that when pressured, Allen makes costly mistakes in his passing game. Allen has weapons in Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley. If these three can run crisp routes and catch the balls thrown their way, the Bills will be just fine. On the surface, RB Devin Singletary looks like he has pedestrian numbers, he fills many needs as the featured back. His blocking and runs between the tackles is exactly what this team needs. The Bills defense will have to find new ways to apply pressure on Patriots QB Mac Jones. I expect Ed Oliver and Jerry Hughes to have a big game. They don’t need a ton of sacks, just enough pressure to rattle Jones and slow down the Patriots run game.
The game will be a low scoring affair. The cold weather which might impact most of us warm blooded readers won’t even make these players think twice. They’re acclimated to it. The winds will be swirling and will influence the kicking game. Take the under and the Bills. Bill Belichick is a great coach who just doesn’t have the resources on the field for this one. Allen and the Bills win in the end.
Bills – 23
Patriots – 16