In the Wild Card Round, the Buffalo Bills will be looking to make a statement towards their bitter division rivals, the New England Patriots, by ousting them in the playoffs on a night where the wind chill will see temperatures feel below zero.
The Bills and Patriots have met twice this season, with each team winning on the road. The first matchup was a windy night in Buffalo where the Patriots won despite attempting just three passes, and round two came three weeks later, where the Bills were in control through most of the game in Foxborough.
The key to success for the Buffalo Bills will be to get ahead early and force rookie quarterback Mac Jones to try and win the game for the Patriots. In both meetings between these two teams, the Patriots ran all over the place, rushing for 222 yards in Buffalo, and 149 yards in Foxborough. Stopping Damien Harris, in particular, has been a big problem for the Buffalo Bills. He rushed ten times for 111 yards in their first game, and 18 times for 103 in their second matchup. If the Bills can find a way to slow Harris down, their chances of winning increase dramatically.
Slowing the run game down would put all the pressure on Mac Jones, and considering that the Bills are the best defense in football, that is likely not a spot that Bill Bellichick wants to put his young quarterback in. In the second game between Buffalo and New England, Jones struggled mightily, completing just 14 of his 32 pass attempts for 145 yards and was picked off twice.
As for the Buffalo Bills’ offense, the ground game has finally caught fire in recent weeks. Devin Singletary has rushed for 86 yards or more in three of their final four games and scored in all four. The one game in that stretch where he did not reach 86 yards? The Week 16 matchup against the Patriots, where he rushed for just 39 yards on 12 carries.
Josh Allen has also helped the Bills out with his legs, rushing for at least 63 yards in four of the last five games. When Allen and Singletary are both at their best on the ground, the Bills’ offense is unstoppable and just as dangerous as they are through the air.
Allen has not had a good stretch throwing the ball though, starting with a rough game against the Falcons, and a slow start against the Jets. That trend does not bode well for Allen and the Buffalo Bills, given that New England is the second-ranked pass defense in the NFL.
Allen’s last good game came in Week 16 against the Patriots, which was certainly one of the best games of his career. He completed 30 of 47 passes for 305 yards and three scores to put the Bills back in the driver’s seat in the AFC East. If Allen can replicate his Week 16 performance this week, the Patriots are in big trouble.
The Bills are completely healthy entering this matchup, with nobody showing up on the final injury report. The Patriots, however, have a long list of people on the injury report.
It is already confirmed that offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn is out for Saturday’s game, which is a good thing for a Buffalo front seven that has accumulated 14 sacks in their last two games, including nine against the Jets a week ago.
Other names on the list that are questionable include David Andrews, Christian Barmore, Kyle Dugger, Lawrence Guy, Damien Harris, and several others. Most of those players will probably play given that it is a playoff game, but the Patriots are certainly banged up.
Final Score Prediction: Buffalo Bills 16, New England Patriots 13
Each time these teams play, the stakes get higher, but it probably won’t get higher than this game for a while.
For the Patriots, it is a chance notch yet another win over the team they’ve dominated for 20 years, and quiet the rabid Buffalo crowd. For the Bills, it is a chance to finally get one over on a team that has caused them much pain and misery, especially with the stakes being the highest they ever have been between these two teams.
In a hard-hitting, low-scoring, defensive slugfest, the Buffalo Bills will eke out a victory over their division rivals and advance to the Divisional Round.