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Game Preview: Bills at Patriots

The New England Patriots host the Buffalo Bills for a divisional matchup at Gillette Stadium.

pdc_game-preview-wk16-bills

WEEK 16 · Sun 12/26 · 1:00 PM EST

Bills

Buffalo Bills

AT

Patriots

New England Patriots

CBS / WBZ
98.5 FM The Sports Hub
GILLETTE STADIUM

The New England Patriots will play the Buffalo Bills for the second time in a three-game span, following the 14-10 victory at Buffalo in a Monday Night Football Game on Dec. 6. The Patriots are looking for their 28th series sweep overall over Buffalo and their 16th series sweep of the Bills under Bill Belichick.

The Patriots seven-game winning streak was snapped last Saturday following a 27-17 loss at Indianapolis. The Patriots will look to rebound and earn a 10-win season for the 27th time in team history with a victory over the Bills.

PATRIOTS AIMING FOR 10-WIN SEASON FOR 27TH TIME IN TEAM HISTORY

The Patriots enter this week's game with a 9-5 record, aiming for their 27th 10-win season to tie Dallas for most 10-win seasons since the 1970 NFL merger.

SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS

By Paul Perillo

The Bills come to town looking for redemption and a chance to win the AFC East

When the Patriots ran - Edge: Patriots

Given the success the Patriots had on the ground in Buffalo when the Bills knew it was coming, it's hard to imagine New England's ground game not being productive once again. For obvious reasons this game will be much different than the first, which took place in heavy winds two Mondays ago, but the premise is hard to ignore. Assuming the weather conditions are closer to normal, the Bills defense will have to play both the run and the pass and that should make life easier for Rhamondre Stevenson and the rest of the Patriots backfield. It would help to get Damien Harris back in the mix to recreate the one-two punch on display in Buffalo after Harris was forced to sit out the Colts game with a sore hamstring. The offensive line needs to bounce back as well after struggling to open holes for Stevenson last week. The score eventually got of hand and eliminated the running game, but Stevenson struggled to find openings early on as well and finished with just 36 yards on 10 carries. Expect the production to return to more normal levels against a Bills team that has had problems being physical up front. Coach Sean McDermott will likely focus on that area this week so some improvement can be expected, but the Patriots are the more physical team and should control the line of scrimmage.

When the Patriots pass - Edge: Bills

Mac Jones is coming off his worst game as a pro in the loss to Indy. His two interceptions played a major part of the team's large deficit, and he was unable to mount much offense until the game had been decided. Still, Jones showed some toughness by rallying his team to 17 points in the fourth quarter and his pair of touchdown throws to Hunter Henry allowed New England a chance at the end. After the game Jones pointed toward a bad week of preparation playing a part in the team's demise, so expect a bounce back from him and the rest of the offense. However, he might be without a couple of targets as Nelson Agholor and N'Keal Harry left the Colts game and Kendrick Bourne began the week in COVID protocols. That leaves Henry and Jakobi Meyers for Jones to throw to against a Bills secondary that is still finding its way without top corner Tre'Davious White. Despite the loss of White, Buffalo remains tops in the league in pass defense, allowing 175.6 yards per game and 5.4 yards per pass. The group was completely untested in the first meeting as the Patriots attempted just three passes. Assuming the Bills will be much more competitive against the run this time around, look for Jones to target Dane Jackson, whose playing time has risen since White went down. Pass protection will be key as well as the Bills create a lot of pressure despite their modest number of sacks.

When the Bills run - Edge: Patriots

The Patriots trouble stopping the run continued in Indy as Jonathan Taylor ran wild en route to a 170-yard evening. New England now ranks 24th in the league stopping the run, allowing 122.4 yards per game and 26th with 4.6 yards per rush. Fortunately the Patriots won't have to deal with a formidable rushing attack this week as Buffalo doesn't spend much time trying to establish its ground game. Devin Singletary is solid but unspectacular, averaging a healthy 4.7 yards per rush but has only 633 yards on 134 carries and three touchdowns all season. Buffalo doesn't run it often unless Josh Allen is involved, and his recent foot injury prevented him from taking off much in last week's win over Carolina in which he ran just once. Still, Singletary was effective and the Bills managed to get him more involved than he had been, perhaps indicating offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is more willing to keep it on the ground and take some pressure off his quarterback in the process. The Patriots shut down the Bills ground game two weeks ago and certainly will be looking to bounce back from a poor showing against the Colts. One thing to keep an eye on is the status of linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley, who missed most the Indy game with an ankle injury. If he's not back in the lineup the Patriots will need Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy to fill the void.

When the Bills pass - Edge: Bills

Allen remains one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in football and even the heavy winds in Buffalo didn't completely shut him down the last time. When he's locked in and getting the ball to Stephon Diggs, Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis as well as tight end Dawson Knox, the Bills offense can be one of the most high-powered in the league. Emmanuel Sanders missed last week's game with a knee injury, allowing Davis to step in and grab a pair of touchdowns. Davis also scored against the Patriots, so he's more than capable of filling a bigger role. Knox had a few uncharacteristic drops in the first meeting, so Daboll might want to revisit that matchup this time around. The Patriots secondary has played well for the most part and ranks slightly behind the Bills at third in the league, allowing 185.1 yards per game through the air and second with 5.9 yards per play. The key for New England will be applying pressure on Allen and not letting him escape the pocket, where he can do damage with his legs. The Patriots made him uncomfortable at times in the past, and that can lead to mistakes. Look for Bill Belichick to dial up some heat to force the ball out quickly, as was the case on the game deciding play in the closing minutes in Buffalo. If Matthew Judon & Co. can get home, the Patriots secondary should able to hold up. If Allen has time, it may be a different story.

Special Teams - Edge: Patriots

The Patriots are coming off one of their worst games of the season on special teams. Jake Bailey had a punt blocked, the third time that's happened this season, this one returned for a touchdown. Brandon King jumped offside on a missed field goal, allowing the Colts to make the second attempt. And even the ever-reliable Nick Folk failed to execute a late kickoff properly, allowing the Colts to return it out to the 31-yard line to begin the final possession. That said the Patriots special teams have generally been much sounder than that and improvement can be expected. Folk remains nearly perfect and gets the edge over Tyler Bass kicking at Gillette Stadium. Bass is excellent as well having made 24 of 28 field goals on the season but Foxborough can be a tricky place to kick in December. Look for coordinator Cam Achord to have his troops focused after last week's setback, and for the Patriots to get Gunner Olszewski going in the return game. Olszewski was quiet last week and even fumbled on one of his attempts, but prior to that he was giving the team solid field position with his returns. The Patriots usually respond when challenged and the special team likely didn't enjoy their week of practice after so many miscues.

SERIES HISTORY

New England and Buffalo will meet for the second time in 2021 this week and the Patriots will be looking for their 28th series sweep overall and their 16th series sweep of Buffalo under Bill Belichick. The Patriots won the first matchup between the two teams in a Monday Night Football Game on Dec. 6, at Highmark Stadium, 14-10, behind 222 rushing yards.

This week's game will be the 124th meeting between the two teams. New England holds a 77-45-1 edge in the series and have won 36 of the last 43 games between the clubs dating back to 2000.

The Patriots are 39-22 overall at home against Buffalo, including a 16-3 record at Gillette Stadium.

The series between the AFC East rivals began in 1960. The Patriots' 77 wins over the Bills is their highest victory total over any opponent, six higher than their next highest win total against the New York Jets (71).

After seven straight series sweeps and 15 consecutive Patriots wins from 2003-10, Buffalo ended the streak with a 34-31 victory at Ralph Wilson Stadium in the first meeting between the teams in 2011. The 15-game win streak is tied for the fourth-longest winning streak over a single opponent in NFL history. The Patriots avenged that loss in the 2011 regular season finale by overcoming a 21-0 first quarter deficit and scoring 49 unanswered points en route to a 49-21 victory.

The teams have had many memorable match ups over the years, including a span from 1999 to 2001 where four-of-five contests were decided in overtime.

The Patriots' first ever playoff game was a 26-8 win over the Bills at Buffalo on Dec. 28, 1963.

SERIES BREAKDOWN

Home Record: 39-22

  • Record in Foxborough: 33-17
  • Foxboro Stadium: 17-14
  • Gillette Stadium: 16-3
  • Record in Boston: 6-5

Road Record: 38-23-1

  • War Memorial Stadium: 7-6-1
  • Ralph Wilson/Rich Stadium/New Era/Highmark: 31-17

Largest Margin of Victory: 46 points (2007)

Largest Margin of Defeat: 35 points (1970)

Longest Win Streak: 15 games (2003-2010)

Bill Belichick vs Buffalo: 36-8 (36-7 with NE)

Sean McDermott vs New England: 2-7

QUICK HITS

  • The Patriots have recorded 77 wins over the Bills, the most by the Patriots against any one opponent. The Jets are second on that list with 71 wins by the Patriots.
  • The Buffalo Bills snapped a streak of 13 straight home wins by the Patriots, including 12 straight wins by the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, with their 17-9 win in the 2014 regular season finale on Dec. 28, 2014.
  • Bill Belichick has a 99-35 (.739) all-time regular season record against the AFC East as head coach of the Patriots.
lineofscrimmageAP_18306163335133

TALE OF THE TAPE

Table inside Article
2021 REGULAR SEASONNEW ENGLANDBUFFALO
Record9-58-6
Divisional Standings1st2nd
Total Yards Gained4,8705,290
Total Offense (Rank)347.9 (16)377.9 (7)
Rush Offense120.5 (14)120.9 (13)
Pass Offense227.4 (17)257.0 (7)
Points Per Game26.2 (10)28.1 (5)
Total Yards Allowed4,3054,031
Total Defense (Rank)307.5 (3)287.9 (1)
Rush Defense122.4 (24)112.4 (16)
Pass Defense185.1 (3)175.6 (1)
Points Allowed/Game16.2 (1)17.4 (2T)
Possession Avg.30:4230:36
Sacks Allowed/Yards Lost25/21926/164
Sacks Made/Yards33/23027/160
Total Touchdowns Scored3846
Penalties Against/Yards81/71697/848
Punts/Avg.45/44.046/43.3
Turnover Differential+9 (5)+8 (6)

QUARTERBACK COMPARISON

#10
2021_headshots_recropped__0042_Jones_Mac_2021
MAC JONES, QB, PATRIOTS
HT: 6-3 WT: 217 COLLEGE: ALABAMA
Table inside Article
SEASONCOMPATTYDSTDINTLNGSK/YDS
20212964293,16818107525/219
#17
josh-allen-headshot
JOSH ALLEN, QB, BILLS
HT: 6-5 WT: 237 COLLEGE: WYOMING
Table inside Article
SEASONCOMPATTYDSTDINTLNGSK/YDS
20213445283,73431126126/164

CONNECTIONS

FORMER PATRIOTS

  • OC Brian Daboll - Defensive Coaching Assistant (2000-01), Wide Receivers Coach (2002-06), Offensive Assistant (2013), Tight Ends Coach (2014-16) - Won Super Bowl XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLIX and LI with the Patriots.
  • Asst. OL Coach Ryan Wendell (OL 2008-15) - Signed with New England as an undrafted free agent in 2008 out of Fresno State. He spent the '08 season on the practice squad and was promoted to the 53- man roster in December 2009. - Won Super Bowl XLIX with the Patriots.

FORMER BILLS

  • None.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR...

  • The Patriots enter this week's game with a 9-5 record and are looking for their 27th 10-win season to tie Dallas for the most 10-win seasons since the 1970 NFL merger.
  • The Patriots are second in the NFL behind Dallas (23) with 20 interceptions in 2021. In 2020, the Patriots tied for the NFL lead with Miami, New Orleans and Pittsburgh with 18 interceptions. The 2019 Patriots led the NFL with 25 interceptions. Two teams have led the NFL in interceptions in three or more consecutive seasons: Kansas City (5 straight – 1966-70) and the New York Giants (3 straight – 1937-39). Overall, the Patriots have led the NFL in interceptions four times (2003, 2010, 2019 and 2020).
  • The Patriots have returned three interceptions for a touchdown this season and need one more to match the four by Dallas, which leads the NFL. The Patriots have returned at least four picks for a touchdown in a season four times with four in 1997 and 2010, and five in 2003 and 2001.
  • The Patriots defense enters this week allowing 16.2 points per game, first in the NFL. Since 2001, the Patriots have recorded 13 seasons of 20.0 points allowed or fewer, tied for the second-most in the NFL during that span.
  • The Patriots have been successful on three 2-point plays in 2021. The Patriots need one more 2-point play to tie the franchise record of four set in 1960 and 1996.

BROADCAST INFORMATION

TELEVISION: This week's game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Charles Davis as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines. The game will be produced by Mark Wolff and directed by Bob Fishman.

NATIONAL RADIO: Saturday's game will be broadcast to a national audience on ESPN Radio. Jay Alter will call the game with Rob Ninkovich providing analysis.

SATELLITE RADIO: SiriusXM App: 821 (NE), 803 (BUF) | SiriusXM: 227 (NE), 382 (BUF)

LOCAL RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. A complete listing of the network's 35 stations can be found here. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.

For information on how to stream the game please visit our Ways to Watch guide.

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