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Game Preview: Patriots at Bills

The New England Patriots travel to Buffalo for a divisional matchup against the Bills.

pdc-wk13-gamepreview-bills-20211205

WEEK 13 · Mon 12/06 · 8:15 PM EST

Patriots

New England Patriots

AT

Bills

Buffalo Bills

ESPN / WCVB
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HIGHMARK STADIUM

The AFC East-leading New England Patriots will face the Buffalo Bills in a Monday Night Football Game in a battle for first place in the AFC East. Last season, the Bills swept New England for the first time since the 1999 season, including a victory on Monday Night Football on Dec. 28 with a 38-9 win.

The Patriots, who enter this week with the NFL's longest winning streak at six games, will attempt to claim their 35th winning season with a victory. It would be their 24th winning season in the 28 years of ownership under Robert Kraft and the 20th winning season in 22 seasons under head coach Bill Belichick.

The Patriots and Bills enter this week tied for second in the NFL behind Indianapolis (27) with 25 takeaways. The teams have the two best scoring differentials in the NFL with the Patriots at +146 and the Bills at +144.

PATRIOTS HAVE 15 WINNING STREAKS OF 6 OR MORE GAMES SINCE 2001

The Patriots have won six straight games and now have 15 winning streaks of six or more games in a season since 2001, the most in the NFL.

PATRIOTS LOOKING FOR 35TH WINNING SEASON

The Patriots have 34 seasons since the 1970 merger in which the team has finished above .500, second only to the Pittsburgh Steelers (37). New England also had 19 consecutive winning seasons from 2001-19, the second longest streak in NFL history.

SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS

By Paul Perillo

The Patriots look to keep it going on MNF in Buffalo

When the Patriots run - Edge: Patriots

Things didn't go great for the Patriots running game on Sunday against Tennessee. Playing against a banged-up Titans front that was missing three starters the Patriots struggled to get much going, particularly Damien Harris. Harris carried 11 times for just 40 yards and that included a late 14-yard touchdown. Rhamondre Stevenson was able to rip off a late 19-yard run in which he broke several tackles but was otherwise held in check as well, finishing with only 27 yards on his other eight carries. On paper Buffalo figured to pose a similar challenge, but as we saw two weeks ago the Bills can be run on despite their gaudy numbers. The Bills rank second in the league by allowing just 3.9 yards per carry and fifth with 96.6 rushing yards per game. However, that didn't prevent Indy's Jonathan Taylor from running wild en route to a five-touchdown afternoon. Despite last week's struggles the Patriots have done a nice job of establishing the run in most games, and Harris and Stevenson will likely get plenty of chances to test the validity of the Bills front. One big piece that could improve Buffalo's chances is Star Lotulelei, who missed the last two games due to COVID protocols. Lotulelei is a premier run-stuffer in the middle and if he returns he'll join Ed Oliver, Harrison Phillips and Vernon Butler on the inside. The Bills were also without linebacker Tremaine Edmunds against the Colts and he is expected to play. This matchup will be worth watching.

When the Patriots pass - Edge: Bills

The Bills also have excelled in the secondary and rank second in the league, allowing just 178.5 yards per game through the air and first with 5.3 yards per pass. But Buffalo will be without the best member of that secondary as Tre'Davious White tore his ACL Thanksgiving night and will be out for the rest of the season. Buffalo is still formidable with corners Levi Wallace, Taron Johnson and Dane Jackson joining one of the best safety tandems in football in Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. Much like the Patriots, that group has been excellent at taking the ball away. Buffalo ranks second in the league in interception rate and has 16 interceptions on the season with Poyer and Hyde combining for half of those. The Patriots are coming off a strong game through the air as Mac Jones hit a career high with 310 yards through the air against the Titans. Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers did the bulk of the damage, and they will need to continue their strong play against the Bills. Up front Mario Addison and rookie Greg Rousseau have done most of the damage for a pass rush that hasn't been overly effective, but the Bills will get aggressive with blitzes at times and Jones has had some trouble lately handling some of those looks. The key here will be how well Buffalo handles life without White, who is in the mold of how the Patriots used Stephon Gilmore to take away the opponents' top threat.

When the Bills run - Edge: Patriots

Buffalo hasn't run the ball effectively for most of the year – at least not in the conventional sense. Josh Allen is dangerous as a runner, and the Bills do use him on some designed runs to take advantage of his legs. But when it comes to traditional running, Devin Singletary, Zack Moss and newcomer Greg Breida haven't been consistently productive. Singletary does average nearly 5 yards per carry but hasn't been able to sustain his success for long stretches and Moss basically lost his job to Breida, who was effective last week against the Saints. Allen averages well over 5 yards per rush but the Patriots have been able to contain him in the pocket in previous meetings and should have a plan to do so Monday night. This is a ground game New England should handle, although the Patriots are coming off their worst performance of the season in that department. Tennessee piled up 270 yards on the ground despite playing without Derrick Henry and starting guard Nate Davis. The Titans consistently pushed the pile forward and managed to gain plenty of yards before contact, but that hasn't been the case against the Patriots this season, especially lately. Sunday's step back pushed the Patriots run defense back to 20th in the league, allowing almost 116 yards per game. Assuming it was just a blip on the radar, expect the front seven to return to their physical, dominant ways against the Bills.

When the Bills pass - Edge: Bills

This is another matchup of strength against strength as the Bills provide plenty to prepare for in the passing game. Allen has been less consistent than he was in 2020 but he's still been formidable. The Bills are seventh in the league, averaging 271 yards per game through the air. Allen is completing 67 percent of his throws and has 25 touchdowns against 10 interceptions this season. At times he tries to do too much on plays when he's under pressure, and that can lead to his mistakes. This is where the Patriots secondary, which has taken the ball away often during their six-game winning streak, can swing the tide. J.C. Jackson has seven interception and has been a ballhawk all season long. Last year Allen victimized Jackson by riding Stefon Diggs (67 catches, 847 yards, 7 TDs) often during their blowout win in Foxborough. Diggs remains the leading receiver but he's not alone. Cole Beasley (62 catches, 530 yards, 1 TD), Emmanuel Sanders (36 catches, 559 yards, 4 TDs) and tight end Dawson Knox (31 catches, 415 yards, 7 TDs) have also made a lot of plays. Pressuring Allen will be important for the Patriots and Matthew Judon will be a big part of that as he leads the teams with 11.5 sacks. If Judon & Co. can't disrupt Allen consistently it may be a long night.

Special Teams - Edge: Patriots

It's getting to the point where we've run out of superlatives for Nick Folk. Even Bill Belichick was gushing about his kicker last week, and that was before he hit 5 of 6 field goals including a 52-yarder into the open end of Gillette Stadium. Folk has been instrumental in many wins this season and with the Patriots occasional struggles in the zone the points he consistently provides have been vital. The Bills counter with Tyler Bass, who's been just as effective. Bass is perfect on PATs with 34 and has missed just three field goals, one of which clanked off the upright from 57 yards out against the Colts two weeks ago. Conditions figure to be challenging for both kicking at night in December in Buffalo. Punters Jake Bailey and Matt Haack have been effective as well, and Gunner Olszewski has done a nice job returning punts as of late. Isaiah McKenzie had been handling those duties for the Bills but a disastrous fumble against Indy caused Sean McDermott to turn things over to Marquez Stevenson, who did a nice job against New Orleans. Ball handling will be very important in what figure to be difficult conditions. The Patriots coverage has been rock solid over the past month-plus and their commitment to special teams generally earns them the edge.

SERIES HISTORY

New England and Buffalo will meet for the first of two meetings in 2021 and will play in a Monday Night game for the second straight meeting. Last season, the Patriots were swept by Buffalo for the first time since the 1999 season. The Patriots fell at Buffalo, 24-21, on Nov. 1 and then lost, 38-9, on Monday Night Football on Dec. 28 at Gillette Stadium. The last time the Patriots played at Buffalo in a Monday Night game was on Oct. 29, 2018 when the Patriots defeated the Bills, 25-6.

The Patriots will play Buffalo in a Monday Night game for the sixth time (1995, 2009, 2015, 2018 and 2020). The Patriots are 4-1 against Buffalo in Monday Night games.

This week's game will be the 123rd meeting between the two teams. New England holds a 76-45-1 edge in the series and have won 35 of the last 42 games between the clubs dating back to 2000.

The Patriots are 37-23-1 overall in Buffalo, including a 30-17 record at the newly-named Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y.

The series between the AFC East rivals began in 1960. The Patriots' 76 wins over the Bills is their highest victory total over any opponent, nine 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: 37-23-1

  • War Memorial Stadium: 7-6-1
  • Ralph Wilson/Rich Stadium/New Era/Highmark: 30-17

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: 35-8 (35-7 with NE)

Sean McDermott vs New England: 2-6

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 73 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 98-35 (.737) all-time regular season record against the AFC East as head coach of the Patriots.

PATRIOTS VS. BILLS ON MONDAY NIGHT

Table inside Article
DATEW/LSCORESTADIUM
10/23/95W27-14Foxboro Stadium
9/14/09W25-24Gillette Stadium
11/23/15W20-13Gillette Stadium
10/29/18W25-6New Era Field
12/28/20L9-38Gillette Stadium
lineofscrimmageAP_18306163335133

TALE OF THE TAPE

Table inside Article
2021 REGULAR SEASONNEW ENGLANDBUFFALO
Record8-47-4
Divisional Standings1st2nd
Total Yards Gained4,2644,282
Total Offense (Rank)355.3 (14)389.3 (5)
Rush Offense115.3 (12)118.3 (11)
Pass Offense240.0 (14)271.0 (7)
Points Per Game28.0 (7)29.6 (2T)
Total Yards Allowed3,8003,027
Total Defense (Rank)316.7 (4)275.2 (1)
Rush Defense115.8 (20)96.6 (6)
Pass Defense200.9 (3)178.5 (2)
Points Allowed/Game15.8 (1)16.5 (2)
Possession Avg.30:4131:04
Sacks Allowed/Yards Lost24/20417/118
Sacks Made/Yards30/20821/116
Total Touchdowns Scored3538
Penalties Against/Yards67/61979/696
Punts/Avg.36/45.830/42.9
Turnover Differential+10 (2)+9 (3t)

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
20212683812,8501687524/204
#17
josh-allen-headshot
JOSH ALLEN, QB, BILLS
HT: 6-5 WT: 237 COLLEGE: WYOMING
Table inside Article
SEASONCOMPATTYDSTDINTLNGSK/YDS
20212744103,07125106117/118

STREAKING SUCCESS

The Patriots won 15 straight games against the Buffalo Bills from 2003 through 2010, tied for the fourth-longest winning streak over a single opponent in NFL history.

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 lead the NFL with 19 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, tied with Dallas for the most in the NFL in 2021. 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 have had four takeaways in each of the last two games and will look to have their third straight game with four turnovers. The last team with 4+ takeaways in three straight games was Baltimore (2010-11). Overall, the Patriots enter this week tied with Buffalo for second in the NFL with 25 total takeaways. Indianapolis is in first with 27 takeaways. The Patriots have reached at least 30 takeaways nine times under Bill Belichick.
  • The Patriots set a team record by going four straight games without allowing a point in the second half. The Patriots will look to extend that mark to five straight games against Buffalo. The longest streak in a single season is 8 straight games by the 1934 Detroit Lions. Since the merger, the NFL record is 4 and has been done by seven teams.
  • The Patriots have 34 seasons since the 1970 merger in which the team has finished above .500, second only to the Pittsburgh Steelers (37). New England also had 19 consecutive winning seasons from 2001-19, the second longest streak in NFL history. A win against Buffalo this week will give the Patriots their 35th winning season since the merger and their 20th winning season since the 2001 season.
  • The Patriots will look to improve to a 6-0 road record. The Patriots have finished undefeated on the road twice in franchise history (2007 and 2016). The Patriots have the best road record since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994 with a 137-84 (.620) record.
  • The Patriots will look to improve to a 7-1 record in the conference with a win against Buffalo. Cincinnati is second in the conference with a 5-2 record.
  • The Patriots defense enters this week allowing just 15.8 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.
  • Hunter Henry has seven touchdown receptions in 2021 and needs one more to match the eight he had as a rookie with the San Diego Chargers in 2016. Rob Gronkowski is the only Patriots tight end to reach 10 touchdown receptions in a season. Gronkowski accomplished the feat five times with the Patriots.
  • Kendrick Bourne enters this week with 42 receptions for 623 yards and a career-high five touchdowns. He needs 8 receptions at Buffalo to establish a single-season high. He had 49 receptions in 2020 with San Francisco. Bourne needs 45 receiving yards against Buffalo to establish a single-season high. He had 667 receiving yards in 2020 with San Francisco.
  • WR Jakobi Meyers has the best two regular seasons for any Patriots wide receiver that originally joined the team as a rookie free agent. With a team-leading 59 receptions for 620 yards, he matched the 59 receptions he had in 2020 and needs 110 receiving yards to surpass the 729 yards he had in 2020 for the most in a season by an undrafted Patriots receiver.
  • Meyers completed two passes for 45 yards in Week 4 against Tampa Bay. He is now 4-of-4 for 88 yards with two touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating in his career. If he completes one more pass in 2021, he will be the first Patriots wide receiver to complete more than two passes in a single season. Julian Edelman completed two passes in 2018, 2019 and 2020, and Harold Jackson completed two passes in 1980. In addition to the Tampa Bay game, Meyers completed two passes, both for touchdowns, in 2020.
  • The most passes thrown by a non quarterback in a single season for the Patriots were by RB Andy Johnson, who was 7-of-9 for 194 yards with four touchdowns in 1981 and RB Dick Christy, who was 6-of-11 for 94 yards with two touchdowns in 1960.
  • Meyers has two 2-point conversions in 2021 after converting vs. Dallas on Oct. 17 and at LA Chargers on Oct. 31. Only 17 players have had three in one season. The NFL record for most in a season is four by Todd Heap of Baltimore in 2003.
  • Meyers has three total 2-point conversions and needs one more to tie Julian Edelman and Gino Cappelletti for the team's all-time career high with four 2-point conversions.
  • Damien Harris leads the Patriots with a career-high eight rushing touchdowns in 2021 and needs two more to reach double-digit rushing touchdowns. He can become the 12th Patriots player to do so and it would be the 16th time the Patriots had a player reach double-digit rushing touchdowns in a single season.
  • Harris has three 100-yard games so far in 2021. He needs one more to match Sony Michel, who had four 100-yard games in 2018. Since 1970, only Curtis Martin (9 in 1995), Corey Dillon (9 in 2004), and John Stephens (5 in 1988) have had more than four 100-yard games in a season for the Patriots.
  • Mac Jones has completed over 70 percent of his passes in eight of his first 12 NFL games. Jones can tie the rookie record this week against Buffalo. Dak Prescott completed 70 percent of his passes in nine games as a rookie in 2016. The NFL record is 13 games by Drew Brees in 2017.
  • Jones is leading all rookie quarterbacks with 2,850 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. He needs 150 passing yards and four touchdowns at Buffalo this week to become the 15th rookie quarterback to reach 3,000 yards passing and 20 touchdowns.
  • Through 12 games, Jones' completion percentage is 70.3. The best completion percentage for a season by a rookie quarterback is Dak Prescott at 67.7 percent in 2016.
  • Jones has won his first five road games and with a win this week at Buffalo he will join Dak Prescott (6 in 2016 with Dallas) and Ben Roethlisberger (6 in 2004 with Pittsburgh) as the only rookie quarterbacks to win each of their first six road games in league annals.
  • Jones has helped lead the Patriots to six straight wins. He is the seventh rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl era to lead his team to a six-game winning streak.
  • J.C. Jackson secured his 24th interception last week and is now tied with Ronnie Lippett and Nick Buoniconti for 9th place on the Patriots all-time interception list. With an interception this week at Buffalo he will secure sole possession of 9th place on the list.
  • Jackson has the most interceptions since he entered the NFL as a rookie free agent in 2018 with a total of 24 picks.
  • Jackson increased his two-year interception total to 16 (9 in 2020 and 7 in 2021) to tie Asante Samuel (16) - (10 in 2006 and 6 in 2007) for the most interceptions in consecutive seasons for the Patriots last week and needs one more interception to set the mark for most interceptions in a two-year total.
  • Jackson enters this week second in the NFL with 7 interceptions to Dallas' Trevon Diggs, who has 8 picks. If Jackson gets an interception this week, he will be the only Patriots player with at least two seasons with 8 or more interceptions.
  • Jackson has 24 career interceptions, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Kenny Easley (24 interceptions) and Richard Sherman (24) for the third-most by a player in his first four seasons since 1970. Only Lester Hayes (25 interceptions) and Everson Walls (25) have more.
  • Devin McCourty has 36 career takeaways in the regular season and is tied with Roland James for fourth all-time in team history. He needs one more takeaway to move into sole possession of fourth place.
  • LB Matthew Judon increased his 2021 sack total to 11 1/2 with an 8-yard sack of Ryan Tannehill in the first quarter last week. With a sack this week at Buffalo he will join Chandler Jones (12 1/2 in 2015) and Mike Vrabel (12 1/2 in 2007) for the most sacks in a season by a Patriots player under Bill Belichick.
  • Nick Folk enters this week first in the NFL with 31 field goals. Folk has never led the NFL in field goals. Since 1970, the Patriots have had a player finish first in the NFL in field goals five times – Tony Franklin in 1986, Adam Vinatieri in 2004 and Stephen Gostkowski in 2008, 2013 and 2014.
  • Folk tied the team record for most 50-yard field goals in a season with his fifth 50-yard field goal last week. If he connects on a 50-yard field goal at Buffalo he will establish the team record most 50-yard field goals in one season. Stephen Gostkowski had five 50-yard field goals in 2013.
  • Folk has connected on four field goals in four of the five road games in 2021.
  • Folk is leading the NFL with 122 total points. He needs 10 more points to establish a single-season high. He had 131 total points as a rookie in 2007 with Dallas.
  • Folk connected on five field goals vs. Tennessee, marking his fifth game in 2021 with four or more field goals. He had four field goals at the New York Jets (9/19), at Houston (10/10), at the LA Chargers (10/31) and at Atlanta (11/18). The NFL record for most games in a season with at least four field goals is six by David Akers in 2011 with San Francisco

BROADCAST INFORMATION

TELEVISION: This week's game will be broadcast by ESPN and can be seen locally on WCVB-TV Channel 5. Steve Levy will handle play-by-play duties with Brian Griese and Louis Riddick as the color analysts. Lisa Salters will work from the sidelines. The game will be produced by Phil Dean and directed by Jimmy Platt.

NATIONAL RADIO: Monday's game will be broadcast to a national audience on Westwood One. Kevin Harlan will call the game with Kurt Warner providing analysis.

SATELLITE RADIO: SiriusXM App: 821 (NE), 803 (BUF) | SiriusXM: 226 (NE), 225 (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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