The New England Patriots travel to Buffalo on Sunday to take on the Bills in their final road game of the 2023 season. The Pats are riding a bit of a hot streak, winning two of their last three, while Buffalo has won three in a row, showing a surge toward the postseason though they have yet to officially punch their playoff ticket. Buffalo remains in contention for the AFC East title and a win against New England would set up a winter-take-all finale in Miami against the Dolphins. But the Patriots would like nothing better than to play spoiled to Buffalo's title plans and perhaps even put a serious damper on their chances of even making the playoffs.
These matchups are always interesting, especially with so much still on the line for the Bills, and the Buffalo fanbase will provide one of the most intense football environments in the NFL. Here's how the writers from Patriots Unfiltered see it all going down!
Bailey Zappe's escapability and timely big throws helped get the Pats a win in Denver, will that be enough vs. Buffalo? How can he continue to improve and round out his game?
The Buffalo pressure will be a great test for Zappe. Escaping and making big throws will help but the biggest area of improvement for him is hitting the easy ones. Accuracy on shorter passes is something that can be improved and will lead to not having to rely on the big play or converting on 3rd and long when the defense can get after him. -Fred Kirsch
I love Zappe's ability to improvise and extend plays but I'd like to see him become a little more consistent from play to play and series to series. Seven three-and-outs in Denver is too many to expect to win in Buffalo. Improved accuracy on routine throws will help move the chains. -Paul Perillo
The Zappe conversation to me is two fold: one, he needs to play a complete game. Two, Zappe needs to improve his short-area accuracy to start hitting the layups in this offense. Zappe is living and dying by the deep ball right now, and many of those downfield throws are contested plays where his receivers are making great catches. The Patriots need more easy offense to go from 19 PPG in their last three to a team that can keep up with Josh Allen. -Evan Lazar
Bailey was able to make some big plays, and my hope is that he'll get more comfortable with each game. He's able to pull off some throws while under pressure to keep plays together but I'd love to see it become a little more automatic for him as he builds more chemistry with players like DeMario Douglas, DeVante Parker, the tight ends and even Zeke. -Alexandra Francisco
Looks like we're all on the same page, go with old fashioned "death by a thousand cuts" offense by attacking the short zones against the Buffalo defense, they play the ninth-most zone coverage in the league and the third-most two-high coverages. Get 'em underneath, keep the chains moving and keep Josh Allen off the field. -Mike Dussault
The Patriots defense has spun the dial plenty against Josh Allen, what is the key to containing him and the Bills attack?
Take a look at how the defense has played against most of the top quarterbacks they've faced this season. They've complemented good coverage and mixed looks with controlled pressure. It's been well coached and well executed. Keep it up. -FK
Don't allow Allen to make big plays with his legs. I expect to see more of Mack Wilson, who is playing a bigger role as of late, spying him on a regular basis. -PP
Continuing to fight fire with fire. I loved the game plan for the Patriots the last time around, where they blitzed Allen on over 44% of his drop-backs. Allen is too good when he's not pressured and has clean air space to extend plays. Instead, the Pats went after him, forcing Allen to play sped up. I'd continue blitzing and live with the plays Allen makes to make some of your own. -EL
Allen needs to be under constant pressure from the defense. That was the key last game and remains the case on Sunday if they want a similar result. It must start with the defensive line and linebackers and if the secondary can hold up against Diggs and those explosive plays, they're in good shape. -AF
Controlled aggression, and it's easier said than done as you not only have to keep Allen contained in the pocket but finish him off when you get a chance to lay a hit on him. Weathering the storm is a key, Buffalo will make a push and they have to be ready to make the last play. -MD
Who are two Patriots players you see as key to getting a win?
Of course, there are the obvious choices like Zappe but everyone has to do their job in this one. We can get granular and say that Pharaoh Brown needs to have a real good game at the line with his blocking assignments while catching a pass or two. Then we can look at Jonathan Jones, if he's healthy and with help, to minimize what Stefon Diggs can do. That will force Josh Allen to look elsewhere and maybe turn the ball over a time or two. -FK
The first is DeVante Parker. If he can build off his performance in Denver and make a few more big plays down the field that should put some points on the board. He played well in Buffalo last season. Also, Jonathan Jones will likely be chasing Stefon Diggs a lot. The Bills are unstoppable when Diggs gets going. -PP
Offensively, I'll go with DeVante Parker replicating his big performance in Denver. Parker is getting more opportunities with Zappe at quarterback to make contested catches against single coverage on the outside, and he delivered last week. With the Bills ranking 26th in DVOA vs. deep passes, the Pats need Parker to win a few more jump balls. Defensively, Ja'Whaun Bentley had a season-high four QB pressure vs. the Bills in Week 7. His role as a spy on Allen was huge. They'll need that again. -EL
Zappe and Barmore. Both have some good momentum going in key positions to make a big difference. -AF
Pop Douglas is one for sure, given the amount of zone and two-high the Bills play. Those underneath plays should be there for Pop. Second let's go with Mack Wilson, I like his speed of the edge and I think he'll be all over Allen. -MD
What is your favorite all-time Patriots win over Buffalo?
So many to choose from but in terms of pure enjoyment, Week 13 in 1998 comes to mind. Drew Bledsoe has a badly messed up finger on his throwing hand and yet he managed to pull out the win down the stretch, 25-21 at Foxboro Stadium. I also fiendishly enjoyed the Wind Game in 2021, if only for the Buffalo postgame meltdown. -FK
I'll go with the season finale in 2008 … a 13-0 win in what many call The Wind Game. The benches were blowing across the field during pregame and the uprights had to be fixed several times. At one point a Stephen Gostkowski PAT went sideways. -PP
I'm going with flipping the script in the bookend games back in 2003. I remember how devastating the 31-0 loss in the opener was, so to completely flip the script with a 31-0 beat down on the road to a Super Bowl was great. -EL
Before the Super Bowl comeback against Atlanta, there was the 49-unanswered-points comeback against Buffalo on New Years Day in 2012. -AF
I knew I had to be at the 2009 opener for Brady's return from injury and he turned in one of those impossible comebacks. Well worth the trip from California, and even Patriots fans were walking out before it was over! -MD
The Bills could be the team that no one wants to play, how do you see the AFC playing out in the playoffs?
I don't think the Chiefs offensive problems are fleeting. I think they will carry into the playoffs and derail their chances. The Browns defense makes them dangerous. Miami took a big step by beating a good team last week in the Cowboys but at the end of the day the two strongest teams in the playoffs will be the Bills and Ravens with the Ravens taking their chips to Vegas. -FK
I would agree that if the Bills find their way into the playoffs no one will want to see them, but I see Baltimore earning the top seed with Miami earning the second spot. If reasonably healthy, the Ravens are the most balanced team in the AFC and should go to the Super Bowl. -PP
I agree that Buffalo is the sleeping giant that every AFC playoff team wants to miss the playoffs. I still like Baltimore as the most complete team in the AFC, but I'm not ruling out the Chiefs flipping a switch in the playoffs a la 2018 Patriots. -EL
I think it's between the Ravens and Bills with how they're playing right now, but I have to lean towards Baltimore as AFC Champs. -AF
I think this postseason in the AFC will be fascinating because something we think we know will change. Can Lamar get the Ravens over the hump? Can Mahomes win on the road in the playoffs? Can Miami show they're a legit elite team? Can Josh Allen get past the conference championship? Most will be proven true but one will be proven false. -MD