This week the writers of Patriots Unfiltered preview another major matchup against the Buffalo Bills, as the Patriots are coming off two lopsided losses to their divisional rivals and badly need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Can the Patriots capture their signs of life on offense against Minnesota and apply them against the Bill defense?
Not sure if "capture" is the right word but they certainly showed signs of life. The Bills defense, specifically against the pass, is much better than Minnesota's, so that will be a bigger test for Mac Jones and his weapons. But there were things to build on from last Thursday: improved play from the O-line and Mac spreading the ball to name two. There was also plenty to clean up but there's no place like home to do that. -Fred Kirsch
If the Patriots can continue to protect Mac Jones moving forward the passing game can continue to have some success. -Paul Perillo
Yes and no. My big thing for the Patriots offense in this game is that they can't rely on their core concepts against a Bills staff than knows them inside and out. They'll need to have some wrinkles for Buffalo, who has owned them defensively even going back to the end of the Brady era. Patricia needs to have a few tweaks to their core plays to throw Buffalo off, or they'll struggle to move the ball. -Evan Lazar
The Patriots can definitely build on their signs of life on offense against Minnesota and apply it versus the Bills. The Bills defense has a lot of injuries especially in the secondary that could lead to opportunities on offense to air it out. Also the loss of Von Miller is a huge break for the Patriots and hopefully they can take advantage of it. -Tamara Brown
I'm torn, on one hand we saw a clean, effective offense in the middle of the game against Minnesota, but it faded down the stretch and looked about the same as it has all season in the fourth quarter. Does that equal growth or just taking advantage of the worst passing defense they've seen in weeks? The Bills defense is really good and I think this game will be more of a grind in line with what we've seen against the better defenses this year. Turnovers and the ability to generate touchdowns is what will matter most, especially toward the end of the game. -Mike Dussault
Who will be most important to Mac in this one - Hunter Henry, Rhamondre Stevenson or DeVante Parker?
Stevenson has emerged into the binkie that Dante Scarnecchia said in the offseason Mac Jones needed. Bill Belichick mentioned his name in the same sentence as James White this week. That's all you need to hear to understand what he thinks Stevenson means to the offense and Jones. -FK
Stevenson remains the best player on offense and his production is the key to the attack. -PP
DeVante Parker. The Bills are recycling through corners right now, and there's a Waldo in the group no matter what (hello, Dane Jackson). If they can get Parker isolated on Jackson or Xavier Rhodes, attack that matchup. -EL
Rhamondre Stevenson will be most important to Mac in this one. If Tremaine Edmunds and Gregory Rousseau join Von Miller and don't play this weekend, the Patriots running game should have some chances to run the ball effectively. Also, without Damien Harris, Stevenson will be the go-to-guy and will likely have to put the offense on his back. -TB
Seems like there will be a lot on Stevenson in this one with Damien Harris expected to be out again. Just knowing he's a lock to get 20-30 touches tells me all I need to know, Stevenson will be a huge factor in the game and Mac will need him to pick up tough short yardage, catch outlet passes and pick up aggressive blitzers. I hope it's not too much for him in this kind of atmosphere. -MD
Where do the Patriots start with the plan to slow down Josh Allen this year?
Slow down is the operative word here; there's no stopping him. It's all about sound, disciplined play on defense. Just don't give him more than he's earned on any given play by making mental errors. The hope is for four drives with no points and your offense can keep up. -FK
I think the Patriots need to apply pressure on Allen and force him to roll to his left as often as possible. -PP
They need to get pressure on him this time around. Allen is good no matter what, but like any quarterback, he becomes more turnover-prone when he's under pressure. They need to get to the quarterback in general, as we found out the hard way last week when Kirk Cousins had too much time back there. This secondary isn't built to carry them anymore. -EL
The Patriots should start with limiting the number of big plays Josh Allen makes with his legs. Justin Fields and Lamar Jackson had their way against the Patriots defense and they need to take a look at the tape and find ways to limit the amount of opportunities Allen has to extend plays and instead turn those into turnovers or sacks. Allen leads the league in interceptions and the Patriots have a chance to force him to make untimely mistakes. -TB
Winning the line of scrimmage is a great place to start, especially if left tackle Dion Dawkins is out. Last week against Kirk Cousins there wasn't enough finish to the pass rush, it has to be there this week but it's a much harder assignment given Allen's size and mobility. If they can force him into quicker decisiosns they might force mistakes. If not, Allen with a clean pocket and plenty of time will mean a lot of yards and points for Buffalo. -MD
Which of Allen's weapons will be the biggest problem for the Patriots to handle?
Pick your poison here. I'll spin the wheel and go with tight end Dawson Knox. -FK
Stefon Diggs is every bit as talented as Justin Jefferson as a receiver and he is the key to the Bills attack. The Patriots will need to do a better job controlling him than they did against Jefferson. -PP
Isaiah McKenzie. This feels very similar to last week where the Patriots will need to allocate their top resources to slow down Diggs, leaving McKenzie and Gabriel Davis in single coverage situations. McKenzie torched the Lions like he did the Pats last year, crossers for days. -EL
Stefon Diggs will be the biggest problem for Patriots to handle. His speed and route running ability is top of the league and after seeing what Justin Jefferson was able to do on Thanksgiving against the Patriots, New England faces yet another dynamic wide receiver this week and need to have some answers for him. -TB
After what Jefferson did last week there's plenty to worry about with Diggs but it's the lower end of the depth chart that scares me more. McKenzie from the slot on Myles Bryant is a matchup to watch, especially if Diggs is drawing extra attention. -MD
What is your key to a Patriots victory?
Eliminate mental errors on in all three phases; make the Bills punt at least four times. -FK
The key for the Patriots will be creating turnovers to steal possessions. Allen has thrown a lot of interceptions lately and that will need to continue for New England to pull off the upset. -PP
Slay the dragon by taking down his offensive line. The Pats should have an advantage in the trenches defensively, especially if starting left tackle Dion Dawkins doesn't play. They need to dominant up front. -EL
The key to a Patriots victory is another mistake free game from Mac Jones in addition to more productivity on offense. Against Minnesota the offense did string plays together better than they have all season, but the red zone remains a weakness. The Patriots cannot afford to kick field goals against a team as productive as the Bills on offense. The Patriots haven't been able to force the Bills to punt and if that remains the case on Thursday they will need to show signs of life on offense to compete with them on the scoreboard. -TB
Hang on for dear life then make the plays at the end. I don't think anyone fully expects to stop this Bills offense, but if you can contain them for three quarters and then make plays and perhaps force takeaways near the end it's been a formula for success against Buffalo. There's little doubt New England needs their best all-around game in at least three years to make it all happen. -MD