Week 16 Preview: Buffalo at New Englandby John O'Callaghan December 23, 2018 0 comments
Usually a December game against the Buffalo Bills at home is a sure thing for the New England Patriots.
However, if this 2018 installment has taught us anything, nothing is a guarantee.
The Patriots enter Foxboro coming off of two difficult losses to the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers. To make matters worse, they are now without a key component on offense with wide receiver Josh Gordon leaving the team due to mental health issues as well as being suspended by the league for violating their substance abuse policy.
Simply put, this team is not like others in the past where fans can just take a gander at the schedule and predict wins and losses. They haven’t earned that right.
Buffalo enters play with a tremendous secondary, as it averages the fewest passing yards allowed per game in the league at 187.4. With Gordon no longer a factor, and Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman looking like a shell of themselves, moving the ball down the field through the air is now a tough endeavor for Tom Brady. Running backs Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead should see plenty of touches today.
It will be interesting to see how the likes of secondary receiving options in Chris Hogan, Cordarelle Patterson and Phillip Dorsett respond with heavier workloads due to the absence of Gordon. Dorsett has not caught a pass since Nov. 25 against the New York Jets. It’s time to see if he can take advantage of his newfound opportunity.
Brady is 14-1 against Buffalo at home in games that he has started in Foxboro, and the one loss has an asterisk on it due to the fact that it was a Week 16 contest in which the team already wrapped its playoff position and had nothing to gain in 2014.
New England does not have anybody notable on the injury report, which certainly comes at a good time since there are major playoff implications on the line. If the Patriots win and the Houston Texans fall to the Philadelphia Eagles on the road, they will have the No. 2 seed in the AFC with New England owning the tiebreaker since it was victorious in the teams’ Week 1 meeting. Due to the teams’ struggles this season, a bye would be gladly welcomed along with a home field match up in the Divisional round.
With that being said, the Patriots have to take care of business on the gridiron. Rookie quarterback Josh Allen has shown his ability to be a dual threat under center, as he has scampered for 506 yards this season. New England has had trouble containing mobile quarterbacks, and will more than likely have a spy on defense in an attempt to neutralize the threat.
Buffalo’s main threat on offense remains running back LeSean McCoy. The problem that McCoy has is his unwillingness to secure the ball properly, which is something the Patriots’ defense should try and exploit. While Allen shows confidence for a rookie, sometimes he forces balls deep downfield that result in interceptions, especially if a pass rush can create pressure up front.
It’s a divisional opponent, so each team will be more than familiar with each other. For the Patriots, they just have to take care of business and stick to being themselves to win their tenth straight division.
It’s been the third straight week where a hat and t-shirt have been on the line, maybe this will be the time where the team finally comes through.