For the first time in what seems like forever, the Patriots face the Bills in a late-season game that will have serious implications on who wins the AFC East.
Due to the fact that New England already beat Buffalo at the beginning of the year, the Pats only have to win one of their next two games in order to keep that No. 2 seed in the conference. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t be going all out to win this rare Saturday afternoon battle with their division rivals.
The Patriots players themselves clearly understand the playoff atmosphere that’ll surely surround this game up in Foxboro.
The Patriots will practice inside Gillette Stadium today. It has been rare for them to do so this season. CB Stephon Gilmore has said the team is treating Saturday's matchup against the Bills like a playoff game.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) December 19, 2019
Belichick asked if this game has a playoff feel “Absolutely. Absolutely l. This is what we’re here for.”#Patriots
— Mike Giardi (@MikeGiardi) December 19, 2019
Julian Edelman: "This is a big-time game against a very, very good opponent that is playing very well. It’s one of those things where if you’re not urgent and you need to be told to be urgent, you’re in the wrong job.”
— Ryan Hannable (@RyanHannable) December 19, 2019
It’s no secret the Patriots are hurting right now on offense.
Tom Brady was at practice this entire week visibly nursing an injury on his throwing elbow. Julian Edelman has had a litany of ailments this season and is now dealing with both leg and shoulder injuries going into this game. Add to that the fact that this offense still hasn’t found its stride when it comes to timing, and you can already assume that this is going to be another tough outing for New England on that side of the ball.
But even though the Patriots’ offense isn’t where they’d want it to be at this point in the year, they’re still top 10 in points and passing yards per game. But due to the way these two defenses have been playing the pass this year, Saturday afternoon could be a no-fly zone for each quarterback.
The Bills rank in the top three in points, yards and passing yards allowed per game with their only “weak” spot being their rush defense, which ranks 10th in the league. And while they currently sit at 16th when it comes to pressuring the opposing quarterback, they rank eighth in sacks, just one spot ahead of the Patriots.
The Patriots’ defense is still at the top of the league allowing the fewest points and overall yards per game; they have the second-best pass defense, as well.
The Bills will most likely try to attack the Patriots as most teams have this season; with the run game. Buffalo is fifth in the league in rush yards per game while the Patriots still haven’t figured out how to shut down the opposing running game all year. The Patriots will likely try to find a balance between the run and passing game, but either way, it’s going to be tough sledding for Brady and company this weekend.
Where the Patriots have the edge this week and every week they play is with their special teams unit. Matthew Slater has been making his case for the Hall of Fame this year as the captain has been playing some of the best football of his career. Whether it’s causing fumbles, downing punts deep in the opposing teams’ side of the field or just making an open-field tackle, Slater and his unit will likely have to come up with another big play to help the Patriots put up another win.
This is going to be a gritty, low-scoring affair between two teams who desperately want to assert their dominance in the AFC East. Look for the Patriots to pick off Josh Allen late in the game which will lead to a game-sealing touchdown to give the Patriots another AFC East title and relegate the Bills to the Wild Card.
Prediction: Patriots 17, Bills 10