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This AFC East Wildcard matchup ends up being a rubber match between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills who split wins this regular season, but rookie QB Mac Jones and his Pats have lost three out of their last four games, including to the Bills in Week 16, so expect HC Bill Belichick to have some different tactics in mind as he returns again to the postseason.
The Buffalo Bills are champs of the AFC East and they have been stacking wins with a four-game win streak led by their big-armed QB Josh Allen, and chances are HC Sean McDermott is not intimidated by the noise of the Foxboro home crowd after already beating the Patriots there a few weeks ago, this 11-6 Bills team with the number one ranked defense in the league now.
These two AFC East rivals have faced each other 124 previous times (including 1 postseason game), with the Buffalo Bills winning 46 of those games and the New England Patriots winning 77 of the games, plus there has been one tie.
Time for HC Bill Belichick to slap his Patriots upside their collective helmets, their latest three of four losing streak reminiscent of their 2-4 start to the season, a backslide they can ill afford now that the playoffs have started, and their opponent is this talented Bills team.
The Patriots’ offense is ranked 15th, nothing special but still effective enough to score the 6th most points per game in the league, posting about 27 points on the scoreboard every outing, still almost a point and a half per game less than the Buffalo Bills (28.4).
It’s the Patriots’ 4th ranked defense that will keep them in this game, though they are better against the pass (2nd) than the run (22nd), which could be trouble against a Bills offense with top-10 production through the air and on the ground, a perfect matchup for the playoffs.
Last season Bills QB Josh Allen was the fifth most productive at his position in the league, and this year he has dropped down to eighth, a sign that defenses are beginning to watch film on the young playmaker and are starting to take away some of his better tendencies.
Also last season, the Bills made it to the AFC Championship game but could not make it past the high-scoring Chiefs, so no doubt Allen and HC Sean McDermott have spent every moment since figuring out how they can game plan even more trips to the endzone.
Allen has thrown for 36 touchdowns this season with 15 interceptions while completing 63.3 percent of his passes, but in three of his last four games his completion percentage was subpar (55.8, 42.3, 53.3) so he must figure out how to get focused in for the postseason again.
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Much of the defensive secondary of the Bills will be paying attention to the Patriots’ primary receiver, Nelson Agholor, which gives his counterpart Jakobi Meyers more freedom to run his routes and get open for a potentially productive ball game.
Now in his third NFL season, Meyers has had his most productive pro year yet, so far catching 83 balls off 126 targets for 866 yards and 2 touchdowns, his longest a 39 yarder, a secondary receiver who at 6’ 2” and 200 pounds has the size to fight for contested catches.
Meyers, a North Carolina State alum, is playing an important role for rookie QB Mac Jones who is looking for as many dependable targets as are on the roster, so watch for him to sneak some key catches in this game and further establish himself as part of OC Josh McDaniels’ offense.
After last season when Bills WR Stefon Diggs and QB Josh Allen teamed up for the first time, Diggs the seven-year pro led the league in receptions (127) and receiving yards (1,535) but this regular season his numbers have him ranked as the eighth most productive at his position.
Diggs is fast and rangy at 6’ and 191 pounds but strong enough to fight for yards after the catch, this season’s numbers still impressive with 103 receptions for 1,225 yard and 10 touchdowns, his first NFL season with double-digit TDs so far.
Watch for Diggs to match up against either Patriots CBs JC Jackson or Jalen Mills, a fun cat and mouse battle should ensue, and given that Stefon’s longest reception this season was 61 yards, chances are that they will double team him on the deep routes just in case.
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|Patriots vs Bills Information|
|What||New England Patriots vs Buffalo Bills|
|Where||Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, NY|
|When||Saturday, January 15, 2022; 8:15 PM ET|
|How to watch||CBS|
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