The most important game of the season comes up for Pats as they host the Buffalo Bills on Thursday Night Football.
The Bills are coming into this game with an 8-3 record coming off wins against both the Browns & Lions the previous weeks. The Patriots are coming off a tough loss on Thanksgiving night against Minnesota where Mac Jones & the offense looked the best they have all season. The Pats enter the game at 6-5 on the outside looking in on the AFC Playoff race.
It's been a roller coaster season so far for the Pats as they started off slow, Jones went down for a couple weeks and all of New England got Zappe fever. Despite all the twists and turns and the low scoring that the offense has done to this point, the Patriots are right in the thick of things in the AFC Playoff Picture as well as in the division race. The Pats are 2-1 against divisional opponents, both wins coming against the Jets while the only loss was their week one defeat to the Dolphins. The Bills are 0-2 in division play as they lost to both the Dolphins & Jets on the road.
The last time we saw the Bills, they blew us out at Highmark Stadium 47-17 in the AFC Wild Card Game; one of the worst playoff defeats in the Bill Belichick era. Josh Allen has played some really good games against New England dating back to 2020, the first year of the post-Brady era. Allen uses every bit of his 6' 5" frame to his advantage with his excellent arm and extending plays with his legs. He isn't afraid to lower his shoulder while on the run, one of the many challenges the Pats face this upcoming week.
Not only do the Pats have to contain Allen, they also need to find a way to contain Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis and force Allen into throwing to other options. Another key is not to allow Allen room to run out of the pocket. Force the Bills to pound the ball on the ground. The Bills have the second ranked offense in the NFL, only the Kansas City Chiefs have a better mark. Slowing down the Bills offense is key as the Buffalo has punted the fewest times in the NFL to this point with just 24 punts on the season.
Good news is that Buffalo will be a little thin on defense as Von Miller will not play after injuring his knee last week at Detroit. After a glimpse of how good the offense looked last week, the Pats will look to duplicate that performance if not be better in as they attempt to walk out of Gillette and into the mini -with a win. Mac Jones threw for a career high 382 yards against Minnesota and will need the same type of performance against the Bills this time around.
The Patriots need to be more aggressive on offense and cannot settle for field goals. The Pats have done a good job the last couple weeks of protecting the football but that needs to be a major factor, while not allowing the Bills an extra possession. Sustaining long and methodical drives will be key for the Pats. The longer Josh Allen is on the sideline, the better for the Pats. With that being said, the Patriots need to start capitalizing in the red zone with touchdowns. They rank 31st in the NFL in red zone touchdown percentage, only ahead of the Denver Broncos who have the worst red zone offense.
This game will have serious implications on how the rest of the season can go; with the big win it can propel the Pats to possibly run the table, steal the AFC East crown and get a home playoff game. Otherwise the Pats will have to scratch and claw their way to a playoff spot and have to go on the road as a wild card team to try and win their seventh title in franchise history. Either way, the path is there. Which path the Patriots will take remains to be seen but is starts with this game against Buffalo. The Bills enter the game as 5.5 point favorites.
Note: For those that live in the New England & Buffalo markets, the game will be available to view on your local FOX affiliate. For those that live outside of these two regions, the game can be seen directly through Amazon Prime.