Do the numbers 47 and 14 remind you of anything? If you just happen to be either a Bills or Patriots fan then you might recall that being the score when Buffalo blew New England out of the playoffs last season. Now, as the 8-3 Bills prepare to take a trip to face the 6-5 Patriots on Thursday Night Football, could we be in for another Buffalo thumping against New England?
With the race for the AFC East crown continuing to heat up, both teams know that a divisional matchup is one where a loss cannot be afforded. So, who will end up leaving Massachusetts with the ‘W’?
Buffalo Cannot Let Off the Gas Against NE’s Defense
After losing to the Jets and Vikings consecutively, the Bills started to see their dominant position atop the AFC East starting to slip. Now, after collecting two straight wins against Cleveland and Detroit, the time to take back control of their division starts. And what better way than by taking down New England at home, with that win working as a perfect statement for their other AFC East competitors, Miami and New York to take notice?
To beat a team as sturdy defensively as New England, a lot will ride on how much protection Josh Allen can get from his offensive line. Allen cannot fall into the same pattern of mistakes that have led him and his offense to turn over the ball, especially in crucial moments of the game. If his O-line can come together and keep New England’s front seven defenders from reaching Allen, connecting with Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis on deep ball plays, and with Dawson Knox on shot pass plays could be the most beneficial strategy.
Over on the defensive side of the ball, while Buffalo will miss the absence of Von Miller, this is still a defense that shouldn’t have much of an issue containing New England. With Tre’Davious White back in Buffalo’s secondary for the second week in a row and LB Tremaine Edwards coming back into the lineup this week, the Bills will have two important playmakers ready for whatever Mac Jones and his offense can bring.
What Can the Patriots Offer on Offense?
We already know that the Patriots can ball on defense. They’ve shown it throughout the season, and even with five losses, this defense is still touted as the fourth-best overall in the league. But with an offense that’s ranked as the 21st overall, what will New England bring to the table to try and beat Buffalo?
On offense, New England’s best bet might come from a strong rushing game strategy. With Jones and NE’s receiver core not anywhere close to a high enough level to face Buffalo’s secondary, using Rhamondre Stevenson as much as possible might be the best way to put points on the board. Considering that Stevenson already accounts for 70% of New England’s rushing game snaps, New England should take advantage of the fact that Buffalo will be missing key players on defense like Miller to exploit its rushing offense.
Defensively, the Patriots need their front seven defense, led by Matt Judon to pressure Allen as much as possible on a constant. By pressuring Allen into making quick plays and scrambling in and out of his pocket, releasing the ball faster than usual, New England could benefit greatly from Allen’s inconsistencies when under siege. Allen leads the league with 11 interceptions in the season, which is why breaking through Buffalo’s O-line and getting to him might be the best key to holding said offense back.
Is That Another Bills Win over the Horizon?
While both teams need this win, the overall advantage here goes to Buffalo. Even without Miller, Allen & Co. are a much stronger unit on offense than anything New England can offer.
If the Bills play a smart and effective game on offense, that should be more than enough to beat the Patriots at Foxborough and move to 9-3. So roll with Buffalo to score another win on prime-time tv.