It will be a battle for the top spot in the AFC East in Orchard Park, New York on Monday, December 6. The 7-4 Buffalo Bills are coming off their Thanksgiving 31-6 win over the New Orleans Saints. They will be welcoming the 8-4 New England Patriots to town who are coming off a 36-13 win over the Tennessee Titans. This will be the first time these two rivals meet this year, and this is how the two teams currently match up.
The Buffalo Bills defense will be preparing to face a new quarterback compared to last year. This year will be rookie quarterback Mac Jones. Jones has been able to lead the New England Patriots offense efficiently which is why they put up the seventh-most points per game with 28. Through 12 games of the season, Jones has put up 2,850 passing yards with a 70.3% completion percentage. This had led to 16 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. The offensive scheme Josh McDaniels is running with Jones is also working because of his ability to make smart decisions and their efficiency on the ground as well. Just like the Cleveland Browns have an established running duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the Patriots are doing the same with Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson. Through 11 games Harris has put up 643 yards and presents the ability to run through contact with 317 yards coming after contact. The Patriots started to utilize Stevenson in week five, since then he has put up 351 yards and has been able to find success as a receiver with 117 yards.
Of Jones’ 2,850 passing yards, 1,405 of those yards are from his receivers generating them after the catch. Jones’ tendency as a passer is to target the short area of the field, and in a sense has been great at “taking what the defense gives him”. This will come down to the Bills linebackers of Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds to take this area of the field away from Jones. In pass coverage, Milano has allowed 23 completions and Edmunds has allowed 27 completions. With Tre’Davious White suffering a torn ACL in the game against the New Orleans Saints he will be out for the rest of the season, which leads to the entire defense needing to step up. To take pressure off the secondary, the Bills defensive line will need to get to the quarterback. Teams have blitzed Jones 128 times this season but when teams bring that extra rusher is when the short-middle part of the field becomes more available for him. With the accurate passer Jones is though it will be crucial for the Bills defense to not miss tackles. The Bills defense this season has missed 74 tackles, which is the 16th most in the NFL. What has allowed the Patriots receivers to gain those 1,405 yards after the catch is Jones’s 79.5% on target percentage.
Yet outside of the latest Tennessee Titans game, when defensive fronts have pressured him 20% or more it resulted in losses for the Patriots. For reference, those losses include the Miami Dolphins(30%), New Orleans Saints(21.4%), Tampa Bay Buccaneers(29.5%), and Dallas Cowboys(21.7%). This is an area the Bills matchup well with the Patriots. The Bills defense is ranked 24 in the NFL in terms of how many times they blitz with 95. When it comes to relying on their defensive front to get pressure they have the third most quarterback pressures with 124. The two teams in front happen to be the Miami Dolphins, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bills also get Star Lotulelei off the Covid-19 list which will play a huge factor in helping their defensive line. How the Bills decide to game plan for Jones will be interesting to see and will play a pivotal role in the outcome.
Despite throwing two interceptions in the Thanksgiving game against the Saints, Josh Allen had his best game this season. He had a season-high completion percentage of 82.14% and threw for 260 yards and four touchdowns. He also got back into a rhythm of running the ball, and while most teams may try to shy away from it, Allen needs to pick his spots to run it because that is part of his “bread and butter”. He ran it himself eight times for 43 yards, compared to the previous two games where he ran two times each. Allen will have to perform as well as he did on Thursday, but can not have the two interceptions. The Patriots defense is tied for second with the Bills as the team with the most defensive turnovers caused with 25. The Bills offensive line will get a much-needed boost this week with left guard Jon Feliciano returning off IR and right guard Spencer Brown returning off the Covid-19 list. The offensive line will need to slow down a familiar face in Matthew Judon.
The last time the Bills faced Judon, was the AFC Divisional round in the playoffs when he was with the Baltimore Ravens. In that game, Judon blitzed six times, had one sack, four pressures, and three tackles. With the Patriots, he has fit into their scheme very well right off the bat. He has the third-most sacks in the NFL with 11.5, has blitzed 35 times, has gotten pressure 39 times, has made 46 tackles, and has a 20.5% win rate. The strength of the Patriots defense is their passing defense, while their run defense has given up 1,389 yards. If Allen can’t find open receivers this can be an area that plays into him running the ball. While it may not be as strong as other teams they have started to get their running backs more involved, especially Matt Breida. Over the last three weeks, Breida has had 21 rushing attempts for 109 yards and one rushing touchdown. Breida has also been a reliable pass-catching back for Allen catching six-of-seven passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns. So be on the lookout for Breida to continue to get more involved on Monday night.
It will be a good old-fashioned AFC East matchup in December as the current weather is 80% snow. Two of the best defenses in the NFL, two of the best young quarterbacks, two playoff-contending teams going head to head. With how much is on the line it will be a close game between two teams that match up well against each other. In the end, the Bills will get a 27-21 win over the Patriots.
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