The Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots will face for a third time this season but are now in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. This is not only the third time this season but the third time within 40 days. With how familiar these two opponents are there will be three key factors that will decide how this game ends on Saturday in Orchard Park, N.Y.
Overcoming The Weather:
The first time these two faced this year in Buffalo was in week 13 and they played in 40-plus mile-per-hour winds. Now while the winds won’t be as bad, the temperature is supposed to be around -5 with the wind chill. With those temperatures, it will affect how both Josh Allen and Mac Jones throw the football, and how receivers and running backs handle and catch the ball. Not to mention when it comes to special teams, how the kickers kick, punters punt as well as having the best returner back for each team to be able to hang onto the ball.
Running The Ball:
The Patriots play with guard leads on offense to create running lanes which has led to their offense operating with 51% gap runs. In that first matchup with less than ideal conditions the Patriots ran the ball 46 times and tested the gap assignment defense of the Bills, they did so well with accumulating 222 yards. On the other hand, Jones only threw the ball three times, and while he will more than likely throw more than three times, running the ball with Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson will be their key to start the game. The Bills defense needs to limit the running game early to make Jones throw the ball more and put the offense in his hands.
The same thing goes for the Bills with utilizing the run more but with Devin Singletary and even Isaiah McKenzie. The Patriots, especially Matthew Judon have made an emphasis on stopping Allen from getting out of the pocket and taking off downfield. Singletary since week 15 has had anywhere from 12-23 attempts a game and averaged 4.15 yards-per-carry over that time. This is because before week 14 they were running gap runs only 27% of the time leading to a lack of success, now they have switched to running gap runs 48% of the time. This also allowed McKenzie to have a great game against the Patriots in week 16 being able to be used on sweeps and cut upfield on the outside. The run game will be essential to establish early for both teams, the team that can stick to this plan, and keep the ball out of the opposing team’s hand will play a huge factor.
One Less Turnover:
As mentioned above in the weather section, it’s going to affect how the ball is thrown and how receivers catch. If the quarterbacks and receivers aren’t on the same page and a receiver runs the wrong route or can’t catch the ball securely or tips it, you can guarantee the defense is going to be there to capitalize. Over the 2021 season, Allen threw the ball 646 times and was on target with his passes 461 times out of his 409 completions.
Out of those passes, the Bills receivers dropped the ball 35 times which is the second-most in the NFL, and out of his 15 interceptions, some have been tipped at the line of scrimmage. For Jones out of his 521 passing attempts, he was on target for 388 of them and completed 352 passes. His receivers dropped the ball 16 times, which is tied for the second least in the NFL. Jones as well has had some tipped passes that account for his 13 interceptions.
With how close the game will be if one wrong route is run and a quarterback throws that one more interception it can completely sway the outcome of the game. Especially because both of the team’s defenses are tied for the third-most takeaways in the NFL with 30. The majority of the defensive turnovers for both teams come from interceptions, the Bills have 19 and the Patriots have 23 so ball security is going to be a crucial factor on Saturday.
A divisional matchup for a third time this season will make for must-see entertainment. Both of these teams know each other extremely well but it will come down to which team can overcome the three key factors listed above. That team will be the Bills in a slugfest and it will come down to the Bills not only running the ball but taking the 10-12 yard shots to establish long drives down the field. In the first game, the Patriots won because they were better suited for the elements, yet the Bills now are as well. With this slower approach, the score ends up being Bills 21, Patriots 17.
For more NFL content from around the league make sure to follow TWSN on Twitter and Instagram. For more Buffalo Bills content, updates, and even College Football news make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram as well!