The next 3 games will probably determine whether or not the Bills will host one or two playoff games in Orchard Park, starting with the New England Patriots on Thursday night’s Amazon Prime Game at Foxboro.
This is, obviously, the biggest game of the season for both the Bills and 6-5 Pats.
Although the Bills are 8-3 and a 5 point favorite, the Bills are also 0-2 in the AFC East going into this first of two meetings with Bill Belichick’s bunch. The Patriots have all kinds of reasons to be motivated to the max for this one, starting with the 47-17 humiliation Josh Allen put on them in OP in last year’s AFC Wild Card game.
Lots of things are different now.
The Bills have had to deal with a ton of injuries they managed to escape for the most part a year ago. At the top of the list right now is Super Bowl Whisperer Von Miller, who’ll be out anywhere from a couple games to the rest of the season after they let his injured right knee calm down for a closer evaluation.
Allen is playing with a sore right elbow, and he’ll never admit just how sore it is, but we know he can still bring it. The 36 yard lazer to Stefon Diggs to set up the game winning fg against the Lions was an ESPN highlight delight.
We know the Bills are still good if their key players are playing, and right now it looks like they’ll have edge rushers Greg Rousseau and AJ Epenesa out there along with linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who in my mind is the Bills most unappreciated player. The D is much better with him in there.
Almost lost in the shuffle is the return of cornerback Dre White, who was none the worse for wear in his return from ACL surgery against the Lions. He will probably see a lot more action this week.
The question mark for the offense is left tackle Dion Dawkins, who is bothered by an ankle. This could be a problem as the Bills must contain Pats NFL sack leader Matthew Judon. Center Mitch Morse is practicing fully.
Now, just how good are the Patriots? They’ve beaten the Jets twice, but their most impressive win by far was a 29-0 shutout of the Lions in Foxboro in early October. Their most perplexing loss was at home to the Bears 38-15 just one week later.
Quarterback Mac Jones has been both good and terrible. If the Pats can get their run game going against the Bills, he’ll be a factor.
In my mind it’s all about Allen, once again. He’s at his best on the big stage, like this one, but he’s also fighting some poor decisions inside the red zone, and turning it over against the Patriots will be fatal. Can’t happen.
We wonder if John Smoke Brown will be in the lineup? If he can still play with speed, he’ll help Allen probably more than even somebody like Odell Beckham Jr would, coming off ACL surgery 8 weeks ago. I don’t think the Bills were ever serious about signing him anyway.
Happy 29th birthday to Stefon Diggs, who’ll be the Pats #1 concern defensively, but Allen and Diggs are used to that. Both Gabe Davis and tight end Dawson Knox must make plays, and hopefully Isaiah McKenzie can rekindle the magic he had in his last game at Foxboro.
It’s been a strange season for the Bills, who were clear cut Super Bowl favorites starting the season. Now, because of several factors, including Allen’s uncharacteristic turnovers, the Bills are behind the KC Chiefs as favorites to win it all.
Allen will have to be really, really good, but that’s why he gets the big bucks.
Bills beat the Pats 31-24.
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