Patriots Know What’s At Stake Vs. Bills, Treating Saturday Like Playoff Game

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FOXBORO, Mass. — Patriots fans essentially are being granted an additional postseason game Saturday when New England takes on the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium.

If the Patriots beat the Bills, they’re AFC East Champions. And if the Patriots win out, then they’ll have a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs.

“It’s like a playoff game,” cornerback Stephon Gilmore said.

The Patriots beat the Bills 16-10 in Buffalo earlier this season. The Bills only have beaten the Patriots twice in Foxboro since 2001. Buffalo won in 2016 when Jacoby Brissett started at quarterback for the Patriots. And the Bills won Week 17 in 2014 in a meaningless affair when the Patriots already had the No. 1 seed in the AFC locked up.

“This is a big game,” wide receiver Phillip Dorsett said Tuesday. “We know that. They know that. Everybody in the building knows it. This is for the division — hat and T-shirt game. We’ve just got to put our best foot forward and just go out there and play as hard as we can.”

The 9-4 Bills will have to finish the season with a better record than the 10-3 Patriots to win the AFC East based on tie-breakers. So, the Bills would have to win out against the Patriots and New York Jets, while New England would have to lose to Buffalo and lose to or tie the Miami Dolphins.

“We’ve got a lot of guys in this building who know what this is,” Dorsett said. “We know what we’re fighting for. They know what they’re fighting for. They’re trying to take it from us. We’ve got to go out there with that same mentality and do the same thing.”

If the Patriots win Saturday and the Kansas City Chiefs lose to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, then the Patriots also could clinch the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, and that first-round bye, this weekend.

“This is a big game for us,” defensive tackle Danny Shelton said. “I feel like that’s the way it is, how Bill (Belichick) says real football starts after Thanksgiving. …

“We’re playing for a lot of rights. We want to be able to be situated in the best position.”

It’s rare for such a meaningful game to take place against the Bills late in the season. But this is why the NFL recently has tried to schedule divisional games late in the season.

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