The New England Patriots are playing a team they know very well in the Wild Card round of the 2021 NFL playoffs.
After finishing 10-7 and earning the AFC’s No. 6 seed, the Patriots will travel to Buffalo this Saturday night to take on the AFC East rival Bills.
Head coach Bill Belichick shared some early thoughts on that matchup in his Monday morning video conference.
“(The Bills are a) good team, obviously,” Belichick said. “Third seed in the conference, so we know they’re a good team. They certainly played well in the last game we had against them. We have a lot to get ready for.”
The Patriots won in Buffalo in Week 13, prevailing 14-10 in a full-blown windstorm. New England ran the ball 46 times for 222 yards in that game, with rookie quarterback Mac Jones attempting just three passes amid unfavorable passing conditions. The Bills returned the favor three weeks later, with Buffalo QB Josh Allen shredding the Patriots’ defense in a 33-21 victory at Gillette Stadium.
Round 3 of this divisional rivalry wasn’t set in stone until late Sunday night when the Las Vegas Raiders’ overtime win over the Los Angeles Chargers locked the Patriots into the sixth seed. A Chargers win or tie would have sent the Patriots to Cincinnati on wild-card weekend.
Speaking about eight hours later, Belichick wasn’t ready to talk specifics about Buffalo.
“We’re just really finishing up the Miami game,” he said when asked about the Bills’ offensive line. “We haven’t really started on Buffalo. We didn’t know who we were going to play. So we’ll get onto them quickly, but we’re not there yet.”
This will be the Patriots’ first time facing an AFC East opponent for a third time in a season since they lost to the New York Jets in the 2010 divisional round. It’s their first playoff matchup with the Bills since 1963.
“You’ve got to start all over again every week,” Belichick said. “It doesn’t matter who you play. We’ve been focusing on one team for a full week here, and to change the detail and the focus to a new team is a big process. We’ll begin that later (Monday).”
The Patriots were assigned one of the two Saturday time slots, giving them one less day to move on from their 33-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 18 and shift their focus to Buffalo. It’s also the first time New England has played on the road in the opening round of the playoffs since 1998, two years before the Belichick era began.
“We’ll set up the schedule that we feel like is best for the time that we have to prepare our team to be ready to go,” Belichick said. “We’ll do that (Monday), and that’s what it’ll be. The same amount of time that they have. We’ll have to use our time efficiently, as will Buffalo, but it’s the same for both teams.”