The Buffalo Bills have several advantages over the New England Patriots ahead of the teams’ wild-card playoff matchup this Saturday night at Highmark Stadium.
But that doesn’t mean the postseason showdown will be a walk in the park for Buffalo, winners of the AFC East for the 2021 NFL campaign. New England also has a few strengths on which it can rely.
Take the Patriots’ rushing attack, for instance.
The Athletic discussed all six wild-card matchups with three scouts, and one predicted the Patriots will upset the Bills because of their edge on the ground in what could be a bitterly cold game.
“Buffalo is a team that likes to play a lot of split-safety (coverages) and they want to stay in sub (packages),” the scout told The Athletic. “How are they going to handle New England’s run game if elements affect how this game is played?”
Buffalo’s defense during the regular season ranked 22nd in opponent yards per carry (4.2) and 20th in opponent rushing yards per game (109.8). The Bills ranked 11th in rush defense DVOA, per Football Outsiders.
The Patriots capitalized on the weather in Week 13, beating the Bills 14-10 despite Mac Jones attempting just three passes. Gusty winds made it difficult to throw, and New England leaned on a run-heavy game plan and an excellent defensive performance to secure a road win.
The weather was less of a factor in Week 16, when the Bills defeated the Patriots 33-21 at Gillette Stadium to seize control of the division. Josh Allen stepped up as Buffalo’s offense proved far more effective on a less zany, seasonal day in Foxboro.
The forecast for Saturday’s game looks daunting, with frigid temperatures set to make for an uncomfortable night on the gridiron. But whether it’ll truly have an impact, without precipitation and/or crazy winds, remains to be seen.
In any event, the Bills deservedly are the favorites as a talented and well-rounded team with Super Bowl aspirations. But there’s definitely a path to victory for the Patriots as the AFC East rivals lock horns for the third time this season.