When the Patriots and Bills kick off this Saturday, they could be playing in temperatures only a few degrees “warmer” than what will be felt in the South Pole — like, the one in Antarctica.
The forecast for the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station calls for temperatures around minus-7 degrees with 11 mph winds making it feel more like minus-13. As of Wednesday afternoon, AccuWeather forecasted 1 degree in Buffalo on Saturday night with 5-10 mph winds making it feel more like minus-5 degrees. Something about a high-pressure system with Arctic origins.
The Patriots and the Bills are scheduled to begin their wild-card round matchup at 8:15 p.m. ET. What fun!
Here’s WGRZ-TV’s Patrick Hammer with the latest Buffalo-area forecast:
Obviously, this could significantly impact how Saturday’s game at Highmark Stadium is played. However, there could be some key differences from what we saw Dec. 6, when New England threw just three passes while earning a 14-10 victory over the Bills.
That night, a pregame snowstorm gave way to a night of sustained 25-35 mph winds with gusts approaching 60 mph. The Patriots essentially left their passing game in the locker room, running 46 times for 222 yards in the wind-chilled thriller. The Bills, on the other hand, admirably or foolishly disregarded the elements in having Josh Allen attempt 30 passes, completing only 15 of them.
It was a unique, compelling night, one that we later learned was not indicative of just how good the two teams are.
If the current forecasts prove true, Saturday night’s rematch should feature zero snow and minimal winds. So, the element that absolutely impacted the final result in early December shouldn’t be a factor in Patriots-Bills Round 3.
But what about that brutal cold? It likely will affect both teams, but the Bills could hold a slight advantage.
The high winds in the first matchup meant there was an even greater emphasis on game-planning, coaching and the battles in the trenches. The Patriots might not be more talented than the Bills, but they have superior coaching and better offensive and defensive lines. That game was played on the Patriots’ terms before it even started.
But the playoff matchup could be different. Allen’s numbers in cold weather aren’t impressive, but he certainly is more used to playing in frigid temperatures than Patriots rookie Mac Jones, who, aside from the Week 17 blowout of the Jacksonville Jaguars, hasn’t played a great game since Nov. 14 against the Cleveland Browns when temperatures were in the 50s. Until he proves otherwise, it is fair to question whether Jones, who grew up in Florida and played college football in the SEC, can handle cold-weather games, let alone what he’s in for Saturday night.
Allen and the Bills might be somewhat limited in what they can do, but they should be able to open up their playbook and score more points than they did in Week 13. Can Jones and the struggling Patriots offense keep up in those conditions if Buffalo scores over 25 points? That’s about as hard to envision as New England’s defense finally getting a big stop with a game on the line. Of course, the possibility of Allen, who did not play that well in his final two games, succumbing to the cold weather and playing poorly can’t be ruled out.
This is one of the harsh realities of the post-Tom Brady Patriots. Regardless of what Bill Belichick says at the podium, we no longer can treat daunting forecasts as non-issues. They must be part of the conversation.
The Patriots and Bills appear headed for another weather game. This time, their seasons are on the line.