What Bills Reportedly Expect From Patriots’ Defense In Playoff Game

Can the Patriots slow down Josh Allen and Co.?


Jan 15, 2022

The Buffalo Bills reportedly believe they know how the New England Patriots plan to defend them in their Saturday night playoff matchup.

And it doesn’t involve sticking J.C. Jackson on Stefon Diggs.

ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported Saturday morning that Buffalo expects New England to lean more heavily on man coverage than it has for much of this season, doubling Diggs and matching up Jackson against the Bills’ No. 2 wideout.

“(The Bills believe) the Patriots are going to do what they’ve done historically: double up the No. 1 receiver, put their best corner, J.C. Jackson, on the No. 2, which for the Bills, they think this gives a lot of opportunity to Dawson Knox and Cole Beasley here to perhaps get some more targets,” Russini said on ESPN’s “NFL Postseason Countdown.” “And the Bills really feel like they left some deep shots on the field the last time they won in New England.”

If true, that would be an ambitious strategy for a Patriots team that’s missing its other starting cornerback, Jalen Mills, who is on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Mills’ most likely replacement, Joejuan Williams, was a healthy scratch for three of New England’s final four regular-season games and was benched in his lone start this season.

New England’s available cornerbacks for this postseason matchup are Jackson, Williams, Myles Bryant, Justin Bethel and practice squad call-ups D’Angelo Ross and De’Vante Bausby. That group will look to limit Bills wideouts Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders, Beasley, Gabriel Davis and Isaiah McKenzie.

Jackson, who earned Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors this season, seemed to preview a matchup with Diggs in a pregame Instagram post. Diggs caught 103 passes for 1,225 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, including a 7-85-1 line in the most recent Patriots-Bills matchup.

“This is exactly what (Jackson) wants,” safety Adrian Phillips said this week. “He wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The Patriots successfully limited both Knox and Beasley in their windswept Week 13 win in Buffalo, holding them to two catches for 14 yards and one catch for 11 yards, respectively. Knox, the Bills’ talented young tight end, caught a touchdown pass in the Week 16 rematch but finished that game with two catches for 11 yards. Beasley and fellow wideout Gabriel Davis missed the second meeting following positive COVID tests, but both are expected to play Saturday night.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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