It’s a battle of AFC East teams on the gridiron to close out week 16 only with the roles reversed for this contest. The Buffalo Bills are on the road as they make the trip to face the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. Buffalo earned a fourth straight win as they routed Denver 48-19 on the road last Saturday to clinch their first AFC East crown since 1995. New England was dropped 22-12 on the road by Miami last Sunday, eliminating them from playoff contention. The Patriots own a 75-44-1 edge in the all-time regular season series but it was Buffalo taking a 24-21 home victory in the first matchup this season on November 1.
Buffalo Bills Seek Fifth Straight Victory
Buffalo rang up their fourth straight win as they emphatically dismantled the Broncos in front of a national TV audience last Saturday to earn their first AFC East crown in 25 years. The Bills improved to 11-3 on the season and moved into the second seed in the AFC playoffs as they own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Steelers. Against Denver, Buffalo never trailed, leading 7-0 after the opening quarter and 21-13 at the half before blowing the doors open in the second half. The Bills scored two touchdowns in 17 seconds early in the third quarter to go up 35-13 and rolled the rest of the way. Buffalo racked up a 534-255 edge in total offense, rolled up a 29-19 edge in first downs and controlled the clock by a 33:50 to 26:10 margin. Both teams turned the ball over once though the Bills scored on a scoop-six by Jerry Hughes.
On the year, the Bills are second in the league in passing offense with 278.5 yards per game so far. Buffalo is 21st on the ground as they average 108.2 yards per game this season. The Bills are 6th in scoring offense as they put up 29.1 points per game this season. Buffalo stands 16th in the league in scoring defense as they allow an average of 24.3 points a contest. Josh Allen has completed 351 of 511 passes for 4,000 yards with 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He has been sacked 25 times for 148 yards in losses on the year while ranking third on the team with 383 yards plus eight scores on the ground. The run game has been split between Devin Singletary, who leads the team with 143 carries for 644 yards plus two scores, and Zach Moss (97 carries, 416 yards, three TD) this season. Stefon Diggs has lived up to the #1 receiver billing as he has hauled in 111 passes for 1,314 yards and five scores. Cole Beasley (79 catches, 950 yards, four TD), John Brown (29 grabs, 386 yards, two TD) and rookie Gabriel Davis (30 catches, 459 yards, six TD) are all over the 300-yard receiving mark on the season. Rookie kicker Tyler Bass has settled in, nailing 44 of 46 extra points and 27 of 33 field goal attempts with a long of 58.
Buffalo has had a ton of success offensively as offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has done a great job scheming a game plan to work for the team. The Bills lead the league in third-down conversions (50.91 percent) this season so they are doing a good job of extending drives. Buffalo hasn’t done a ton with the run game this season as the passing game has taken center stage but when it comes to grinding the clock with a lead, the Bills have been effective with pounding the rock. In the first meeting, the Bills ran the ball 38 times for 190 yards and three scores against the Patriots. After seeing New England give up 250 yards and three scores to Miami last week, you have to wonder if the Bills will attack with the ground game or stick with the aerial assault that has served them so well all season long, especially with Stephon Gilmore done for the year with a partially torn quad.
New England Patriots in Unfamiliar Position
New England suffered a second straight loss as they were unable to stop the run against Miami. In the process, the Patriots fell to 6-8 on the year and were eliminated from playoff contention so they have two meaningless games here to close the season. New England hasn’t found the end zone in their last two games as they’ve mustered only five field goals in that span. Against the Dolphins, the Patriots led 6-0 after one quarter and 9-7 after three quarters before wilting in the fourth quarter. New England was ground down by the Dolphins’ run game, giving up a staggering 250 yards plus three scores. Miami scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to sink the Patriots. New England was outgained 383-303 in the contest, gave up 26 first downs while picking up 18 and was dominated in time of possession 37:26 to 27:34 in the contest. Each team turned the ball over once in the game.
The Patriots enter week 16 ranked 30th in the league in passing offense as they average only 185.4 yards per game through the air. New England is a solid fifth in the league in rushing offense with an average of 145.4 yards per contest on the ground. The Patriots are just 27th in the league in scoring offense as they put up just 20.6 points per game. New England is 6th in scoring defense as they allow 21.5 points per contest. Cam Newton is 216 of 328 passing for 2,381 yards with five touchdowns and 10 interceptions on the year. He has been sacked 26 times for 152 yards in losses while he stands second on the team with 489 yards plus 11 scores on the ground. Behind Newton is the uninspiring duo of Brian Hoyer (15 of 24, 130 yards, INT) and Jarrett Stidham (18 of 33, 212 yards, two TD, three INT) on the depth chart. Damien Harris leads the running backs with 137 carries for 691 yards plus two scores. Rex Burkhead (67 carries, 274 yards, three TD) and Sony Michel (53 carries, 304 yards, TD), when they are healthy, have been factors in the ground game as well. Burkhead is done for the year after suffering a torn ACL. Damiere Byrd (45 receptions, 590 yards, TD), Julian Edelman (21 grabs, 315 yards), James White (42 receptions, 321 yards) and Jakobi Meyers (49 receptions, 616 yards) are the receivers with more than 300 receiving yards this season. Edelman has played only six games with a knee injury. Nick Folk is 26 of 28 on extra points and 25 of 27 on field goal attempts with a long of 51.
New England ran for 188 yards in the first meeting with the Bills but a last-minute fumble by Newton doomed the team to a defeat. The Patriots are now facing a Buffalo defense that has been vastly improved in recent weeks with the return of Matt Milano to the linebacking corps. Buffalo has held four of their last six opponents under 90 yards on the ground and they’ve forced 12 takeaways in that span, scoring two defensive touchdowns. The Patriots are going to have to generate some sort of big plays offensively to hang in the game but if they can’t find a way to get things done, it’s going to be a long night in Foxborough.