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Pregame Rumblings: Bills visit Patriots on ‘Thursday Night Football’

Three keys to the game, our Bills-Patriots pick, and the Buffalo Rumblings SGP presented by DraftKings

Another week of football and another primetime matchup for the Buffalo Bills. The Bills (8-3) are favored as they travel to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots (6-5) in one of the most anticipated games of the season. The AFC East is very competitive this season, and it’s widely considered the best division in football. Each team currently has a record above .500 and each game feels more important than the last. The Bills are 0-2 in the division since losing to the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets this season. The Patriots are 2-1 in the division, but also last in the rankings and would like to make that 3-1 to keep themselves relevant in the playoff picture.

The injury report for both teams is a lot cleaner than recent weeks. For the Patriots, running back Damien Harris and offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn are expected to miss this game. With limited practice this week, center David Andrews, tackle Yodny Cajuste, defensive back Marcus Jones, wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, and cornerback Jalen Mills are questionable, but all are expected to play. Wide receiver DeVante Parker will play, as he was a full participant in practice this week with a knee injury. For the Bills, edge rusher Von Miller is out with a lateral meniscus tear. Left tackle Dion Dawkins will also miss Week 13 due to an ankle injury. Several players missed practice early on with an illness that seemed to spread through the locker room: tight end Quintin Morris, safety Damar Hamlin, cornerback Dane Jackson, safety Jaquan Johnson, and wide receiver Khalil Shakir. Defensive ends Greg Rousseau and A. J. Epenesa and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds are expected to play this week.

Here are my thoughts and things to look for during this game:

  1. As usual, this starts and ends with quarterback Josh Allen for me. We saw end-of-the-game heroics when Allen threw a laser to wide receiver Stefon Diggs late in the fourth quarter to get Tyler Bass into field goal range, but the rest of the game was less than stellar from the star QB. Buffalo’s offense will face linebacker Matthew Judon this week—the league leader in sacks. He didn’t have much success against the Bills last season, but this is a new year. With Dawkins missing the game, it’s going to be a tall task to keep Allen clean in the pocket. The more concerning part for me is that Allen hasn’t looked sharp since injuring his elbow against the New York Jets. He’s had flashes, but he’s lacked consistency when spreading the ball around to his receivers. Bills fans are still waiting for wide receiver Gabe Davis and tight end Dawson Knox to emerge as key pieces on offense in 2022. Both have 33 receptions coming into Week 13. Allen will need to spread the ball around and get more than Diggs involved to defeat the Patriots and their stout defense.
  2. No Miller is concerning for several reasons. But the first that comes to mind is the ability to stop New England’s run game. While there’s no Harris to stop, running back Rhamondre Stevenson will play—and he’s been the team’s best offensive weapon this year. Last season prior to Miller joining the team, the Bills’ run defense looked to be the unit’s only weakness. This season that has improved dramatically outside of the performances against the Jets and the second half against the Green Bay Packers. Will the Bills be able to keep Stevenson contained? He’s dangerous in any capacity Bill Belichick chooses to use him. He has 680 yards on the ground and 359 receiving so far for the season. This will be a game where linebackers Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds must make big plays to keep Buffalo positioned to get the Patriots off the field. The defense will need to stop the run and get to quarterback Mac Jones in the backfield to disrupt his timing—so getting Greg Rousseau back active is huge for the Bills after losing Miller for the foreseeable future.
  3. Chess vs. checkers. This last key comes down to coaching. Belichick is still widely considered the greatest NFL coach of all time. Including the playoffs, head coach Sean McDermott is 4-7 against the Patriots, for his career. The Bills are considered to be the better team, but coaching will have to play into this matchup even more than recent matchups due to the spread of illness in the locker room on a short week. McDermott will have to find a way to manage rotations while still winning matchups on each possession. This will technically be the Bills’ third away game in 11 days after the team was forced to play in Detroit due to an epic snowstorm. The amount of travel and wear and tear on players’ bodies is a major concern for me in this game. The team is getting some key players back, but I’m still cautious about the amount of action most of the roster will have seen in such a short period of time. We’ll see who wins the game within the game.

I’m hopeful that Allen is healthy now, as this is the first week we’ve seen him practice in full since the injury. He hasn’t looked sharp since, and the Bills will need him to be sharp headed into the final stretch of the season to win the AFC East and have a shot at the top seed in the conference.

DraftKings Thursday Night SGP

  • Mac Jones Passing Yards: Under 219.5
  • Devin Singletary Rushing Yards: Over 59.5
  • Stefon Diggs Receiving Yards: Over 69.5
  • Rhamondre Stevenson Rushing Yards: Over 44.5

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