The Buffalo Bills will look for redemption from their Week 7 loss to the New England Patriots when they square off later today at Highmark Stadium. This will be Buffalo’s final regular-season home game of the year. Here’s what to look for in this must-win game for the Bills.
According to the New York Times playoff simulator, the Bills currently have a 91% chance of making the playoffs. In a vacuum, if the Bills win this week, their chances increase to 97%. However, if they lose this week, their playoff chances plummet to 49%. The Bills still have a chance to win the AFC East division, but they need the Miami Dolphins to lose to the Baltimore Ravens this week to have a chance. For a full playoff breakdown check out these articles:
DaQuan Jones returns to the lineup
Bills DT DaQuan Jones will play Sunday against Patriots, Sean McDermott tells us on @ExtraPointWGR— Sal Capaccio (@SalSports) December 29, 2023
Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones went down early in the game in Week 5 versus the Jacksonville Jaguars with a torn pectoral muscle. Head coach Sean McDermott hinted that Jones had an opportunity to make an appearance again this season, and now that has come to fruition. Jones has been a key player in Buffalo’s front seven since he came to town in 2022. The 10-year veteran doesn’t always show up big on the stat sheet, but his one-technique position at defensive tackle rarely does. Jones makes an impact by eating up blockers in the run game, but he also comes equipped with some upside in rushing the passer. I’d expect Jones to be on a limited snap count for the next two weeks while the Bills ramp him up for the playoffs (hopefully).
Stingy Pats D
As we all know the Patriots beat the Bills earlier this season by a score of 29-25. The Bills found some success on offense that game, but it still wasn’t a great offensive performance. The Patriots come into this matchup after winning two out of their last three games, in large part because their defense has played well.
Not only has the Patriots defense been not allowing many points, but they also rarely allow big plays.
Explosive Play Rate by Defense pic.twitter.com/ZcmAOwHm9B— Billy Jones (@SportsVizBJ) December 27, 2023
As you can see in the chart above, the Patriots defense in Weeks 11-16 have only allowed explosive plays on 11% of snaps (top 3). The one caveat here is that most of the explosive plays they do let up come via the air.
The Bills offense will have to play disciplined football and be happy with marching the football down the field. The times to take deep shots might be when Josh Allen breaks the pocket and is out of structure. The only way I see the Patriots making this game close is if they cause a bunch of turnovers, take care of the football Bills offense!
Buffalo’s offense to convert in the red zone
If the Patriots defense doesn’t give up big plays that means Buffalo’s offense will have to sustain drives and convert when they get into the red zone. Good thing for the Bills, they rank number one in red zone scoring percentage. They score a touchdown on a league-leading 67.27% of the time when they enter the red zone. Quarterback Josh Allen has a large part to do with this success, scoring 13 rushing touchdowns and throwing 18 passing touchdowns in the red zone this season. Look for the Bills to lean on Allen in this area of the field and convert these trips to points.
Will the Bills be able to run the football?
James Cook and company made headlines in their route of the Dallas Cowboys two weeks ago, but they will have a tough task this week versus a good Patriots run defense. The Patriots are first in yards per carry allowed (3.2) and second in rushing yards allowed per game (84.8). These statistics are impressive considering the Patriots have been playing from behind a lot this season and teams have likely been trying to run the ball against them to shorten the game. Buffalo only ran for 105 yards on the ground on 30 attempts last week. Early on I would expect the Bills to mix in their fair share of runs, but hopefully the bulk of their rushing yards come when they already up by a few scores.