The Patriots return to the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium for a huge matchup with the Buffalo Bills for control of the AFC East. The winner on Sunday will basically have the division sewed up.
A Patriots victory will give them a two-game lead with two to play, against Jacksonville and then in Miami. A Buffalo win would give them the tie-breaker over the Patriots and with Atlanta and the Jets remaining.
A win on Sunday would give the team their 10th victory of the season, which would be the 27th time in team history. It would be a huge win for the team as a year ago they looked to be in complete rebuild mode and were swept by Buffalo. Now they can effectively wrap up the division with a win and sweep the Bills for the 16th time since Bill Belichick became the head coach.
The Patriots (9-5) lost to the Indianapolis Colts last Saturday night 27-17. The team fell behind 20-0 and although they made the game interesting in the 4th quarter, they were dominated at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, with too many mistakes, turnovers, and awful special teams’ play.
The Bills (8-6) blew out the Carolina Panthers 31-14 breaking a two-game losing streak. Josh Allen threw for 210 yards and three TDs, while the Buffalo defense held Carolina to just 275 yards.
This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Charles Davis as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines. The game will be broadcast on the radio by 98.5 The Sports Hub. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.
We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2021 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out. So, here is our look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.
First up is the Patriots offense:
Patriots RBs vs Bills Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots’ running game may be without one of their better players in Rhamondre Stevenson who hasn’t practiced this week due to an illness. Damien Harris has been back on the field but has been limited due to a hamstring he injured during the win over the Bills a few weeks ago. If both Stevenson and Harris are able to go along with Brandon Bolden and possibly even J.J. Taylor there is no reason to believe that the running game wouldn’t be successful once again. In Buffalo due to the weather, the Bills sold out trying to stop the run and still New England racked up 222 yards on the ground.
I’ve seen some stating this week that Buffalo should be much better against the run this week. While it is certainly possible, this time around they’ll have to play pass defense as well, so I doubt they’ll show many 8-9 man boxes much in this one.
The key here is having both Stevenson and Harris available and having the offensive line play better than they did against the Colts. We look for the Patriots to run those off-tackle runs that they were successful with in the first matchup.
Patriots WRs vs Bills Secondary – Razor’s Edge Buffalo
The Patriots’ passing game may also be missing some key pieces. Nelson Agholor and N’Keal Harry both left the Colts game with head injuries. Agholor hasn’t practiced due to a concussion although Harry is back on the field. Kendrick Bourne is on the Reserve COVID-19 list, although Bill Belichick hinted that he could return on Sunday. The offense will need a big game from Jakobi Meyers this week.
The Bills pass defense is tops in the league allowing just 175.6 yards per game and 5.4 yards per pass. Losing Tre’Davious White was a big blow for the secondary, but they have arguably the best pair of safeties in the game with Jordan Poyer and Michah Hyde. The Patriots will test White’s replacement Dane Jackson, but if their two WRs miss this game, then it won’t make much difference.
Look for the Patriots to mix in play-action with the running game this week. This should be a game for the tight ends (Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith) and the running backs (Bolden) to feature in the game plan. Look for quick passes like that to get Jones in a rhythm. They will most definitely throw more than three passes this time. But they’ll have to get the running game going to effectively throw against the Bills secondary.
Next up is the Buffalo offense:
Bills RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots’ run defense was gashed by the Colts and Jonathan Taylor last week, giving up a whopping 226 yards, as Indy’s offensive line dominated the matchup, consistently putting the Patriots’ defensive line on roller skates.
The Bills running game centers around Devin Singletary but unless Josh Allen scrambles from the pocket, as Brian Daboll calls a lot of designed runs for Allen, then the Patriots should be able to once again slow up the running game. One thing to monitor is how Allen’s foot injury is holding up. But this one is for all the marbles in the division. I expect the Bills to rely on Allen heavily in this one, both in the running and passing game.
The gap discipline and setting the edge is a must for the Patriots in this game. Matthew Judon didn’t have a good game in Indy, and they’ll need him at his best this week. Another key player on running downs will be Ja’Whaun Bentley who left the Colts game with an ankle injury. He’s been limited this week.
Bills WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge Buffalo
The Patriots’ secondary is almost as stingy as the Bills allowing just 185.1 yards per game and 5.9 yards per pass. J.C. Jackson has been outstanding but the secondary still runs through Devin McCourty. The pass rush will have to bring pressure on Allen to get him to get rid of the ball this week.
The Bills have built a pretty prolific passing offense with Allen throwing to Stephon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Emmanuel Sanders, and Gabriel Davis as well as tight end Dawson Knox. Beasley is out this week because of a positive COVID test, as he’s unvaccinated. Sanders missed last week with an injury but should be good to go this Sunday.
Look for the Bills to spread out the Patriots defense and allow Allen to run or throw, especially with designed roll-outs to put pressure on the front seven. The Patriots pass rush will have to get pressure on Allen by rushing just four while keeping him in the pocket, not an easy task. Look for Allen to target Knox a lot in this one.
Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England
The Patriots’special teams’ units were just awful on Saturday. We don’t expect that to continue and look for a big bounceback game this week. Nick Folk has had an outstanding season and gets the slight edge over Tyler Bass who has a longer range because of his familiarity of kicking in Foxboro which can be a bit of an adventure at this time of year.
The Patriots have allowed three blocked punts this year and that has to stop. Jake Bailey can be a weapon pinning opponents deep in their zone and that’s the kind of game they’ll need from him this week.
Next up, who wins and why…
This week’s game could come down to defense and turnovers. We expect another close, defensive struggle. The Patriots and Bills are both adept at generating turnovers. Converting third downs will be huge because each team will want to control the clock and tempo although quite differently.
Keys to the game from a Patriots perspective:
Be Physical and Run The Ball Setting Up Play Action – The Patriots can be one of the most physical teams in the league, and on Sunday, they have to assert their will on Buffalo’s defense by once again running the football, which this time will set up play-action and allow them to throw the ball effectively. Don’t expect a ton of yards passing but if the passes are effective then they’ll keep the chains moving.
Get Pressure By Rushing Four– The Patriots’ front seven need a big game this week. Buffalo is going to put the ball in Allen’s hands both running and passing. Expect to see a lot of seven-man zone coverages, so that they can squeeze the areas that Buffalo can pass in while facing the play and limiting the running of Allen.
Clean it Up This Week – The Patriots need to finish drives, stop the presnap penalties and limit turnovers this week. They also need to start quickly and get off to an early lead and not give the Bills a double-digit lead early like they did a week ago. As explosive as Buffalo’s offense is, that would get out of control quickly.
This should be a classic, right down to the wire struggle. Both coaches know their opponent well and it will be interesting to see how Bill Belichick sets the defense while Josh McDaniels will have a different game plan to counter Buffalo. I think a late defensive stop/turnover will seal the deal for New England in a thriller. Patriots 24-21
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Bill Belichick Brandon Bolden Buffalo Bills Damien Harris Dawson Knox Devin McCourty Dont'a Hightower Emmanuel Sanders Gabriel Davis Jamie Collins Josh Allen Kyle Van Noy Mac Jones N'Keal Harry New England Patriots NFL Patriots edge rushers Rhamondre Stevenson Stephon Diggs