I’ll bet I know what you did Sunday afternoon.
If you’re a Buffalo Bills fan, you spent a majority of your afternoon watching/scouting the New England Patriots.
The NFL's version of the "Evil Empire" will be at Highmark Stadium for a huge matchup come next Monday night in Orchard Park. I never thought the Bills would be looking up at the Patriots as they prepared for the first of two meetings over four weeks. However, New England’s six-game winning streak has them atop the AFC East by a half-game.
New England has put up some pretty impressive numbers in their win streak. They’ve outscored their opponents 211-63 in their last six games, with only one team, the Los Angeles Chargers, scoring more than 13 points. That Chargers loss, 27-24, was the closest game the Patriots have had in this stretch.
I would like to point out that the six teams New England beat are a combined 33-36. In addition, the last three wins came over teams that were missing key players on offense. The Cleveland Browns were forced to play without running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The Atlanta Falcons didn’t have wide receiver Calvin Ridley or offensive extraordinaire Cordarrelle Patterson. The Tennessee Titans had to make do without running back Derrick Henry, as well as wide receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones.
I’m not complaining here, because the Bills have gotten some big breaks too, having faced a number of backup quarterbacks. In last week’s win in New Orleans, the Saints fielded their junior varsity offense.
I just want to put some facts out there.
Having said that, the Patriots are playing solid all around football.
I’m not surprised their defense is very good, since we were expecting that to happen. New England got some key players back who missed last season, and then added guys like Matthew Judon and Kyle Van Noy. So you knew that would be the strength of the team, and it is.
But what would they get out of their offense?
After a massive spending spree on skill position players and deciding to give the starting quarterback job to rookie Mac Jones, the answer is they’re getting enough to make it work. I’ve watched Jones play a few times this season, and while he doesn’t wow you, he runs their offense efficiently. He is, most definitely, a manage the game quarterback, but sometimes that’s even too much for a rookie.
Jones plays a calm game. He makes his reads, gets the ball out on time, is able to get his passes to open targets and his accuracy gives those targets opportunities for run after catch yardage. Jones has shown the ability to change plays when needed, and doesn’t make many mistakes.
The Alabama product doesn’t have a cannon for an arm. The majority of his throws will travel less than 10 yards. He is not a dual threat weapon like Josh Allen, who can make big plays with his legs. Jones is a pocket quarterback.
But the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft makes it work. He guides an offense that looks to its run game to be the driving force and he plays behind a good offensive line that gives him clean pockets.
Add that to the stout defense, strong special teams and the coaching of Bill Belichick, and this is how the Patriots managed to get themselves into first place in the AFC East.
Even though the Bills will go into this game and play the rest of the season without their best player on defense in Tre'Davious White, I’d be surprised if the Patriots go "Air Belichick." There are some good weapons in the Patriots' passing game with wide receivers Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne, as well as tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. But I’d expect them to test the Bills run defense.
Although, New England’s ground attack was just okay in its win over the Titans this week. Jones and the passing game were more productive.
I still think there will be a heavy diet of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, who have combined for 994 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns in 11 games. Sure would help if the Bills get defensive tackle Star Lotulelei back for this game.
It would also help all of us if the Bills beat the Patriots. The fact that they had just one bad season isn’t fair. I’m planning to take this up with the football Gods.
Keep in mind, a win over New England on Monday night would be a huge edge for the Bills, should first place come down to a tie breaker. If the Bills win on Monday and beat the New York Jets in the regular season finale, they will have the tiebreaker over the Patriots. A Patriots loss would be their second in the division.
Should the Bills win this game and the Jets game, they would end up no worse than 5-1 in division games.