The highlight of the Wild Card Round of the playoffs might be Saturday’s primetime game between the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots. These two teams split their two meetings during the regular season and have no love lost between them. At home, the Bills are listed as four-point favorites, with the over/under set at 43.5 points.
A Week 16 win by the Bills in New England helped to give Buffalo the lead in the AFC East. That win was part of a four-game winning streak to end the season for the Bills, who finished 11-6. They now get to host a playoff game as AFC East champs after going 2-0 in home playoff games last season.
Naturally, the Patriots are no doubt regretting that late-season loss to the Bills that cost them the division. Of course, New England also lost three of four games at the end of the regular season, finishing 10-7. Needless to say, that has stolen any lingering momentum the Pats might have had from a seven-game winning streak earlier in the season.
We’re about to learn a lot about Mac Jones, as the rookie is set to make his first career playoff start. During New England’s final four games of the season, Jones threw six touchdown passes but also five interceptions, so his results have been mixed down the stretch. The good news is the Patriots can lean on their running game, as Damien Harris was steady all season while Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden are also options.
The Patriots also have one of the best defenses in the NFL, giving up just 17.8 points per game on the season. That being said, they allowed 33 points against the Bills in Week 16, so the Buffalo offense may have found some things that work against New England. The Patriots are also a little banged up defensively heading into the playoffs and have been overly reliant on Matt Judon to provide a constant pass rush this season.
The Real Josh Allen
Buffalo can’t possibly know what to expect from Josh Allen in the playoffs. Even with the Bills scoring the third-most points in the NFL this year and ending the season on a four-game winning streak, Allen’s accuracy and decision-making were inconsistent, especially late in the season. On the bright side, Buffalo’s rushing attack came on strong late in the year, and that’s an area where Allen can be helpful regardless of his throwing accuracy.
On the other side of the ball, the Bills might have an edge defensively. They were the only team to allow fewer points than the Patriots this season, conceding just 17 points per game. Even without an elite pass rusher, the Bills are well-built at all three levels and have the most underrated safety tandem in the league in Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde.
While the road team won both games between these teams this season, home-field advantage will matter in this game. The Bills also have the better quarterback in this game, and even if Allen struggles throwing the ball, Buffalo can win with defense and its rushing game. Bet on the Bills to win and cover at home against the rival Patriots.
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