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Week 16 Patriots vs Bills advanced stats: Buffalo presents bounce-back opportunity for New England’s red zone offense

A look at the stats ahead of Sunday’s meeting between the Patriots and Bills.

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The New England Patriots return home to Gillette Stadium today, once again trying to capture a 10th straight AFC East title that has proven to be an elusive one as of late: New England already had two chances to win it but lost each time. A victory against the visiting Buffalo Bills will do the trick, but playing its division rivals will certainly be a challenge for a Patriots team that appears to trend in the wrong direction as of late.

Let’s analyze it further by taking a look at some of the advanced stats heading into the game (courtesy of SB Nation’s Bill Connelly; for his methodology please click here).

Patriots offense vs Bills defense

Normal down and distance in the open field

Patriots offense (l.) vs Bills defense (r.)

While the Bills enter today’s game with a 5-9 record, their defense is playing very well in certain areas. The open field — between the opponent’s 10 and their own 30-yard line — is one of those: with the exception of average third-down distance, Buffalo has one of the best defenses in the NFL in this part of the field. What stands out in particular is the team’s success rate on standard (gaining 50% of necessary yardage on first down, 70% on second down, and 100% on third and fourth down) and third downs.

Backed Up Situations Near the Goal Line

Patriots offense (l.) vs Bills defense (r.)

New England’s offensive performance with its back against the wall does not stand out in either category, as the turnover percentage is still hurting from a tipped interception in week one. The Bills defense, meanwhile, is solid when starting in favorable field position — both when it comes to success rate and to generating turnovers.

Red Zone

Patriots offense (l.) vs Bills defense (r.)

The Patriots’ red zone offense had some struggles recently, turning only three of nine opportunities into touchdowns over the last two games. If New England wants to return to playing winning football, improving in this part of the field therefore is imperative — and the Bills present the perfect bounce-back opportunity: Buffalo is one of the worst defensive teams in football when it comes to slowing offenses down inside its own 20-yard line across the board.

Third Downs

Patriots offense (l.) vs Bills defense (r.)

Even though New England’s offense is the best in the NFL when it comes to creating favorable third down situations, its conversion rates are underwhelming especially in medium and short distance attempts. Coincidentally, the Bills defense performs well when it comes to defending third-and-mediums (from two to six yards to go) and third-and-shorts (one yard to go). Overall, the Patriots convert 41.6% of third downs while the Bills allow conversions on 38.0% of tries.

Blitz Situations

Patriots offense (l.) vs Bills defense (r.)

So-called blitz situations — 1st and 18 or more, 2nd and 14 or more, and 3rd and 3 or more — appear to favor the Patriots offense: Tom Brady and company fare comparatively well when it comes to success rate and blitz rate when forced to play from behind the sticks. And even though the team struggles to generate big plays out of obvious passing situations, the Bills present a favorable matchup there as well.

Patriots defense vs Bills offense

Normal down and distance in the open field

Patriots defense (l.) vs Bills offense (r.)

While the Bills played some comparatively solid offensive football since their week 11 bye, the team is still struggling to move the football: Buffalo ranks in the bottom-third in all open field categories while being dead-last when it comes to success rate. The Patriots defense, meanwhile, fares only slightly better and ranks below the average in all but one of the categories outlined above.

Backed Up Situations Near the Goal Line

Patriots defense (l.) vs Bills offense (r.)

New England’s defense is rather average when having the opposing offense in a favorable spot with 90 or more yards to go. If Buffalo’s offense, however, finds itself in such a situation, it has struggled to consistently move the football — a common theme for the team as a whole.

Red Zone

Patriots defense (l.) vs Bills offense (r.)

The Patriots defense does not stand out in the red zone this season but ranks above the NFL’s average in all categories inside the 20-yard line, which is enough to have the edge over the Bills: Buffalo’s offense has a hard time moving the football in this part of the field but finds some success when it is near the goal line. Still, New England should be able to hold its opponent to field goals today in the red area.

Third Downs

Patriots defense (l.) vs Bills offense (r.)

With the exception of third-and-shorts, the Bills struggle when it comes to converting third downs: on the year, Buffalo is able to move the sticks on just 31.8% of attempt (30th in the NFL). New England’s third down defense, in the meantime, is equally bad. The battle between the two units should be a close one — and could ultimately turn out to be a deciding factor in the game: if the Patriots fail to get off the field, Buffalo could be able to control the contest’s tempo while simultaneously keeping Tom Brady on the sidelines.

Blitz Situations

Patriots defense (l.) vs Bills offense (r.)

A classic battle of weakness versus weakness as neither the Patriots defense nor the Bills offense fare well on blitz downs. Buffalo has a hard time moving the football on a regular basis when forced to play from behind the sticks, while New England gives up plenty of yardage all while failing to take down the opposing quarterback.


All in all, the Patriots are rightfully favored to win today’s contest. That being said, the Bills do have some areas in which they can be dangerous with the open field defense and offensive third-and-short as well as goal line situations standing out. If New England can keep Buffalo in check in those areas, the team should be able to find success and as a result come away victoriously.