The New England Patriots have lost three straight games and are fighting to stay alive in the race for their 12th straight AFC East title or at least a wild card playoff birth. Their upcoming game will therefore have major ramifications: the team will travel to Western New York to take on the division-leading Buffalo Bills. While a Patriots victory would help them get back a track, a loss would all but seal the division crown for Buffalo.
With that being said, let’s take a closer look at New England’s upcoming opponent.
Record: 5-2 (1st place AFC East)
Points scored: 20th (24.9/game)
Points against: 15th (25.4/game)
Head coach: Sean McDermott
Coordinators: Brian Daboll (offense), Leslie Frazer (defense), Heath Farwell (special teams)
Ever since Sean McDermott took over as the Bills’ head coach in 2017, the team has been a competitor in the AFC — never more so than in 2020, it seems. McDermott’s coaching staff plays a big role in this, with former Patriots assistant Brian Daboll helping quarterback Josh Allen take an enormous step in his third year, and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazer leading one of the league’s most talented units.
Season so far
Week 1 vs New York Jets: W 27-17
Week 2 at Miami Dolphins: W 31-28
Week 3 vs Los Angeles Rams: 35-32
Week 4 at Las Vegas Raiders: 30-23
Week 5 at Tennessee Titans: L 42-16
Week 6 vs Kansas City Chiefs: L 26-17
Week 7 at New York Jets: W 18-10
The Bills started their 2020 campaign hot. Led by the aforementioned Josh Allen, who looked like a serious MVP candidate over the first month of the season, Buffalo won its first four games. From Week 5’s blowout loss against the Titans, however, the team has struggled a bit: it was defeated by Kansas City before beating the Jets without scoring a touchdown. 5-2 is still 5-2, but the Bills have not been a dominant team for most of the season as evidenced by their -4 scoring differential on the season.
The Patriots and Bills have met 120 times so far, with one of the meetings coming in the AFL playoffs back in 1963:
- Patriots wins: 76 wins (1 playoff win)
- Bills wins: 43 wins
- Ties: 1
As founding members of the old AFL, the two organizations have been rivals since their inception in 1959. While the matchup was relatively even for its first four decades, the arrival of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady changed all of that: since Belichick took over the Patriots in 2000, New England has won 35 of 40 meetings — including 56-10 victory during the 2007 regular season.
Recently, however, the games have been more competitive again. Last season, for example, the Patriots had to play two hard-fought games in order to sweep the team: New England won 16-10 in Buffalo before a 24-17 victory at Gillette Stadium later during the year.
Projected starting lineups
QB Josh Allen; RB Devin Singletary; WR Stefon Diggs, WR Cole Beasley, WR Gabriel Davis*; TE Tyler Kroft; LT Dion Dawkins, LG Cody Ford, C Mitch Morse, RG Brian Winters, RT Daryl Williams
Buffalo’s offense has played some impressive football this season, mainly because of quarterback Josh Allen’s growth and connection with his newest weapon: Stefon Diggs is leading the Bills with 48 receptions for 603 yards and three touchdowns. He is far from the only talented player on the offense, though, with the other starter-level receivers as well as the team’s running back group also contributing on a regular basis. The main question for Buffalo will be at tight end: Dawson Knox tested positive for Covid-19 last week, and could miss Sunday’s contest against the Patriots.
DE Jerry Hughes, DT Ed Oliver, DT Quinton Jefferson, DE Mario Addison; LB Tremaine Edmunds, LB Matt Milano; CB Tre’Davious White, CB Taron Johnson, CB Josh Norman; S Jordan Poyer, S Micah Hyde
Buffalo’s defense is ranked 18th in scoring (25.4/game), 21st in DVOA (5.9%), 25th in EPA (0.123), and dead last in success rate (50.9%), but the unit still features some very talented players across the board. Led by the young trio of Ed Oliver, Tremaine Edmunds and Tre’Davious White, the unit has big play ability written all over it. It has yet to put it all together this season, but the unit is certainly capable of leading the Bills to victory if need be.
K Tyler Bass, P Corey Bojorquez, LS Reid Ferguson; KR/PR Andre Roberts
Buffalo has a strong special teams unit, with one name standing out from a Patriots perspective: Corey Bojorquez first arrived in the NFL as an undrafted rookie signing by New England, but failed to earn the job over Ryan Allen in 2018. Playing for the Bills since then, Bojorquez has developed into one of the league’s best punters and a player capable of flipping field position in an instant — something return specialist Andre Roberts has also proven he can do.
Three things to watch
1. Is a new era in the AFC East upon us? With Tom Brady having left the Patriots in free agency, the Bills have never had a better chance at seizing the division for the first time since 1995. New England won’t relinquish the crown without a fight, of course, which is why Sunday could ring in the dawn of a new era — or, alternatively, prove that Bill Belichick and company are still a force to be reckoned with in the AFC East.
2. Which Josh Allen will show up? Josh Allen was off to a terrific start this year: over the first four games, he completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,326 yards, 12 touchdowns and only one interception. Since the, however, his numbers have gone down as he has been successful on only 63.1 percent of his throws for 692 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Which Allen will the Patriots see on Sunday, the better passer of earlier during the season or the quarterback willing to trust his legs rather than his reads? That could very well determine the defense’s success against him.
3. Will New England’s offense get back on track? There is not denying it, the Patriots offense looked like one of the worst in football the last two weeks. Cam Newton and his receivers were out of sync, with the running game being unable to provide a consistent relief as defenses honed in on it. Going against a talented but inconsistent defense, will this week be a turn for the better? New England certainly has to hope so.