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NFL playoffs: What has changed for the Patriots and Bills since their Week 16 meeting?

Related: Patriots need to start faster if they want to make any noise in the playoffs

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

It’s only right that the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills find themselves competing in a rubber match in the NFL’s wild card round.

While jockeying for position in the race for the AFC East title all year, these teams split their two matchups in the regular season. With both games coming in the last six weeks it’s fair to say that the changes that each roster has undergone have been small, but the severity of what is at stake is much different than it has been.

They’re no longer looking to outrace each other to the dance, it’s now do or die for the Patriots and Bills. Here is everything that has changed between those two teams since their last meeting.

Roster Changes

We’ll start with the requisite 53-man roster changes, and as you can see there have been a few on each side.

New England Patriots

Added: OL Yasir Durant (Covid-19), RB Rhamondre Stevenson (Covid-19), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (Covid-19)

Lost: S Joshuah Bledsoe (IR), CB Jalen Mills (Covid-19), CB Shaun Wade (Covid-19)

Buffalo Bills

Added: WR Cole Beasley (Covid-19), DE A.J. Epenesa (Covid-19), WR Gabriel Davis (Covid-19), G Jon Feliciano (IR), OL Cody Ford (Covid-19), OT Bobby Hart (Covid-19)

Lost: OL Ike Boettger (IR)

The Patriots are rocking with pretty much the same roster as their last matchup with Buffalo, with a few exceptions. Defensive backs Jalen Mills, Joshuah Bledsoe and Shaun Wade are the only three changes since then. While neither Bledsoe nor Wade suited up for the December 26 matchup, Mills started the contest.

Although neither Mills’ nor Wade’s absence is confirmed for the game on Saturday, they will be ineligible to practice until their removal from the Covid-19 list.

The Patriots also have gotten some players back: running back Rhamondre Stevenson, defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. and offensive lineman Yasir Durant have all been activated. The trio missed the Week 16 game in Coronavirus protocols.

Buffalo has seen a few of its players come off of the list as well, with five clearing protocols and since returning for Buffalo. Veteran offensive lineman Jon Feliciano has also been added as insurance since Ike Boettger’s injury in the last matchup between these two squads.

Venue

Splitting their two regular season games between their respective homes, the Patriots and Bills each took their respective away game, the ladder of which being a Bills victory in Foxborough. With Buffalo obtaining the AFC East’s crown, they will host New England at Highmark Stadium as the higher seed. Perhaps the venue could have an effect on our next category.

Conditions

I don’t know if you were aware or not, but it was pretty windy in Buffalo the last time these two teams last played there.

In fact, the 35 mph driving winds influenced New England’s decision making so much that they ran the ball on 46 of their 49 offensive plays. This played right into New England’s favor as they entered that matchup looking to control the pace of the game to keep Josh Allen off the field. They did exactly that, and allowed the wind to assist them against Allen’s rocket right arm. Allen finished 15-of-30 for 145 yards and a touchdown, his lowest yardage and completion percentage totals of the season. In comparison, the last matchup was played in tame conditions, as Foxborough was experiencing an unseasonably balmy 40 degree day.

As you could imagine, it’s going to be cold in Buffalo this Saturday, as the game time forecast calls for six degree weather with the real feeling being around 0 degrees.

Stakes

Not to go completely clichè on you but this one is quite literally do or die for each team. Prior to their final matchup in the regular season, these two teams were basically fighting for the division title. Now, only a win can keep their season alive. Stressful.