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Patriots opponent preview: Bills are among the NFL’s best, most balanced teams

New England will try to get back into the win column against the three-time reigning division champions.

Buffalo Bills v Washington Commanders Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

At 1-5 and with their season slipping through their fingers, the New England Patriots will try to get back into the win column against one of the NFL’s best and most complete teams. The Buffalo Bills will visit Gillette Stadium this week, and along them one of the league’s best units on both sides of the ball.

While Buffalo did lose two games this season and is currently ranked second in the AFC East, make no mistakes: the three-time reigning division champs are as well-balanced a club as any in the league.

For the Patriots, naturally, this will be a massive challenge. Not only are they coming off a three-game losing streak and have not beaten Buffalo in the last four games, their performances recently have been anything but inspiring. Going up against the Bills with a punchless offense and a defense bitten by the injury bug is anything but a winning recipe.

With that all said, let’s take a closer look at New England’s Week 7 opponent to find out what to expect.

Bills 53-man roster

(Note: Roster up-to-date as of Wednesday, 7 a.m. ET; *indicates projected starter)

Quarterback (2): Josh Allen* (17), Kyle Allen (9)

Running back (4): James Cook* (4), Latavius Murray (28), Damien Harris (22), Reggie Gilliam (41 | FB)

Wide receiver (5): Stefon Diggs* (14), Gabe Davis* (13), Khalil Shakir (10 | KR), Trent Sherfield (16), Deonte Harty (11 | PR)

Tight end (3): Dawson Knox* (88), Dalton Kincaid* (86), Quintin Morris (85)

Offensive tackle (4): Dion Dawkins* (73 | LT), Spencer Brown* (79 | RT), Germain Ifedi (68), Ryan Van Denmark (74)

Interior offensive line (6): Connor McGovern* (66 | LG), Mitch Morse* (60 | C), O’Cyrus Torrence* (64 | RG), Ryan Bates (71), David Edwards (76), Alec Anderson (70)

Interior defensive line (4): Ed Oliver* (91), Jordan Phillips* (97), Tim Settle (99), Poona Ford (98)

Defensive edge (6): Leonard Floyd* (56), Gregory Rousseau* (50), Von Miller (40), A.J. Epenesa (57), Shaq Lawson (90), Kingsley Jonathan (59)

Off-the-ball linebacker (6): Terrel Bernard* (43), Dorian Williams* (42), Tyrel Dodson (25), A.J. Klein (52), Baylon Spector (54), Tyler Matakevich (44)

Cornerback (5): Christian Benford* (47), Kaiir Elam* (24), Taron Johnson* (7), Dane Jackson (30), Siran Neal (33)

Safety (5): Micah Hyde* (23), Jordan Poyer* (21), Taylor Rapp (20), Cam Lewis (39), Damar Hamlin (3)

Specialists (3): Tyler Bass (2 | K), Sam Martin (8 | P), Reid Ferguson (69 | LS)

No matter how you look at it, the team of head coach Sean McDermott has a strong case as a top-5 unit on both offense and defense. And while there are some questions entering Week 7 — ranging from injuries to a tendency to play down to the opposition — make no mistake: this is as good a football team as any in the NFL.

A look a the numbers illustrates this:

  • Record: 4-2 (2nd AFC East)
  • Offense: 28.8 points/game (3rd), 374.8 yards/game (5th), 0.158 EPA/play (3rd)
  • Defense: 14.8 points/game (3rd), 323.8 yards/game (12th), -0.089 EPA/play (8th)
  • Scoring differential: +84 (2nd)
  • Turnover differential: +4 (10th)

The Bills are near the top of the league in scoring on offense and defense — and scoring differential — and also are productive in the turnover department. Their 13 takeaways rank second in the league and help compensate for a ninth-worst nine giveaways.

Bills reserves

Practice squad (16): DT Andrew Brown (94), CB Kyron Brown (32), QB Shane Buechele (6), DT Kameron Cline (96), OT Richard Gouraige (75), CB Ja’Marcus Ingram (46), WR Andy Isabella (87), OL Kevin Jarvis (63), RB Ty Johnson (26), OL Greg Mancz (62), CB Herb Miller (36), CB Josh Norman (29), WR Tyrell Shavers (80), WR Bryan Thompson (89), TE Joel Wilson (48), DT Kendal Vickers (93)

Injured reserve (6): TE Zach Davidson, OT Tommy Doyle, DT DaQuan Jones, LB Matt Milano, WR Justin Shorter, CB Tre’Davious White

Non-football injury (1): RB Nyheim Hines

The Bills have some prominent names on injured reserve, including three of their starting defenders. Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, linebacker Matt Milano and cornerback Tre’Davious White would, under normal circumstances, play prominent roles on that side of the ball. However, all three of them will be out not just for the game against New England but the rest of the season entirely.

Bills players to know

QB Josh Allen: A big reason for the Bills’ offensive success if, of course, quarterback Josh Allen. One of the best players in the league regardless of position, the 27-year-old is again among the most productive passers in football.

So far this year, he has completed 147 of 205 pass attempts for what would be a career-best completion percentage of 71.7 percent, while also gaining 1,576 yards and throwing 13 touchdowns. While his ball security can be on and off at times — not only has he thrown six interceptions so far, he also has fumbled twice — the good far outshines the occasional bad.

That is also true considering that Allen also is a powerful runner, and in fact the team’s most efficient ball-carrier on a yards-per-attempt basis. He is averaging 6.0 yards on his 22 rushing attempts for a total of 131 yards. He also leads the team with three touchdowns.

Allen is dealing with a shoulder ailment and was forced to sit out a pair of snaps in Week 6 against the New York Giants, but his availability for Sunday should not be in question.

WR Stefon Diggs: Little has changed for the Bills in regards to who their most dangerous skill position player on offense is: it’s Pro Bowler Stefon Diggs. The 29-year-old is leading the team in receptions (49), yards (620) and touchdowns (5) again this season, and is one of the best wide receivers in football.

The Patriots have seen this first-hand ever since Diggs arrived in Buffalo in 2020. In six games against New England, he has caught 40 passes for 568 yards and six touchdowns.

WR Gabe Davis: While Diggs naturally commands most of the attention on offense, the team’s No. 2 is no slouch either. In fact, his 16.2 yards per reception is the best mark on the team and 12th-highest among all pass catchers in the NFL so far in 2023. In total, Davis has been on the receiving end of 21 of Josh Allen’s throws for a combined 341 yards and four scores.

DT Ed Oliver: The Bills’ pass rush is as potent as any in the NFL, and it all starts up front where Ed Oliver is a menace from he interior. His sack total (4.0) might not be impressive per se, but he is leading the team with 20 total quarterback pressures and his presence helps open up things elsewhere.

In addition, Oliver also is a handful in the run game. The Patriots’ interior offensive line — a unit that has had its fair share of issues so far in 2023 — needs to be on its A-game if it wants to prevent the former first-round draft pick from making the impact he is capable of.

ED Leonard Floyd and ED Gregory Rousseau: The Bills are reintegrating Von Miller into the mix, but so far Leonard Floyd and Gregory Rousseau have been the one-two punch on the edge. The two combine for 9.5 sacks and 33 total disruptions among them. Together with Miller, A.J. Epenesa and Shaq Lawson they lead one of the strongest edge rotations in the game.

LB Terrel Bernard: With Matt Milano on injured reserve, Bernard is the Bills’ new No. 1 at the off-ball linebacker position. The second-year man out of Baylor leads the team with 365 defensive snaps (96.6%) and has been a difference-maker on the second level: he is first on the club in fumble recoveries (2) and interceptions (2).

S Micah Hyde and S Jordan Poyer: When you talk about the Bills secondary you have to talk about one of the best safety tandems in the NFL. While both Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer are getting up there in age, they still are valuable and reliable members of one of the NFL’s best defenses.