New England improved to 11-3 with the win over the Bengals and could clinch an 11th straight divisional title if it avoids defeat against the Bills on Saturday.
Defeating the Bills would give the Patriots a first-round bye, as long as the Kansas City Chiefs lose to the Chicago Bears on Sunday Night Football.
Buffalo also won on the road, defeating the Steelers 17-10 in Pittsburgh on Sunday to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2017 and winning at least 10 regular season games for the first time since 1999.
The Bills would draw level with the Patriots at 11-4 with a win in Foxborough, erasing the tiebreaker New England currently holds and ensuring the divisional title will be decided in Week 17 when the Patriots travel to Miami and Buffalo hosts the New York Jets.
While winning the division would be a bonus, returning to the postseason after just a one-year absence is already significant for a franchise that missed the playoffs for 17 straight seasons between 2000 and 2016.
“I think we’ve moved that needle drastically since we’ve got here and in the entire building,” Bills coach Sean McDermott was quoted as saying by ESPN on Sunday. “It’s been a long time since this organization has been in a position like this, this late in the season, and we don’t take it lightly.”
McDermott has taken the Bills to the playoffs twice since arriving in Buffalo in 2017 and is the bookmakers’ pick to be named Coach of the Year this season.
According to BetOnline, McDermott is a 7/4 favorite to scoop the award, with San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh following at 11/4 and 3/1 respectively.
Much as been the case for the Patriots, the Bills’ success this season has been built on a rock-solid defense.
Buffalo ranks third in total defense and second in scoring defense, allowing 291.9 yards and 15.9 points per game, while New England ranks first in both categories with 268.4 yards and 12.9 points per game.
The Patriots’ spluttering offense has repeatedly been put under the microscope this season and Tom Brady is well aware of the challenges awaiting New England on Saturday.
“It’s going to be as tough an offensive challenge as any team that we play,” the six-time Super Bowl winner said on Tuesday on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show.
“They make plays, sack the quarterback. They have a great scheme, put a lot of pressure on your protection systems. […] They have great guys in the secondary who have all played together, a lot of continuity. We have to have flawless execution. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Brady is 5-0 against the Bills since McDermott took over, but the record doesn’t accurately reflect his struggles. The veteran quarterback has thrown three touchdowns and five interceptions in those five meetings, with three picks in the last two games against the Bills.
“It’s been one of the best defenses in the league for a long time,” Brady added.
“They do a good job of covering. They do a good job of mixing things up.”
Here’s all you need to know ahead of Saturday.
When and where is the game?
The New England Patriots host the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Saturday, December 21.
Kick-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET.
The game will be nationally broadcast exclusively by NFL Network.
A live stream will be available via NFL Network online and on connected devices.
The Patriots snapped a two-game losing streak with a 34-13 win in Cincinnati to improve to 11-3 and clinch a postseason berth, while the Bills secured a playoff spot with a 17-10 win in Pittsburgh.
Sunday will be the 119th meeting between the two teams, with New England currently leading the all-time series with 74 wins to Buffalo’s 43.
The Patriots have won the last six against the Bills, including a 16-10 win in Buffalo in Week 4.
According to BetOnline, the Patriots are 6.5-point favorite and are 9/10 to cover the spread, while the Bills are a 23/10 underdog and the over/under line in terms of total points scored is set at 38.
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