On Super Wildcard Weekend, we have a match-up of division rivals. As the New England Patriots are traveling to Buffalo to take on the Bills. These two teams played against each other twice during the regular season, splitting the match-ups. On December 6th, New England defeated Buffalo, 14-10 and in their second match-up on December 26th, the Bills won, 33-21.
It was hard to take anything away from the first match-up as the game was played in unusual weather. It was 36 degrees in Buffalo that night with wind gust upwards of 40 miles per hour. The Patriots were able to win this game behind a great rushing attack and good defense. New England's quarterback, Mac Jones, completed two out of three passes for 19 yards. You read that correctly, Jones only completed two passes and the Patriots still won the game. The Josh McDaniel directed offense, ran for 222 yards on way to their victory.
The second match-up was played in more typical weather conditions and the Bills came away with the victory behind a marvelous performance from quarterback, Josh Allen. Allen completed 30 of his 47 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns along with rushing for 64 yards. Mac Jones had to pass the ball more in this game and went 14 of 32 for 145 yards and two interceptions.
The two previous match-ups between these teams couldn't have been any more different. So what are the keys to each team winning this playoff game ?
Keys to Victory for the Buffalo Bills
Photo via Buffalo Rumblings
Keeping Up with The Joneses
The Buffalo Bills defense has to stuff the box and make it Mac Jones' responsibility to push the ball down the field. Jones has not been trending in the right direction over his last five games as he completed 60% of his passes, throwing six touchdowns and five interceptions while averaging only 190.2 passing yards per game. The Patriots were 2-3 over that span. Bills should make Jones prove that he can lead this offense to points.
Let Him Wear His Cape
Josh Allen is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and the Bills have to let him be that. In the second match-up Allen threw and ran the ball a lot more than in the first match-up, which put New England's defense in a compromising position. If Allen is the primary source of offense both passing and rushing it opens up big time plays for both the pass catchers and other running backs.
The Buffalo Bills were penalized the sixth most in the NFL during the regular season and if this lapse in discipline shows its ugly head in the playoffs. The Bills might find themselves eliminated quickly.
Keys to Victory for the New England Patriots
Photo courtesy of Boston.com
Creativity in the Run Game
In the first game between these two teams, New England, was able to win running the ball more than 90% of time. Now of course, they will not be able to replicate this but if they come to this match-up with different run packages that allow them to run it 60% of the time, it will give them a great chance to keep Josh Allen, Stephon Diggs and company off of the field. New England averaged 30 rushing attempts in their wins compared to 22 rushing attempts in their losses.
Make the Bills' Running Backs, Run
The Bills best running back is their quarterback. Josh Allen averaged 58 rushing yards per game over the last four games of the regular season and the Bills won the last fours games. If Allen is a major part of the run game, it gives Buffalo's offense a more versatile look that it is very difficult to stop. The Patriots are famous for taking away the opposing offense's best weapon. Allen's running ability is what makes the Bills' offense dynamic.
Run DMC is a legendary rap group and one of their hits is, "It's Tricky". The Patriots best chance to win this game is to channel their inner Reverend Run and be tricky. Josh McDaniels better be in the lab drawing up some good trick plays. New England may need to pull out the flea flicker along with the double reverse into the deep pass downfield. There will be some shenanigans in this one.
This will be a game played at a high level because both teams are very well coached but the difference will be that talent level. The Patriots are not lacking in talent especially on the defensive end but they don't have the difference makers that the Bills have. In the playoffs, it pays to have a Josh Allen and Stephon Diggs. Buffalo will defeat New England, 28-17.