Image Credit: © Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
It may not be what Bills Fans want to hear, but this week’s opponent shares many similarities to the Buffalo Bills. They’re the top two defenses in the league, allowing 15.8 and 16.5 points per game. The Pats have a slight edge there.
Offensively, both teams are in the top ten in scoring. Just 1.6 points per game separate the two, with the Bills ranking second and the Pats ranking seventh. That’s where the similarities start to fade.
There were four quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Mac Jones was the last one off the board yet has soared past his fellow rookie quarterbacks thanks to an accurate arm and wise decision-making.
Conversely, Josh Allen uses athleticism and a howitzer of an arm to generate big plays. Jones will meticulously work his way down the field, which Allen can do too, but Buffalo’s QB can do much more, both with his arm and legs.
Bill Belichick’s (Belicheat?) defense is thriving at stopping the pass, boosted by a lethal pass-rush led by Matthew Judon, who’s enjoying a career year. The Bills have been even better than the Pats have been at limiting their opponents’ passing attack, but with Tre’Davious White now sidelined with a torn ACL, we could see the secondary begin to slip in some areas. Luckily, the Patriots don’t have a true No. 1 receiver.
The story this week is the same as many others. The Bills can win as long as Josh Allen limits mistakes while continuing to move the chains. If the Bills turn the ball over more than twice, the Patriots will likely win. Belichick is 173-18 when the Patriots have a positive turnover differential.
Buffalo Bills Week 13 game details, where to watch
- Monday, December 6, 2021
- Start time: 8:15 PM ET
- TV channel - ESPN
- Location - Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York
© Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
What happened last time the Bills played the New England Patriots?
We can hope for a similar outcome, but I can guarantee New England’s QBs won’t combine for just 56 passing yards once again. Mac Jones is already more proficient than Jarrett Stidham, or Cam Newton was for the Patriots last season.
What intrigues me from this game is how picture-perfect Josh Allen was. Keep in mind this game was played in December in New England.
Josh Allen’s stats: 27-of-36, 320 passing yards, 4 TD, 35 rushing yards
If Stefon Diggs can dominate the way he did last season, going off for 145 yards and three touchdowns, the Bills can regain the AFC East division lead for good.
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Matchups to watch
- Josh Allen vs. Mac Jones
Mac Jones ranks third among all NFL passers this season with a 70.3% completion rate. He’s currently on pace to break Dak Prescott’s rookie record for best completion percentage in a player’s first season. We all remember Josh Allen’s rookie year when he completed just 52.8% of his passes. It’s time to admit, this Mac Jones kid’s legit.
Still, he’s more of a game-manager who is asked not to do too much in hopes of keeping the game close yet winnable. Allen is the opposite. He’s reckless with a purpose. Sure, there’s a higher tendency to make mistakes, but you’ll never catch Jones making a throw such as this.
That’s what makes Allen so captivating. Everyone in the NFL seeks a franchise quarterback who can make all the throws. Allen also has the added capability of being uber-athletic, which is where the NFL is headed. But it’s also hard to ignore a quarterback who can dissect a defense with accuracy as Jones can. They’re entirely different players, but you can win with both.
Maybe I’m biased, maybe I’m a Bills Fan, but I’ll take the fun fireworks of Josh Allen over the safe, conservative approach from Mac Jones any day of the week.
- Stefon Diggs vs. Patriots secondary
Josh Allen will have to be extra careful when targeting Stefon Diggs downfield, as the Patriots defense leads the NFL with 19 interceptions this season. Cornerback J.C. Jackson already has seven after picking off nine passes last year. It’s no fluke. Jackson is elite. He also leads the NFL with 16 pass deflections.
Diggs won’t have an easy day being shadowed by Jackson, but Diggs can succeed against this secondary, as we witnessed last season. In fact, Diggs and Jackson are likely good pals as they both played for the Maryland Terrapins for a bit in college. They were also overlooked coming into the league. Diggs was a 5th round pick, and Jackson was undrafted. Now, both players are elite and among the very best at their respective positions. Grab your popcorn. This should be a heated battle on Monday Night Football.
- Bills OL vs. Matthew Judon
One significant difference when comparing the Pats D from last season to this year is the improved efficiency of their pass rush. In 2020, the Patriots ranked 26th in the NFL, averaging 1.5 sacks per game. This year, they rank 9th in the NFL, averaging 2.5 sacks per game. (Buffalo ranks 24th)
The biggest reason for their elevated play is due to the signing of Matthew Judon and the drafting of Christian Barmore out of Alabama. Judon ranks third in the NFL with 11.5 sacks. Prior to last week, Barmore ranked second among all rookie defenders in pressures generated according to Pro Football Focus.
Judon typically lines up at the top of the screen at the outside linebacker or edge position. This means he will routinely go up against left tackle Dion Dawkins. By the way, Dawkins has been a brick wall as of late. According to PFF, Dawkins ranks as the second-best pass blocker in the entire NFL since Week 6.
It appears Dawkins is hitting his stride at the perfect time with Judon coming to town. It should be another great matchup, but it’s one I don’t have as much confidence in.
© Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Buffalo Bills Week 13 game prediction
- Last season’s record: Buffalo Bills 13-3, reached AFC Conference Championship
- New England Patriots 7-9, third place in AFC East
Maybe I’m a homer, but I just don’t buy that the Patriots are already destined to take back the division crown from the Bills Mafia.
Playing at home, Vegas oddsmakers have the Bills favored by three points for now.
Mac Jones, while efficient so far, will inevitably make more rookie mistakes. There will be a game where the Patriots find themselves in a shootout where their offense simply cannot keep up in the scoring column. A lack of playmakers on offense will eventually rear its head.
The Bills just took it to a technically-sound defensive unit last week against the Saints, and while they were missing players due to injury, it wasn’t even competitive. The Rumbling Herd knows they need to continue building momentum and be at their very best right now.
A Monday night primetime showing can help boost their confidence before taking on Tampa Tom's Buccaneers. But it all starts with taking down Belichick one more time first. It would be a 2-0 sweep over the rivals that have irritated us for the past two decades. If completed, the Bills would no doubt be seen as heavy AFC favorites once again.
Game prediction: 21-20 Bills victory
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