ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots are squaring off for the third time in less than two months. Each team has one win against the other during the regular season, but as we all know, the postseason is a whole different ball game. The winner of this weekend's game will move onto the Divisional round against an opponent yet to be determined.
Our 7 Sports team shares their final predictions ahead of Saturday's game.
Has this week dragged on for anyone else? I can't imagine if this game was on Sunday, let alone Monday.
For the third time in 40 days, these teams will go against each other in quite possibly their biggest matchup ever. That's not even hyperbole. This will be the first playoff matchup between the Bills and Patriots since the AFL days. And quite frankly, this is awesome.
During my lifetime, the Bills haven't had a bonafide rival. In the 90s, the Bills and Dolphins' hatred for each other was fierce but that's cooled off over the years. As for the Patriots, sure, Bills fans love to root against the Pats, but it hasn't been a rivalry because it's been so one-sided. I don't think Patriots fans ever hated the Bills. But that has changed.
Now that the games are more competitive and these two teams are meeting in the playoffs, it feels like the necessary fuel has been added to the fire. Maybe this is just the start of a feud that can last for years to come. That sounds fun to me.
As for the matchup Saturday evening, these teams are pretty even, but they have very different approaches. The Bills rely on their star quarterback, while the Patriots lean on their rushing attack. Both defenses are great but have areas where they can be exploited.
So, who wins this game and keeps their Super Bowl hopes alive? I think as Josh Allen said, "it'll be a 12-round slugfest" and the home team throws the final punch. The Bills haven't won a one-possession game all season and I think that changes Saturday.
Bills: 24, Patriots: 21
Season record: 12-5
Safety Jordan Poyer said it best earlier this week. You can't ask for a better situation or a better game to play in than two Division rivals playing for a spot to advance in the postseason.
When it comes to Wildcard Weekend, the Bills have won one of three wildcard matchups under head coach Sean McDermott. The Patriots have won two of four wildcard matchups under head coach Bill Belichick, but this will be his FIRST wildcard game played on the road. The forecast? Single digits in front of the loudest and proudest fan base in the NFL.
Home field advantage is huge for the Bills, but we've also seen them lose a few games in Orchard Park this season so nothing is a given. This will come down to execution, capitalizing on your opponents mistakes, controlling the line of scrimmage, and making QB Mac Jones extremely uncomfortable.
Weather will undoubtedly play a factor because it's not everyday these two teams play in single-digit temperatures. Wind isn't expected to play as big a factor as it did in that first meeting back on December 6th, which bodes well for the Bills who went into Foxborough in decent weather conditions and earned a win. But the Bills didn't run away with that game and it really came down to the final few drives to determine a winner. I expect that to be the same scenario this weekend, especially with so much on the line.
The difference, I believe, will come down to QB play and who can lead this team when it matters most. Josh Allen has that experience, and he's a more versatile player than the rookie he's going up against. Despite the Bills track record of losing close games, I think this one goes in their favor. And I expect the Bills defense to come up clutch late, just like they have so many times this season.
Bills: 24, Patriots: 20
Season record: 13-4
The regular season was a tale of two games for the Bills and the Patriots; both teams stole a win on the road. Buffalo benefited from a fairer forecast in New England, while the windy battle in Orchard Park saw the Pats expose the Bills' run defense time and time again.
In the last month, though, the two teams have trended in opposite directions. The Bills' win in Foxborough was a part of a four-game win streak, while the Patriots dropped three of their last four to fall from the AFC's top seed all the way to the sixth seed.
But the Bills have said it all week: each game is a one-week season now.
One way or another, the Bills have to force Mac Jones to throw the ball. When he actually had a significant number of dropbacks, Buffalo managed to intercept him twice. All four Patriots touchdowns against the Bills this season were scored by Damien Harris. If he can't go, I bet the Patriots would look to Brandon Bolden or Rhamondre Stevenson before they lean heavily on Mac Jones.
As last year's playoffs ran their course, it became clearer and clearer just how important blue-chip quarterbacks are. The last four standing were Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers. Allen's hands are great hands to be in. And at the end of the day, he'll prove that in the Bills' most pivotal Patriots game in franchise history.
Bills: 26, Patriots: 24
Season Record: 12-5