After each taking a loss in Week 14, the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots both righted their ships and bounced back with much-needed wins in Week 15.
For the Buffalo Bills, their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers was particularly important, not only for them but for the entire landscape of the wild card race in the AFC. Had the Steelers won – and for a while there it was looking like a possibility– the Bills would have been 9-5 and the Steelers 9-5 and Pittsburgh would get the nod due to the head-to-head win. Suddenly it would have been a 4-way wild card race between the Steelers, Bills, and Titans – or possibly the Texans, instead of those three teams just battling it out for the privilege of playing Buffalo in the AFC wild-card round, the Bills would have been fighting for their postseason hopes well.
The Patriots lost back to back games in weeks 13 and 14 to the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs. This has cast a large shadow of doubt against the New England Patriots and their realistic chances of navigating the playoffs successfully. The Ravens, Texans, and Chiefs have all shown that they know the formula for defeating Bill Belichick and his merry men.
Now, the two AFC East powerhouses will collide and the Bills will be trying to stay ahead of the Texans, Steelers, and Titans so that no matter what they get that spot. On the flip side of the coin, the Pats will be trying to hold off the Bills from tying their record and going evens on the season’s head to heads. Both teams have relatively easy division games to end the season, especially the Pats who will face the Miami Dolphins.
These two teams met on September 29th when the then seemingly unstoppable Patriots went into Ralph Wilson Stadium and handed the Buffalo Bills their second loss of the season. Still, the Buffalo Bills managed to keep the game close enough to cover the Vegas lines that we saw at the odds and to hold a Patriots offense that was scoring 30 points per game through the first half of the season to just 16.
The New England Patriots defense was smothering and ball-hawking. The took Josh Allens for three interceptions and when Matt Barkley went into the game, well … he got picked too. On the other side of the field Tom Brady didn’t have much luck either, he threw for just 150 yards and an interception. So, no QB could get a touchdown through the air against either of these elite secondaries. The Pats only managed one offensive TD. Luckily they were able to score off stealing the ball away. The Bills only scored on TD offensively as well and it was Josh Allen punching one in on the ground. Both offenses really had a rough time being effective and the defenses we the showcase of the afternoon.
So, now we have two offenses that have been struggling but two phenomenal defenses colliding in Week 16. What will be the outcome? Will we see a similar showing between these two or will the Foxboro factor tilt this one in favor of the Patriots who are listed as 6.5-point favorites.
The Here and Now
The Patriots offense still outranks the Bills Josh Allens led production. The Pats are averaging 26 points per game as we head into Week 16 while the Bills put up 21. On the road, the Bills are slightly better, scoring 23 per game. The Pats, have slipped a smidge at home, falling to 25.67 in Foxboro.
Tom still gets it done in New England, though. He’s out gun slinging Allen by roughly 30 yards per game. 266 to 238. But the Bills are 35 more yards per game than the past (home vs. away) on the ground, 127.33 to 92.50.
Here is where it gets really interesting. Despite the few losses, the Patriots still have the NO. 1 defense in the league. They average just 12.92 per game slipping by them. They have the No. 2 total passing defense, the No. 4 total run defense. They are No. 3 for time on the field, and No. 1 at yards per play allowed. In short, they are still a defense that can break any offense.
But the Bills have come up and now own the No. 2 defense in total score at a 16 and change. They hare No. 3 in passing yards. They fall to No. 14 at stopping the run and No. 11 at time on the field but are a tough, No. 4 in yards per play allowed.
So, we might see an even less productive offensive game out of both teams. If the score breaks into the 20s by either team, it will probably be the result of turnovers such as a pick-six or a forced fumble in the red zone.
Look for an intense game division rivalry game in Week 16.