Who would’ve thought that this week 16 game against the Buffalo Bills would have meant literally anything to the New England Patriots at the beginning of the season? Not me! But here we are, the Patriots have yet to clinch the AFC East this year, and this game doesn’t quite decide it as the Patriots hold the tie-breaker even with a split. But it does mean Week 17 would matter even more against the Miami Dolphins should they drop this game. Nobody wants that! So here’s what they’re going to have to do to win, here is the Week 16 Pats Preview!
Three Keys To The Game
Key #1 : Keep Harry Involved
Well, first round rookie reciever N’Keal Harry had a solid day on Sunday didn’t he? By solid I mean two catches for 15 yards and a touchdown (wasn’t out of bounds this time huh?”. While having two carries on jet sweeps for 22 yards. I’m really just happy we have him finally having a role in this offense instead of just being a decoy nobody falls for. If we can keep him in the game-plan and McDaniels can find more creative ways to get Harry the ball, we could see this offense finally become SOMEWHAT manageable.
Key #2 : Run Defense!
Joe Mixon absolutely SHREDDED the Pats defense last Sunday carrying the ball 25 times for 136 yards. The Patriots run defense has been probably their one biggest flaw all year. When they play elite running backs they just can’t seem to keep them contained. Devin Singletary has proven to be no slouch in his appearances for the Buffalo Bills this year. This has to be a game where they force QB Josh Allen to throw into this secondary, that picked off Andy Dalton four times last week, and make bad decisions with the ball.
Key #3 : Don’t Abuse Julian Edelman
This is not only a key to this game, it is a key to the rest of the season! Julian Edelman is OBVIOUSLY banged up. Whether it be his knee, ankle, shoulder or his ribs. He has taken an absolute BEATING this year and desperately needs some sort of break. I get that the Patriots need him this week, so he will play as much as possible. Though it would NOT be wise to throw a lot of passes that will lead to big hits his way, because I just don’t know if he can take that major hit without getting injured. Without Edelman, this offense is just flat and we need to save him for the games in the playoffs where you throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. Week 16 against the Buffalo Bills or Week 17 against the Dolphins isn’t the game to look Edelman’s way more than you have to.
X-Factor : Defensive Line
We already discussed how stopping the run game was going to be important to set up the secondary, and now with Jonathan Jones out for this game, they’re also going to need to apply pressure on the super mobile Josh Allen. There is some slack to be picked up by this unit this week, and they’re more than capable of doing so. Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy will look to play HUGE roles in stopping the run while DE’s Chase Winovich, Deatrich Wise and John Simon will all look to push into Allen’s face all game long. Not a simple task by any stretch, but doable, this defense held them to 10 points in week four. They should be capable of doing it again, right?
Yeah, this game has a lot more tension that I expected or wanted when I saw our schedule when it came out in the spring. By now I would think we had the division locked up far and away, and a first round bye come Week 16. We have NONE of those things. This year hasn’t gone as expected, for which fans thought a 16-0 season (19-0 even) was possible.
On paper this team looked like it was going to be absolute world beaters on the offense. Then pre-season came around and it was “Oh, Tom Brady is getting slammed and he has no receivers to throw to” all the while Brady’s abilities are slowly diminishing the more he plays. I never thought this team was going to be a 16-0 capable squad, even when they had that tool-bag Antonio Brown I wasn’t convinced. Now they’re so weak a team I didn’t even pick them to go to the Super Bowl on my livestream with Miles Hill on “Live From The Hammock”. Though I’m still not counting the Pats out. After Super Bowl 49, 51 and the entire season in 2018 how could you? I still wouldn’t put any major money on New England this year, even if I had to take a minute to ponder it.
Anyway getting back to the matter at hand, the Buffalo Bills are a GREAT team right now, there’s a reason they already have a playoff berth clinched. Though they are coming into New England, and the last time the Patriots lost a meaningful regular season game to a division opponent was in 2006 to Chad Pennington’s New York Jets (Thank you Tony Mazz!)
Coming off of a game where Tom Brady in particular had too many missed throws and the running game carried the air attack in Cincinatti, the Bills won’t make it any easier on them. I don’t expect the Patriots to lose. Though Buffalo is going to make it a close game. Their defense is really good and you can count on the offense to get at least one touchdown, especially with Jonathan Jones being out this week.
Final Score Prediction : 19-17, New England Patriots
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Photo Source : Elise Amendola / Associated Press