Final Patriots vs. Bills Preview and Prediction: Josh Allen and Mac Jones will have very different expectations in this matchup

In this New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills preview, we examine key areas of the game before making a prediction as to how it will go.

As we look to preview and make a prediction for the third New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills matchup of the season, we need to look back at how the first two were won to help us. Let’s examine the areas this Patriots vs. Bills game could be won and lost before looking at the current NFL odds and making a prediction for how things may turn out.

New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills Preview

There are several elements that will determine the outcome of this Patriots vs. Bills game. Yet, there are some key areas where this game will be won and lost, as we saw in the previous matchups between the two teams.

Mac Jones is going to be the key to this game for New England

Given all the talented players on both sides of the ball, it could be the Patriots’ rookie QB who decides this game. If you look back at the two games this season, the one where the weather neutralized Jones’ impact was the one the Patriots won. In the second game, it was Jones’ mistakes and failure to extend drives in the first half that put the Patriots behind and had them playing catch-up.

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When the Patriots did have success, it was largely on the back of Damien Harris and the run game. In an ideal setting for New England, they would control the game on the ground with Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson. However, the Bills’ run defense has been extremely strong for stretches this season. If the Patriots cannot get Harris and Stevenson biting off chunk yardage early, the pressure will all transfer to Jones. That is a tough spot for a rookie to be in.

Sustaining drives and wearing out the opponent will be a big part of the game plan for both teams

The pressure will really be on for New England and Jones when it comes to third downs. The Bills defense is the best in the league at preventing third-down conversions at 30.8%. The Patriots themselves are a top-10 offense converting on third down, but the pressure will be increased. That is because the Bills have the third-best third-down offense in the league at 46.4%. With Buffalo expected to sustain long drives of their own, it is crucial the Patriots do so.

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Many NFL teams rely on a quick-strike offense that can move the ball down the field at devastating speed. These two teams are not like that. Both rank inside the top 10 this year in terms of plays and time per drive. That is why the pressure will be on the offense to sustain drives when they have the ball. Wear down the opposing defense while giving your own defense time to rest.

This game is expected to go right down to the final five minutes

It seems unlikely this game will get completely out of hand — even the 33-21 victory for the Bills was 26-21 with three minutes left in the game. If the Patriots’ defense made a stop, they could have given their offense a chance to win the game.

That is what this Bills vs. Patriots preview essentially boils down to. Can either defense make a couple of quick stops and push the load onto the opposing defense? We saw last week against Miami how the Dolphins failed to wear the Patriots down. Meanwhile, New England continued to lean on their rushing attack and got themselves back into the game as the Dolphins’ defense tired.

Making the most of red-zone opportunities will be key with two good red-zone defenses

Converting in the red zone is always key in an NFL game. But when you have two top-10 defenses in terms of preventing touchdowns in those situations, it becomes even more vital. The contrast in this game is especially interesting.

With a touchdown rate of 47.9%, the Patriots are the second-best red-zone defense in the league. They have allowed just 23 touchdowns on 48 attempts. Accordingly, they are the second-best team in terms of points per drive at 1.56. Meanwhile, Buffalo’s defense is the sixth-best, allowing 23 touchdowns on 45 attempts.

Offensively, the Bills are the seventh-best unit (62.3%), while the Patriots are 11th at 61.9%. While the red zone will be important, so will be just getting into scoring positions. These two teams are the best when it comes to points per drive. That means that not only are they good inside the red zone, but they prevent opponents even getting into a position to kick field goals.

This game is going to be a good old-fashioned arm wrestle between two superb defenses. Leaving points on the table, or giving up a big play that lets the opponent into field-goal range will be crucial. It is hard to imagine this game not coming down to the final five minutes. The situation is perfectly made for a team to need to drive down to win it or for the other team to sustain a drive to close the game out.

Patriots vs. Bills betting odds and game prediction

  • Spread: Bills -4 (Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
  • Moneyline: Patriots +170; Bills -200
  • Total: 44

While the running backs for the Bills and Patriots will be crucial in this game, this preview really boils down to the QB who can make the fewest errors. The difference is the expectations of each of them.

Jones will simply be asked not to lose the game. The Patriots will feel like their defense and run game will win it for them if Jones can play a clean game.

In contrast, Allen will likely be asked to take this game on his back and win it for Buffalo. The defense will give him every chance, but Allen is going to be expected to produce magic. He put together a comprehensive performance in their second meeting this year and dragged the team to the win. And he’ll have to do it again.

A lopsided victory seems unlikely

In terms of a prediction for this game, close feels like the best answer. Of course, we might see the situation we saw in Week 16, where the leading teams put the game beyond reach with a late score. But this does not feel like a blowout. An interesting stat to consider is that there have been six playoff games played below 10 degrees this century, and the underdog is 4-1-1 against the spread.

The spread really does feel close to spot on with this game. Sean McDermott is a good enough coach to neutralize the Bill Belichick factor. Both defenses are superb and basically cancel each other out.

Then, we look to the offense, and the Bills just have more X-factors. Buffalo to win a close game, but New England to cover the spread — as long as it remains above 3 points — feels like the right play here.

Patriots vs. Bills Prediction: Bills 23, Patriots 20

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