It's possible that the Patriots' next post-testing up next year: the Bills in Buffalo will be their hardest test thus far: the Bills in Buffalo
FOXBOROUGH The Patriots have passed every test after starting the season 2-4.
They racked up 50 points against the lowly Jets, outdued the Chargers in Los Angeles, took care of business against the Panthers, stomped the Browns, shut out the Falcons on Thursday Night Football, and paused the injury-riddled, previously conference-leading Titans.
They've picked off six straight victories, going up to the No. 2 seed in the AFC. Their chances of progressing to the postseason are 91 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight, a projection that had dropped to 21 percent in Week 7.
However, there's a nationally televised clash against the Buffalo Bills, which will heavily influence what's in store for the Patriots in January, in which it's a nationally televised game on Monday night against the Buffalo Bills.
According to FiveThirtyEight, the 8-4 Patriots have a 45 percent chance of winning the AFC East. If they beat the Bills, those chances rise to 78 percent, but they fall to 21 percent.
The likelihood that the Patriots win the conference's No. 1 seed rises and falls in a comparable style. They currently have a 21 percent chance of winning the top seed, which comes with a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. If they win Monday, their chances rise to 42 percent. If they lose, they drop to 7 percent.
In other words, it's a lot riding on Monday's game.
Coach Bill Belichick stated, "We knew it. When the time comes out, it's always tough in New York, Miami, Buffalo; division games on the road are always challenging."
According to BetOnline, The Bills sprung as 3-point favorites, but there are many reasons for the Patriots to be confident: they head into Buffalo as the NFL's top team.
The Patriots have averaged the highest points per game (35.2) and the lowest points allowed (10.5) in the league, as well as the NFLs highest turnover differential over that span (+13).
The Patriots have scored 50 percent of their drives and held opponents scoreless on 27 percent during the season, both league highs.
So, what patterns has Belichick noticed since Week 7?
I think each game has its own set of dynamics, he said. Field position in the kicking game, that's always a good thing, too. Each game is a little bit different.
New England prepares for the final stretch of the regular season, with many key players off the injury report, as well as something numerous of their previous opponents have forgotten: good health. After and to season-ending injuries, New England will face a disappointing start of the regular season.
Starting right tackle Trent Brown missed eight games with a calf injury, but was activated off injured reserve and returned in Week 10. His presence has further strengthened the offensive line, which has drastically improved pass protection following a rough start.
Other absences have occurred, including running back Damien Harris' concussion and punt returner Gunner Olszewski. Linebacker Dont'a Hightower (elbow, ankle) was inactive during the Week 7 win over the Jets, tight end Jonnu Smith (shoulder) didn't suit up against Cleveland, and the offensive line dealt with two starters on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
However, the Patriots are already at full strength ahead of three crucial games: their forthcoming bye week will allow additional time to deal bleak maladies.
The Bills, on the other hand, will finish the year without cornerback TreDavious White, who tore an ACL on Thursday. White was the only player this season to be the nearest defender on at least 50 targets and not surrender a passing touchdown, according to NextGenStats. White's loss will undoubtedly leave a void in Buffalo's defense, which has allowed the most of the league's passing yards.
Buffalo is expected to get back significant pieces of the offensive line ahead of Monday's game, with starting left guard Jon Feliciano (calf) eligible to return off injured reserve and starting right tackle Spencer Brown eligible to be activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list. Starting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei may also return off the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Those three players would be crucial additions to the Bills, who have gone 3-3 in their last six games, including a loss to the Jaguars.
Despite this, Buffalo sits among the NFL's top five in yards per game (389.3) and opponents' average yards (275.2).
Buffalo's a great team, Belichick added, We have a lot of respect for Buffalo, what they've accomplished, and what they are, how they play. We're going to have to play our best game, we know that.
Regardless of what the statistics say and who is available, both teams are well aware of what is at stake.
Belichick stated, "We'll be ready to go."
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