NFL Game of the Week: Patriots vs. Bills

Story posted December 2, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Grant Sheets

On March 17, 2020, Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. set the football world in flames and announced his departure from the New England Patriots. Three days later, he agreed to terms with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, freeing the city of Buffalo from a twenty-year cycle of biannual torment with a singular contract.

In essence, this move would catapult a young Josh Allen-led Bills team into prime position to turn the tides and dominate the AFC East for years to come, putting the Patriots’ dynasty to rest once and for all.

Right?

With a dominant 13-3 campaign in 2020 for Buffalo--compared to the 7-9 record of New England in the first season of the post-Tom Brady era--this storyline seemed all too realistic.

Just one year later, it appears that the division’s throne is being returned to its rightful owner.

Coming off their sixth consecutive victory, Bill Belichick’s Patriots are atop the AFC East at 8-4 and are in prime position to chase the coveted No.1 seed.

However, the 7-4 Buffalo Bills trail the division leaders by just one game and are looking to hit full stride after a statement win on Thanksgiving.

On Monday night, in what feels like a classic “student versus master” battle, the Bills take on the Patriots at home for the rights to first place in the AFC East.

Inside the Patriots’ Six-Game Win Streak and Buffalo’s Roller Coaster Season

Anytime a team has a rookie signal-caller, immediate results are not typically expected. It’s been a whole different story for New England’s Mac Jones.

Jones hasn’t put up jaw-dropping numbers, but he’s done precisely what is expected of a Patriot quarterback: win football games. In doing so, he has taken tremendous care of the football as of late.

Over the last six games, Jones has only been intercepted twice. He has steadily improved since the Patriots’ 2-4 start, in which he tossed six picks.

The New England defense has been a brick wall to opposing offenses, providing a cushion for Jones to play on. During the win streak, the Patriots have only allowed upwards of 13 points in one outing.

Behind a steady offense and an elite defense, Belichick’s handcrafted roster is hitting on all cylinders.

For a stretch of games this season, Buffalo was home to both the top-scoring offense and defense, appearing to be the only true contender from the AFC East.

A Week five loss to Tennessee ignited a slate of streaky performances for Josh Allen and the Bills, including a loss to the lowly Jaguars and a blowout defeat to the Colts.

Buffalo’s gunslinger has been disappointing at times this year, especially after a breakout season that launched him into preseason MVP conversations. In each of their four losses, Allen has turned the ball over at least once.

Even in a 31-6 annihilation of the New Orleans Saints on Thanksgiving, he was far from perfect. A pair of interceptions did not hinder the Bills on this occasion, but better teams will take advantage of his mistakes.

What to Expect

The outcome of this game is going to be reliant on which team makes the least mistakes and controls the tempo of the game. Both teams sport ferocious defenses, as well as offensive units that take advantage of turnovers from the opposition.

Given that the Patriots are undefeated on the road in 2021, Buffalo will have their hands full on their home turf.

On a bright stage like this one, it’s never smart to bet against a Belichick-coached team, who will construct a game plan that simplifies the game for his rookie quarterback. Look for Jones to get the ball into his weapons’ hands early and often, while relying on the defense to create more offensive opportunities.

Prediction: Patriots 29, Bills 23

Grant Sheets is a first-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at gcs5231@psu.edu.