The Game Matchups Preview series is dedicated to breaking down how the Buffalo Bills match up with their opponent in each game of the 2022 NFL Season. This series will look at five key matchups; Bills Pass Offense vs. Opponent Pass Defense, Bills Rush Offense vs. Opponent Rush Defense, Bills Pass Defense vs. Opponent Pass Offense, Bills Rush Defense vs. Opponent Rush Offense, and Bills Special Teams vs. Opponent Special Teams. This entire analysis will conclude with three sections; “Why Buffalo Will Lose”, “Why Buffalo Will Win”, and a score prediction for the game.
Below I present 2022’s 12th iteration of this analysis for the Bills’ Week 13 clash versus the New England Patriots. Included is a scale ranking the advantage in each matchup from 👏 (Minimal Advantage) to 👏👏👏👏👏 (Massive Advantage).
Bills Pass Offense vs. Patriots Pass Defense
300+ Yards, 3 Touchdowns, and 1 Turnover is a great game for most NFL Quarterbacks, but for Josh Allen it seems somewhat underwhelming. Allen’s performance against the Lions was impressive albeit still fraught with mistakes. Passes with a difficulty ranging from easy to intermediate still seemed difficult for a Quarterback who has seemingly made everything look simple for the past few years. But after another red zone interception, there is still plenty of things the Bills will need to clean up in order to compete for a Super Bowl this season. However, when you have a Quarterback that can throw the ball nearly 60 MPH and seems on the verge of regaining his otherworldly form, perfection is never a foregone conclusion. The Bills will look to achieve just that, again, against the Patriots in Foxboro h on Thursday night.
The Patriots seem set on preventing that perfection at all costs and have the talent to do so, via an overachieving defense. To date, they are holding opposing Quarterbacks to a Passer Rating of just 78.8 while snagging the 3rd most Interceptions (12) in the NFL. More impressively, they have accomplished this despite only Devin McCourty playing more than 70% of snaps in the secondary. Next to McCourty has been a rotation at Safety primarily manned by the hard-hitting Kyle Dugger, with both Adrian Phillips and Jabrill Peppers filling in in sub-packages. The result is a Safety foursome that is proficient against the run but has been deadly against the pass. On the outside, Jonathan Jones and Jalen Mills have each been reliable combining for 5 Interceptions while slowing down opposing pass catchers. They are often joined by nickel CB Jack Jones with Myles Bryant also seeing playing time. This large diverse stable is a perfect counter to the diverse skillsets of receivers – something Buffalo clearly utilizes.
Where New England takes the jump from an average to elite pass defense though is through their incredibly disruptive pass rush. They rank 2nd in the NFL with 37 sacks, have 12 players with 1.0+ sacks, and 3 players with 5.0+ sacks. Matt Judon is the clear headliner as a player in the DPOY discussion with his astounding 13.0 sacks.
Making Judon more dangerous this week is the possibility that Buffalo may be without their Pro Bowl Left Tackle Dion Dawkins. Making matters worse is that the Patriots’ other top pass rushers in Deatrich Wise and Josh Uche will likely give fits to the struggling Right Tackle of the Bills, Spencer Brown. This is all to say that there is a recipe here for the Patriots to win this matchup or at a minimum force Buffalo to bring in an extra blocker and/or rely on Josh Allen’s legs to win the game.
EDGE: Bills 👏👏👏
So just how fast did Josh Allen throw this football?
The ball traveled 45.1 Air Yards in 1.566 seconds. That means that Josh Allen threw this football ~58.91 MPH 🤯pic.twitter.com/6tRNqKvM4z
— Hänsel (@UberHansen) November 25, 2022
Bills Rush Offense vs. Patriots Rush Defense
Buffalo’s traditional running game seems to finally be coming alive, primarily driven by Motor Singletary. For just the 5th time in his career, Singletary eclipsed 70+ rushing yards in back-to-back games after a 72-yard performance against the Lions. Singletary’s ability to make defenders miss in the backfield has allowed Buffalo to mask deficiencies in run blocking and produce a successful complement to their potent pass offense. That ability has resulted in fewer touches for James Cook and Nyheim Hines as Buffalo tries to convert what is currently a small sample size into a consistent trend. Expect Singletary to continue and get the lion’s share of touches for Buffalo, with both homerun hitters in James Cooke and Nyheim Hines sprinkled in with hopes of hitting a big one.
Against the Patriots, game flow will likely dictate whether or not Singletary is capable of exceeding 70 rushing yards yet again. Coming into this game, the Patriots are giving up 4.2 Y/A and rank 9th in Rush Defense DVOA. They benefit from a unique defensive line with two behemoths in the middle in Davon Godchaux and Lawrence Guy. The loss of Christian Barmore was a huge one for New England but Godchaux and Guy’s ability to stop runners in the backfield, while keeping offensive linemen off their linebackers has proved important.
Their revamped linebacker group saw some changes this offseason, as the team shifted towards youth and speed. The result is the continued use of Ja’Whaun Bentley while Jahlani Tavai and Mack Wilson have taken the reigns from 2021 starter Dont’a Hightower. Those three will play an integral role in slowing down the few traditional runs plays that Buffalo executes on Thursday but an even larger role against Buffalo’s best runner.
That best runner is none other than Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Allen is running more this season than he did last year but is doing so more efficiently, as he leads the NFL with a 6.9 Y/A. Against this Patriots scheme, Allen tallied 130 rushing yards combined in their last two contests. Slowing this down will be a tall task for New England’s linebackers but not one they are incapable of accomplishing. Look for Buffalo to get Allen going early on the ground by targeting New England’s overzealous pass rush and forcing their linebackers to make plays in space. This worked to perfection last year as Buffalo often rushed Allen toward Matt Judon and his up-field rush. Buffalo surprisingly can win this matchup, not because of their RBs, but because of Allen, and may need to do so as a potent complement to their desired pass offense.
EDGE: Bills 👏
Bill Pass Defense vs. Patriots Pass Offense
Tre White made his long-awaited return against the Lions and on a pitch count, appearing for 16 snaps. As the season moves forward, White’s progression will play a major role in the success of the Bills. At full strength, the Bills’ secondary of Jordan Poyer, Damar Hamlin, Tre White, Kaiir Elam, and Taron Johnson is one of the better units in the league. Below full strength, there is cause for concern. Filling in for White in that group has been the much-maligned Dane Jackson, who though sticky in coverage, has a propensity for turning late on balls thrown his way. Opposing defenses have picked on him the past few weeks and that trend is not expected to change any time soon. Jackson will see the field this week but the assumption is that White will slowly eat into those, something Buffalo may need against New England.
This secondary is set to take on Mac Jones, who is coming off arguably his best outing as a pro. Last week against the Vikings, Jones went 28/39 for 382 yards and 2 touchdowns in a performance that for him, is a 2022 anomaly. In its entirety though, Jones is posting a paltry 37.59 QuBeR in his sophomore season. It’s not as though Jones is lacking weapons though as Jakobi Meyers, DeVante Parker, and Nelson Agholor make for a solid stable of diverse receivers. Meyers the possession guy, Parker the deep threat, and Agholor the quick midrange option give Jones his choice of which level to target. Add to that a Tight End in Hunter Henry who at his peak can be one of the premier players at the position and it leads to Jones simply needing to play better. Last week may be an indicator of what’s to come for Jones with a similar game needed this week to beat the Bills.
Buffalo will try to further prevent that by applying significant pressure – but without future Hall of Famer Von Miller. With Miller suffering what is believed to be a significant injury, Buffalo will need to rely even more on Greg Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa, assuming one or both come back from injury. Adding those two to a rotation that also includes Shaq Lawson and Boogie Basham will give Buffalo the horses to attack Mac Jones who hasn’t been exactly kept clean this season. In just 8 games Jones has been sacked 24 times which is a fairly substantial number for a Quarterback who, on average, releases the ball in 2.68 seconds. The Patriots’ gameplan will be to drop that time to release even further but if Buffalo can hop out to a big lead forcing Jones to enter a 5-step drop the ability to keep him clean could be the deciding factor in this game.
EDGE: Bills 👏👏👏
Bills Rush Defense vs. Patriots Rush Offense
Since giving up 5.88 Y/A against the Vikings the Buffalo Bills have held the Browns and Lions to a combined 3.26 Y/A. The Bills intentionally game-planned to slow down the run by depending heavily on Matt Milano (LB) and their Defensive Backs to make plays in the box, something they have excelled at the past two weeks. Even more impressively, Buffalo has accomplished this despite being without their Pro-Bowl MLB in Tremaine Edmunds. With Edmunds set to return against the Patriots on Thursday night, the defense projects to be even better, a possible catalyst to kick the Bills back into high gear during a critical stretch of the regular season.
Against the Patriots the Bills will likely key on the run with an eye on the pass. With Damien Harris still questionable to play, that likely shifts all of the focus onto second-year RB, Rhamondre Stevenson. 11 games into the season Stevenson has become the Patriots primary back in a system that historically is committee-based. He has produced a total of 1039 yards on 201 touches, with nearly a third of his yardage coming through the air. Though he measured poorly coming into the NFL (4.02 RAS), his size has translated well. He runs as a bruiser who looks to go through defenders instead of around him making him exceedingly dangerous if he is able to reach the second level. With the majority of his production coming between the tackles, look for Stevenson to test the ability of the Bills to make contact with RBs in the backfield, something their Defensive Line has been impressive at doing thus far in 2022.
That impressiveness most recently came in the form of a dominant performance from Ed Oliver. Against the Lions, Oliver was a disruptive presence – often creating havoc in the backfield, slowing the Lions’ ability to consistently move the ball on the ground. That was against two backup Guards though, and coming into this week against the Patriots, the thought was Oliver would see a backup center, but not so fast. Patriots Center David Andrews suffered what was feared to be a season-ending injury, but on Monday he announced he will play against Buffalo. This is a massive win for the Patriots who will need to rely specifically on their interior OL to win this game as the key point of attack for Stevenson. The Oliver vs. Andrews matchup will be one to key on during the entire game as like many other matchups this one could be decided by the play of these two players alone.
EDGE: Patriots 👏👏
Bills Special Teams vs. Patriots Special Teams
Tyler Bass’ streak of 104 consecutive successful XPs came to an end Thursday afternoon, something he quickly remedied with a 45-yard game-winning FG. Bass’ resume continues to be one of the more impressive ones in the NFL, allowing the Bills to treat him as an automatic weapon moving forward. As for Punter, Sam Martin had his first 4+ punt game of the season against the Lions but remains equally as reliable as Bass when he takes the field. Lastly, Nyheim Hines has taken over return duties in both PR and KR, where he has the ability to make game-altering plays when given the opportunity.
The Patriots have just as reliable a Kicker as the Bills do in the form of Nick Folk. Folk leads the league in Field Goals Attempted (28) and Field Goals Made (24) while being one of four remaining Kickers with a 100% XP rate. Punting is a little less reliable for the Patriots though with starter Jake Bailey being placed on Injured Reserve. The result is six-year vet Michael Palardy taking over Punting duties where he has produced a respectable 44.0 Gross Y/P and 40.0 Net Y/P so far. Lastly at return is rookie, Marcus Jones, who is getting more and more dangerous by the week. He scored the game-winning touchdown on an 84-yard PR against the Jets and at this point in the season has a 15.5 Y/PR and 25.7 Y/KR. He is a dangerous weapon for the Patriots who could be integral to the outcome of this game.
EDGE: Bills 👏
Why Buffalo Will Lose
The Patriots are playing good football right now, and in front of a home crowd, that means a lot. With Mac Jones coming off his best game of the season, Rhamondre Stevenson running like a true RB1, and David Andrews set to return the Patriots have the ability to put up points. Control the clock, control the momentum, and dink and dunk a Bills secondary that has struggled with slowing the short pass and you have a path for a win.
On defense, the Patriots get after the Quarterback and force them to make mistakes. This plays directly against the recent trend of Josh Allen, who has struggled to keep the ball in Buffalo’s hand. If the Patriots’ edge rushers can create pressure off the edge, which they should be able to do considering Buffalo’s tackle situation, those mistakes could become much larger. Force two or more turnovers from Buffalo, and there is no reason New England can’t with this game.
Why Buffalo Will Win
In the past couple of seasons, Bill Belichick has thrown everything he has at slowing down Josh Allen, and the only thing that has worked has been the weather. Allen has his way with New England’s current scheme and seems to elevate when playing against them. Yes, there are concerns with Allen’s turnovers but with New England lacking serious high-level talent, outside of Matt Judon, the mismatch Allen poses may be just too much. Oh yeah, and that WR1 for Buffalo, Stefon Diggs, has shredded even the best of the best CBs this season.
On defense, the Bills look like they are going to be healthier than they have been since Week #1 of the season. The loss of Von Miller is massive but Buffalo depends on a rotation on the Defensive Line, which should be able to minimize the loss at least for now. With Buffalo keying to stop the run, they are going to force Mac Jones to beat them. Can Jones deliver enough strikes to keep pace with the Bills’ offense? Or will Jordan Poyer do his best Micah Hyde impersonation at some point Thursday? I’d bet the latter.
Prediction: Bills 24 – Patriots 17
This game seems like it’s going to play very close and come down to yet another one-score game. The Patriots are playing well above expectations this season and as of late, the Bills are playing below. Still, you have to bet on talent to win games and there is an argument to be made that the Bills have 5 of the 6 most talented players in this game. This is the Bills’ 3rd game in 12 days, find a way to win this and get to a mini-bye before the final 5 games of the season.