Quarterback Josh Allen (17) and the Bills crushed the New England Patriots, 47-17, in their last meeting – an AFC wild-card playoff game on Jan. 15 in Buffalo. AP Photo/Joshua Bessex

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Here we go again.

It wasn’t too long ago that the Buffalo Bills were one of the laughingstocks of the NFL. It wasn’t long ago where the Bills looked like an easy win on the New England Patriots’ schedule. Well, a lot has changed.

The Patriots head into Thursday night’s matchup as underdogs against Buffalo (8-3). Although the Patriots hold a 77-47-1 record against the Bills, Buffalo has won four of the last five matchups. The Patriots’ only win in that stretch is the game last season where gale force winds helped slow the Bills down.

That last matchup was a tough one to watch as the Patriots lost 47-17 in the playoffs.

For the Patriots, a lot is riding on this matchup. At 6-5, they’re currently outside of the playoff standings. FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction model gives them a 36% chance of making the playoffs. A win pushes that up to 59% while a loss drops it to 24%.

Here are three keys to a Patriots victory:



As you may know, Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense have not punted in their last two games against the Patriots’ defense. The biggest key to victory on Thursday is for the Patriots’ defense to force turnovers. It’s imperative if they want to beat Allen and the Bills.

This season, all three of the Bills’ losses have come in games where they lost the turnover battle. The Bills had four turnovers in their loss to Minnesota, two in their loss to the New York Jets and had the only turnover in their loss to Miami.

The Bills’ offense is second in the league in yards per game (415.9) and points per game (28.1). They’re third in pass yards per game (279.2) and eighth in rushing yards per game (136.7). This is a really, really talented offense. Allen is near the top of most quarterbacking categories – second in yards, second in touchdowns. However, he is also tied for the NFL lead in interceptions (11).

The Bills are tied for the second-most giveaways in the NFL (11 interceptions and eight fumbles) The Patriots need to add to that total.



Do you really think the Patriots have a chance at winning if they settle for field goals?

The Patriots’ offense has scored touchdowns in just 38.71% of its red-zone trips. That’s 31st in the NFL. Over the last three games, the offense is scoring touchdowns in just 14.29% of its red zone trips. That is dead last. The Houston Texans are 31st at 30%.

So yeah, it’s been really bad of late.

The Patriots’ offense has to do two main things to help beat the Bills on Thursday – don’t turn the ball over and score touchdowns. That’s how you upset a team with a great offense.

The Bills are 19th in pass defense (221.6 yards per game) and seventh in run defense (105.6 yards per game). The Bills’ defense is second in the NFL in interceptions (13). Their 20 takeaways are tied for the second most in the NFL.

Mac Jones is coming off his third-straight game without an interception. That’s a career high. He needs to extend that streak. That’s as important as the Patriots’ offense taking advantage of their opportunities.



The Bills’ offense is great. Their defense is also really talented. If the Patriots want to win, they need to dominate another area of the game – time of possession.

The best weapon against Allen is to keep him off the field. One way to do this is to establish the run and put together lengthy, clock-killing drives. The Patriots won’t have Damien Harris (thigh) in this game, so we’ll see a heavy dose of Rhamondre Stevenson.

This year, the Bills have allowed 928 rushing yards to running backs. That’s the 10th-best mark in the NFL. When the Bills lost to the Jets in Week 9, they allowed a season-high 174 yards rushing. The Patriots should try to replicate that performance.

This is a tough matchup, so the Pats need to win the battle at the line of scrimmage. It should help that center David Andrews is ready to return after missing last week’s game with a thigh injury.

It won’t be easy though. The Patriots need a lot to go right to upset Buffalo.

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