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5 things to know about the AFC playoff race and Bills-Pats this weekend

Posted Dec 1, 2017

John Murphy breaks down the AFC wild card race plus Kyle Williams' will reach a key milestone Sunday and former Bills great Cornelius Bennett will return to Orchard Park this week.

The home stretch is truly that for the 2017 Buffalo Bills. They’ve got three straight games at home starting with Sunday’s matchup against the Patriots. It’s the second consecutive year the Bills have played three in a row at home in December.

Here are some notes to keep an eye on this weekend as the Bills get set to host New England:

1. WATCH THE GAME—WATCH THE SCOREBOARD

What happens on the field in Orchard Park is paramount this Sunday for the Bills playoff chances. But while the Bills are busy, there are other games going on at the same time that might impact Buffalo’s playoff chances.

The Baltimore Ravens (6-5) host Detroit at 1 pm with Baltimore still sitting in the sixth and final AFC playoff spot, just ahead of Buffalo. The Jacksonville Jaguars sit in the fifth spot, and they’re home to Indianapolis at the same time. Tennessee plays Houston at 1 pm in Nashville Sunday. Right now, the Titans (7-4) are on top of the AFC South with a tiebreaker edge over Jacksonville (7-4), but obviously that could change, and the Bills might have to beat out Tennessee.

Later, the surging Los Angeles Chargers (5-6) are home against Cleveland. L.A. has won five of its last seven and Bills fans should root for the Chargers to charge to the top of the AFC West, since Buffalo has tiebreakers over the rest of that division (Kansas City (6-5), Oakland (5-6), and Denver (3-8)). The final game to keep an eye on this weekend will be Monday night when Cincinnati (5-6) will host Pittsburgh (9-2). 

2. A DECEMBER TO REMEMBER?

The Bills hope they’ll get through December with a playoff spot locked down. And having meaningful games in the month of December is the hope of fans all over the NFL, especially in Buffalo where playoff success has been elusive.

Last year, they lost two of their three home December games on their way to a 1-4 finish to the season. Three of their final five opponents this season, the Dolphins (twice) and the Colts have losing records. The Patriots are the one winning team left on Buffalo’s schedule, and they seem to have no problem winning in Orchard Park.

New England has won its’ last five games at New Era Field and they’re averaging 38.6 points/game in those five.

3. NOT SO FAST!

One of the best things the Bills might do to hang in there with New England Sunday is to force a punt or a turnover on the first drive of the game. The Patriots have averaged 36 points per game in their last three wins. All season long, they’ve had a knack for scoring on the first offensive drive of the half.

In each of their last five halves of football, New England has scored a touchdown on their opening possession. On those drives, Tom Brady has completed 18 of 21 passes with three touchdowns. He has the same number of touchdowns as he has incompletions on those opening drives.

This season, the Patriots have scored an NFL high 78 points on their first drive out of the locker room, first and second half combined.

4. MILESTONE GAME FOR KYLE WILLIAMS

When the Bills defense takes the field for the first time Sunday, give a nod to number 95. Kyle Williams will set a franchise record this week when he plays in his 163rd game as a Buffalo Bill. He’ll pass Fred Smerlas for the most games played by a defensive tackle in Bills history.

At age 34, in his 12th year, Williams has been remarkably durable and consistent in his NFL career. He’s missed just one game in the last two seasons, playing at a position that involves constant pounding and contact on every play. He’s one of the Bills all-time warriors.

5. BISCUIT’S BACK

Five-time Pro Bowl Linebacker Cornelius Bennett returns to Orchard Park this weekend as the “Leader of the Charge.” He’ll welcome Bills players onto the field just before kickoff Sunday by waving the Bills flag from a platform above the tunnel entrance to New Era Field.

Bennett played nine of his 14 seasons with the Bills and was considered the last piece of the puzzle in Buffalo’s construction of an AFC Championship team in the late 80s and early 90s.

Biscuit says he expects to have a lump in his throat when he brings the team out onto the field.

“Honestly I don’t know—I’m an emotional guy. I might tear up,” he said this week on The John Murphy Show. “Being that close to the action for a brief moment--it’s gonna be exciting. It’s going to be almost like my first time in Buffalo coming out for that game against Denver (November 8, 1987). I was emotional then, and I’m sure I’ll be emotional Sunday.”

“I won’t pretend that it doesn’t mean a lot to me,” Bennett continued. “Buffalo has always been special to me. I’ll always cherish wearing those colors and having an opportunity to represent them one more time.”