1 - Bill Belichick: Bills are a different team
Buffalo’s roster has made tremendous growth throughout the 2018 campaign, and the team’s Week 8 loss to the Patriots can perhaps be identified as the turning point of the season.
In the seven weeks leading up to the primetime matchup, the Bills’ offense lacked an identity, and it was stagnant as a result. Buffalo, which entered the divisional contest with a record of 2-5, had totaled just 1,638 net yards through their first seven games.
Though the Bills came out on the losing end of their Week 8 contest with the Pats, the game seemingly served as a wake-up call, breathing new life into Buffalo’s season. In the six weeks since the 25-6 loss, the Bills have totaled 2,137 net yards.
Consistently strong outings from young playmakers have fueled Buffalo’s offensive uptick. Since returning from an elbow injury in Week 12, Josh Allen has emerged as one of the league’s brightest young quarterbacks. Robert Foster and Isaiah McKenzie, neither of whom were on the Bills’ roster the last time they met the Patriots, have carved out roles for themselves over the past several games, combining for 660 yards and four touchdowns since Week 10.
The Bills of today bear little resemblance to the team that took to the field in Week 8. New England head coach Bill Belichick, who will be tasked with defending the likes of Allen, Foster, and McKenzie this week, has noticed Buffalo’s offensive evolution.
“It’s been a few weeks since we’ve seen Buffalo, but this is a lot different team than we saw up there,” Belichick said. “Offensively, they’ve got a lot of explosive weapons. We didn’t see [Josh] Allen. He’s been impressive; [Robert] Foster. They have a lot of big plays. The receivers have done a good job.
“They’re very well-coached and they have a good scheme. They play hard, they play well and they make you earn everything.
2 – ‘Zo thinks win over Pats would show ‘growth’
The sky is seemingly falling in Foxborough, MA.
It’s late December, and the Patriots have yet to wrap up the AFC East. The usually dominant Pats, who have appeared in the Super Bowl in three out of the past four years, have yet to clinch a playoff spot. New England currently finds itself on its second two-game skid of the season, and a loss to Buffalo this Sunday would result in the team’s first three-game losing streak since 2002.
Though the Patriots have struggled in the recent weeks, Bills head coach Sean McDermott will not underestimate the reigning AFC Champions.
“They’re the team that’s won multiple Super Bowls,” the sophomore sideline boss said.
Though New England has dropped three out of its last five games, its roster is still one of the best in all of football, according to Buffalo linebacker Lorenzo Alexander.
“They still have Tom Brady. They’re still an elite football team. They still have a great head coach,” Alexander said. “I know this week, they’re going to make sure they fine tune all those little mistakes that they’re not known for making. We’re going to have to go out there and play four quarters.”
Alexander feels as though a win over the division rival would be massive for Buffalo’s young core.
“They’ve been the standard of our division for the last 15 years,” Alexander said. “They’re in the division chase. For us to go up there and be able to beat them would be huge for our city, for our team and organization.
“It would show a lot of growth for a young football team, to be able to go into their place and find a way to win.”
3 - Bills’ defense preventing explosive plays
Though they’re incredibly exciting to watch as a fan, there are few things that defenses hate more than chunk plays.
Allowing offenses to quickly move down the field can perhaps best be described as a nightmare scenario for defenses. Chunk plays cause the momentum to sway in the offense’s favor while the defense is left trying to catch their breath.
Buffalo’s defense, however, has been incredibly effective at preventing chunk plays throughout the 2018 season. According to ESPN, the Bills have given up just 61 explosive plays this season, the 12th fewest total in the league.
ESPN classifies “explosive plays” as rushes that go for 15 or more yards or receptions that go for 20 or more yards.
Consistently preventing big plays has allowed Buffalo’s defense to be as successful as it has been this season. The Bills currently rank second in total defense, allowing an average of just 292.2 yards per game. Buffalo’s passing defense is currently the league’s best, as the unit has allowed a total of just 2,624 yards through the air this season.