GAME PREDICTIONS

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NFL game predictions | Bills vs. Pats | Wild Card Weekend

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Taron Johnson (24) and Matt Milano (58). Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots, December 26, 2021 at Gillette Stadium. Photo by David Le

This is the third game featuring these two this season, with each winning on the other's field. New England won the first meeting in a wind storm in early December, while the Bills dominated the Pats at their place in late December. The weather is expected to be cold, but not that windy. That means Josh Allen can have success throwing the football. The Patriots haven't been the same team on the road, especially quarterback Mac Jones. Look for the Bills to take away the run and dare him to beat them. He won't. The Bills will be moving on.

Pick: Bills 30, Patriots 17

The recent trend lines are going the Bills' way. Buffalo's sneaky-good running attack -- sixth on the season in yards and yards per carry -- has gone to another level because Josh Allen is doing his best Cam Newton impression. The Patriots' defense has been undisciplined and lifeless up front for a month. Mac Jones is mad at himself and playing like a guy trying to be perfect.

I'm zigging here partly because it's 2021 and I need an upset this weekend, and partly because of Bill Belichick. Three matchups in seven weeks is outrageous and should favor the coaching staff that has its team ready to be flexible and creative. Look for guys like Rhamondre Stevenson and Kendrick Bourne to break tackles and start a new generation of random Patriots playoff heroes.

Pick: Pats 20-19

Line: Bills -4 | Total: 42.5

Round 3, anyone?

Every good fight needs a third installment, and this meeting between the Bills (11-6) and Patriots (10-7) could be similar to the first, in Week 13, when New England let Mac Jones attempt only three passes in its win over Buffalo. Forecasts in Orchard Park, N.Y., on Saturday call for temperatures that hover around 0 degrees and a 30 percent chance of snow, an outlook that again favors a heavy reliance on the running game.

The Bills' defense allowed league lows in yards and points in the regular season, but it has been susceptible to the run. In the teams' late-December meeting, a Buffalo win, the Bills forced Jones into a 14 of 32 passing performance with no touchdown throws and two interceptions. Assuming more of the offensive load in recent weeks, Jones has looked like the rookie he is, and trusting a first-year passer to overcome the spread, on the road, in the cold, against an ascending team isn't really a safe bet.

Pick: Bills -4

The Patriots and Bills also meet for a third time after each winning once in AFC East play. New England ran all over Buffalo the first time on the road, while Buffalo figured out how to win at Foxborough by diversifying the offense around Josh Allen. Expect a well-coached battle of defensive attrition between Bill Belichick and Sean McDermott. Mac Jones will get good support in his first playoff start, but he's still rookie while Allen is a youngster with favorable playoff experience.

Pick: Bills win 23-20 but fail to cover the spread.

MDS's take: The last time the Patriots went to Buffalo, they threw only three passes on their way to an improbable win. I can't see this game unfolding like that. The Bills' defense will be better prepared for the Patriots' offense, and Josh Allen will have a better game as well.

MDS's pick: Bills 28, Patriots 17.

Florio's take: Bill Belichick is the master of coming up with a game plan that takes away what the opponent's offense does best. But does he have the players to execute it? And will the Bills, faced with the reality of a long-time nemesis trying to spoil a playoff party, be able to rise to the occasion? Belichick has successfully embraced moments like this longer than Josh Allen has been alive.

Florio's pick: Patriots 20, Bills 19.

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