Sean McDermott and the Buffalo Bills are not overlooking their Week 17 matchup against the New England Patriots, despite the Patriots only winning four games so far this season and the Bills being a 12-point favorite.
"They're a good football team," McDermott said before Wednesday's walk-through. "As I've said before, the NFL is up for grabs every week. Records do not matter … they played a good football team in Denver and beat them. So I think they're playing good football, they're well-coached as we all know and we have a lot of respect for what they've done here."
As the Bills ride a three-game win streak that has launched them back into playoff contention, their upcoming matchup against the Patriots is a reminder of a time earlier this season when their future felt cloudy and uncertain.
With a chance to play spoiler, quarterback Josh Allen thinks that the Patriots will be motivated to put a damper on the positive vibes that have returned to One Bills Drive as of late.
"The fact that we lost game one, I think, tells these guys, we gotta put our best stuff out on the field or we're not going to win," Allen said. "And, frankly, it's a game that we need to win and they know that, we know that.
"If I'm in the New England Patriots locker room, I'm looking to ruin their season. An opponent's playoff hopes are on the line, division rival, so they're going to be ready to go, I can guarantee you that."
With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, the crowded race for a spot in the playoffs has thinned out but is still red hot as eight teams are still in contention for a Wild Card berth. The Bills, currently the six seed, have a chance at winning the AFC East for the fourth consecutive season, but they will need some help.
If the Baltimore Ravens defeat the Miami Dolphins Sunday and the Bills win over the Patriots, the Week 18 Bills-Dolphins game will be for the division. Even if Miami beats Baltimore, if Buffalo wins their next two games, they will punch their ticket to the postseason.
The Bills have other paths into the playoffs, and could even clinch next week, but hosting a playoff game would greatly benefit a team that is 6-1 in games played in Highmark Stadium this season.
While Bills fans and reporters alike are spamming the New York Times Playoff Simulator trying to nail down each and every playoff-clinching scenario, Allen and the rest of the Bills are locked in on ending their regular season home schedule with a win.
"What we have to control is what's in front of us, and that's the New England Patriots on Sunday and that's our best way to get into the playoffs: win this game and win the next one. We can't win the next one without winning this one, we gotta focus on this one," Allen said.
The Patriots are fresh off an upset win over the Denver Broncos in which their defense and special teams shined, forcing a turnover-on-downs at their own 2-yard line to open the game and returning a fumble for a touchdown late in the third quarter.
"Their defense is playing at a very high level," Allen said. "They have guys that are smart, that can play multiple positions. They're rushing the passer very well right now."
The New England pass rush got to Russell Wilson five times and their defensive front held the Broncos to just 83 yards on the ground. Defensive tackle Christian Barmore led the Patriots with three sacks.
"It starts with their interior, not only eating up blocks but keeping gap integrity," said center Mitch Morse. "I think they do a phenomenal job of keeping gap integrity, understanding how offensive linemen are trying to play them not only before the game, but during the game."
Quarterback Bailey Zappe, who took over as the starter for Mac Jones in Week 13, completed over 75 percent of his passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns. Nickel corner Taron Johnson said that Zappe's ability to make good decisions under duress has led to a revitalized New England offense.
"He has really good control over his offense, not turning the ball over as much and making good decisions with the ball," Johnson said Wednesday. "And I feel like that's what you need in a good quarterback."
Linebacker Terrel Bernard (ankle), defensive end A.J. Epenesa (rib), safety Damar Hamlin (shoulder), safety Micah Hyde (neck stinger) and running back Ty Johnson (shoulder) were listed as limited for Wednesday's walk-through.
Defensive end Leonard Floyd (wrist/rib/rest) and Von Miller (vet rest) did not participate.
The NOAA's National Weather Service recently renewed the Buffalo Bills and Highmark Stadium's StormReady Designation for "improving the timeliness and effectiveness of hazardous weather warnings for the public through a diligent and proactive approach of increased communication and preparedness."
The designation helps the Bills provide a safter environment and be better prepared for severe weather events, and was achieved through adopting guidelines such as developing severe weather safety plans and conducting safety trainings.
"The Buffalo Bills are honored to achieve and maintain the StormReady status through NWS and we are always reviewing our operational and emergency plans to ensure our stadium and facilities are as safe as possible for our valued fans, team and staff," said Andy Major, Vice President of Operations and Guest Experiences at the Buffalo Bills.