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Top 6 storylines to follow for Bills vs. Patriots | Wild Card Weekend

Ed Oliver (91). Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, December 26, 2021. Photo by Bill Wippert
Ed Oliver (91). Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, December 26, 2021. Photo by Bill Wippert

We made it to the postseason, Bills Mafia. The reward is a home playoff game against thou who shall not be named. It's a quick turnaround for the team as all eyes are on Saturday night.

Here are six storylines to follow before the No. 3 seed Buffalo Bills take on the No. 6 seed New England Patriots.

1. First playoff game against New England in the Super Bowl Era

The odds of playing a team three times in the same season are unlikely. So unlikely that the last time the Bills played New England in the playoffs was before the Super Bowl Era, and they weren't even called the New England Patriots.

The Buffalo Bills played the Boston Patriots in their lone playoff matchup on Dec. 28, 1963. The Patriots beat the Bills 26-8. Buffalo's only score in that game was a 93-yard touchdown in the third quarter. It's been almost 60 years since these two teams met up in the postseason. The Patriots lead the series against the Bills with a record of 77-46-1, but Buffalo has won three of the last four.

Even though they are a familiar opponent, Bills head coach Sean McDermott knows the Patriots ability to switch it up at any moment is unlike many other teams.

"They're incredible that way in how they can change things up and what Coach Belichick does to stay a step ahead," McDermott shared. "So we obviously have our work cut out for us. It's a short week in some regards here so we've got to get ourselves ready to go."

2. A home crowd on Wild Card Weekend

The sweetest thing about a home game for Wild Card Weekend is getting to play in front 70,000 passionate fans. Buffalo had a home playoff game last year, but it had a different feel due to the limited capacity because of Covid-19. The 6,700 fans who were in attendance definitely made their presence known but having more than 10 x that number sounds a lot better.

It'll be a special day for Bills Mafia and the team because it's their first home playoff game in front of a full stadium since 1996. Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier can't wait for atmosphere that Bills Mafia will provide.

"The noise that our fans are going to create, it's just going to be electric atmosphere," Frazier said. "We're really looking forward to it. It makes it hard on the opposing team. So we're going to try to do our best to give them something to cheer for. And just looking forward to seeing all our fans and the noise they're going to create."

3. Why the Bills and Patriots ended the season going in opposite directions

The Bills and the Patriots finished the 2021 regular season in very different ways. The Bills head into the playoffs riding a four-game win streak and the Patriots end the regular season winning just one of the last four games. Both teams faced two divisional opponents in the last four weeks, including each other, and the AFC East champs went 2-0, while the Patriots went 0-2.

Over the last four weeks, when you look at the two teams, it's easy to see the Patriots defense wasn't as strong as the Bills. Both offenses averaged around the same number of points per game, but the Patriots gave up a lot more points. Over that span, Buffalo's point differential was 60 and New England's was only nine.

In the last four contests, Buffalo's defense allowed 15 points per game (3rd) and 220.3 yards per game (1st). New England's defense allowed 25.75 points per game (21st) and 313.5 yards per game (12th). The Patriots also haven't been getting to the quarterback like the Bills defense. Buffalo had 19 sacks (1st) and 27 quarterback hits (tied for 3rd) and New England had just four sacks (tied for 29th) and nine quarterback hits (31st) over the last four weeks.

4. Bills defense's monstrous end to the season and how they fare vs. rookie QBs

The Buffalo Bills defense finished the regular season with a bang finishing the regular season as the NFL's best scoring defense (allow 17 ppg) and best total defense (272.8 ypg) . It's the first time in team history the Bills have finished the regular season as the number one scoring defense.

They also finished the regular season allowing the fewest passing yards per game (163), lowest completion percentage (56%), lowest passer rating (65.3) and the fewest passing touchdowns (12).

Now the Bills get to face a rookie quarterback Mac Jones in the first round of the playoffs. The defense has wrecked rookie quarterbacks this season when looking at the stats but rookie QBs have picked up two wins against Buffalo this season.

Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier says regardless of how many years of experience the opposing quarterback has, his defense has done a great job of adjusting and preparing for each quarterback.

"I don't know if it's as much about the fact that a guy's a rookie or as much of it is about our guys really having a good understanding of their opponent, and not just the quarterback position, but what the overall offense is trying to get accomplished," Frazier said. "That probably has much to do with our success as anything, just our guys putting in the time and the work to have great clarity about `What does this offense like? What do we have to take away?' And then going through it and getting it taken care of in practice and carrying it over to the ball game."

This season rookie QBs have completed just 48% of their passes, posted a passer rating of 39.5, averaged only 91.2 passing yards a game and totaled just one touchdown compared to six interceptions against the Bills defense in five games.

5. The identity of the Bills offense heading into the postseason

Buffalo's offense has found balance heading into the playoffs. In the last four games the Bills have averaged 159 rushing yards per game, which is the second-most in the NFL. Running back Devin Singletary has averaged 97 scrimmage yards a game and has six touchdowns over the last five weeks, which ties for the most by a running back over that span. The offense has averaged 378.8 yards per game (7th) and 30 points per game (6th) over their four-game win streak to end the regular season.

So, what will be the plan for the Bills offense heading into the playoffs? Stay balanced or lean on the best player on the team in Josh Allen?

Bills head coach Sean McDermott wants both.

"I would like to start by being fundamentally sound, taking care of the football," McDermott said. "We did a good job of taking care of the football yesterday (vs. Jets). And then again as I've said before, being a two-dimensional threat is the best type of threat you can be."

Two-dimensional is a great idea because they'll be facing one of the best defenses on Saturday night. The Patriots finished second in scoring defense (allow 17.82 ppg), fourth in total defense (allow 310.8 ypg), second in passing defense (allow 187.1 passing ypg), second in interceptions (23), second in completion percentage (allow 59.3% completion percentage) and second in passer rating (allow 73.3 passer rating).

6. Early weather report for Saturday

What did Bills legend Steve Tasker say? It might be chilly? He was right last year and he's right this year. It'll be frigid for an 8:15 pm ET kick on Saturday night. The high will be 14 degrees during the day and the low will be four degrees overnight. Winds are looking to be up to 10 miles per hour.

It doesn't look like we will have the crazy conditions from the last time we played the Patriots at Highmark Stadium, which is good news. The not so great news is that it'll be very cold so pack the extra layers, Bills Mafia.

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