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What they're saying | National analysts handicap Bills vs. Pats in the Wild Card Round

Tommy Sweeney (89), Dawson Knox (88) Celebrating AFC East Division Championship. Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets at Highmark Stadium, January 9, 2022.
Tommy Sweeney (89), Dawson Knox (88) Celebrating AFC East Division Championship. Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets at Highmark Stadium, January 9, 2022.

Here's what the national media has to say about the Bills heading into Super Wild Card weekend.

Matchups to watch for the Bills in Wild Card Weekend

(3) Buffalo Bills - 11-6

Super Bowl odds: +750

FPI chance to make Super Bowl: 23%

Reason for hope: Quarterback Josh Allen took a step back in some areas this season, throwing a league-high 12 interceptions after Week 8. And although they were not always his fault, Allen absorbed contact on 24.6% of his plays, the fourth-highest rate in the NFL. Still, Allen remains one of a handful of players in the field who can take over a playoff game, whether it be with his arm strength or running ability. And this season, the Bills relied on him more than ever. He set a career high in rushing yards and attempts. The Bills are the Josh Allen show, and that's not a terrible place to be.

Reason for concern: While they had two signature wins this season -- in Week 5 over the Chiefs and in Week 16 over the Patriots -- the Bills largely feasted this season on inferior quarterbacks. If anything, as pointed out, they underperformed based on their schedule this season. Six of their victories came against teams that were using a backup quarterback; and against the five best quarterbacks they faced in 2021, the Bills went 2-3. It stands to reason that you're much more likely to face the latter than the former in the playoffs. In other words, the Bills won the AFC East and they will host a home playoff game without us really understanding how good they are (or aren't).

X factor: Micah Hyde, S. Throughout his nine-year career, Hyde has been one of those players who is always around the ball. Those instincts paid off in 2021 as much as they ever have. He intercepted a career-high five passes, returning one of them for a touchdown, and tied a career high with two fumble recoveries. In a close playoff game, Hyde's ball hawking could be crucial.

First-game outlook: vs. Patriots (8:15 p.m. ET Saturday, Jan. 15, on CBS). The Bills and Patriots had a weird season series. The Patriots won on a windy night in Buffalo after asking quarterback Mac Jones to throw only three passes, while the Bills trounced the Patriots on the road in Week 16. In either case, the Bills were not hurt at all by Jones and the Patriots' passing offense this season.

What's to like and not to like with Bills' Wild Card matchup

(3) Buffalo Bills 11-6

Next opponent: New England Patriots (No. 6)

When: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. ET (CBS, Paramount+)

What's to like: The Bills have quietly impressed over the past few weeks, going back to a loss to Tampa Bay. They trailed by 21 at halftime of that game, then rallied before losing in overtime. Buffalo has won four straight since that point. The obvious key is Pro Bowl quarterback Josh Allen. When he's hot, he looks like he can carry this team all the way to the Super Bowl. The Bills have given him more support on the ground of late -- they've had over 100 rushing yards in each game during that win streak, including 170 against the Jets on Sunday -- and the defense remains a top-three unit. Oh, the Bills also still remember the sting of losing in last year's AFC title game.

What's not to like: Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll can lean too much on Allen at times and ignore the run. That often works against lesser opponents, but Allen can get reckless when he tries to do too much. The defense had looked soft in losses to more physical teams -- like the Colts, Titans and Patriots -- but Buffalo changed that perception with a convincing win over New England in their rematch. The Bills also finished the year without Pro Bowl cornerback Tre'Davious White, who was lost to a season-ending knee injury.

Bottom line: The Bills have endured their ups and downs but they're rounding into form. They've already beaten the Patriots in a rematch. They'll take them again in this game.

Bills vs Pats Wild Card Prediction

AFC: No. 3 Buffalo Bills vs. No. 6 New England Patriots

The Bills and Patriots split their season series. Barring swirling winds and snowfall, Buffalo has the advantage because of its explosive third-ranked scoring offense.

In Week 16, Buffalo poked holes in New England's stingy No. 1-ranked scoring defense, racking up 33 points and 428 yards at Gillette Stadium. Quarterback Josh Allen threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns, and the Bills rushed for 114 yards plus a score.

Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones has performed at an efficient level, throwing for 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, but he's not a high-volume passer equipped to match Allen and the Bills' high-powered offense.

Allen has thrown for two touchdowns and three interceptions in his last two games against the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets, which raises some concerns, but he'll break out of his funk against the Patriots, who yielded 5.7 yards per play in the previous matchup between these teams. Allen can use his legs to lure an extra defender in the box or challenge the Patriots' 22nd-ranked run defense. Either way, Buffalo will move the ball and come away with the victory. Prediction: Bills 28, Patriots 21

Wild Card Power Rankings

#4. Buffalo Bills

Record: 11-6

Wild-card opponent: NE Patriots

It's all about getting hot at the right time, and they enter having won four straight. Better yet, they've actually found a ground game to complement Josh Allen, who will be determined to build off his 2020 playoff run.

One reason the Bills will win in Wild Card Weekend

The Bills will win if … their defense has its way. The Buffalo defense is nasty and has thrived at times this season. Even with losing Tre'Davious White at cornerback, the Bills ended up second in the NFL in passing defense efficiency. If their defense can disrupt the Patriots' passing attack and take away options from Mac Jones, the Bills can gain the upper hand.

Just like the other good teams in the playoffs, the path for the Bills is multiple, but their defense offers their best ticket to victory.

The pick: The team with the better QB wins. That's Buffalo.

Cam Lewis gets recognition for special teams play

Special Teams Player of the Week: Cam Lewis, cornerback, Buffalo.

How sweet must it have been for Lewis, who played college ball a few miles away for the Buffalo Bulls, to smother a punt in the AFC East-clinching game for the Buffalo Bills? Lewis broke through the line to smother a Jets punt in the first quarter, and it was recovered by his teammate Jaquan Johnson at the New York 35. It was the first blocked punt by a Bill since Jerry Hughes did it against Seattle on Nov. 7, 2016.

Can the Patriots get past the Bills?

Maurice Jones Drew: No

"You're gonna have to score points against the Buffalo Bills," Jones-Drew said. "And then the biggest concern, and I know the question that you want to ask was how far can the Patriots go? But the question is can you get past the Buffalo Bills? I don't think so. Right now, I know Mac Jones is played well in spurts. But listen, that defense got after him in New England, and it's tough to cover all these wide receivers that they have playing. Right now, the Bills are finding a way to win games. They were struggling early on, and they got their rhythm back and Josh Allen's doing a great job of spreading that ball around.

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