AFC East lead on line when Patriots, Bills meet
Quarterback Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills will be looking to avenge their Week 13 loss and retake control of the AFC East when they visit the rival New England Patriots in a crucial divisional matchup Sunday at Foxborough, Mass.
Buffalo (8-6) came up short in a 14-10 loss to New England on a snowy and windy night on Dec. 6 at Orchard Park, N.Y. But following the Bills’ 31-14 win over Carolina, and New England’s 27-17 loss at Indianapolis last weekend, the division is back in play this Sunday.
A win over the Patriots would return the Bills to the top of the AFC East standings entering the final two weeks of the regular season. A victory would give Buffalo a superior division record over New England.
“We know what’s at stake,” Allen said. “We’re not trying to make it the biggest game, but it is because it is the next (one). … Every game from here on out is a playoff game. The type of (playoff) atmosphere (is) gonna be there.”
Buffalo will be without prominent wide receiver Cole Beasley, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier this week. Beasley wrote in an Instagram post on Tuesday that he was “feeling fine with mild symptoms.”
“Just to be clear Covid is not keeping me out of this game,” wrote Beasley, who has been an outspoken critic of COVID-19 vaccines. “The rules are.”
Said Allen: “He’s one of our best players. Whether he was vaccinated or not and caught it, he’d still be out, so that’s kind of my stance on that.”
Buffalo added tight end Quintin Morris on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday, raising the team’s current total to eight players, with three of those from the practice squad.
Wideout Emmanuel Sanders is a question mark for Sunday as he was limited at Wednesday’s practice with a knee injury. Running back Taiwan Jones (knee) did not practice while safety Micah Hyde (back) and defensive end Jerry Hughes (neck) were limited.
New England (9-5) will look to bounce back from its first loss in over two months after a setback against the Colts ended the team’s seven-game winning streak. The post-bye week loss dropped the Patriots to the No. 2 seed in the AFC, behind the Kansas City Chiefs.
Even after emerging with a hard-fought win three weeks ago at Buffalo, the Patriots know they can’t take the Bills lightly.
“One thing that’s evident is that the Bills are really good at a lot of things, and they don’t have a lot of weaknesses,” rookie quarterback Mac Jones said. “It will be a great battle for us on Sunday.”
Jones attempted a franchise-low three passes — completing two for 19 yards — in the Patriots’ win over the Bills. Against Indianapolis, the rookie went 26 of 45 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions.
Meanwhile, the Patriots are preparing to face a confident Allen after he turned in one of his best games as a pro during last season’s trip to New England. Allen torched the Patriots’ defense for 320 yards and four TDs on 27-of-36 passing in Buffalo’s 38-9 rout last Dec. 28.
“He’s really hard to stop. He does a good job at everything,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “He’s the guy that makes them go and he’s become one of the top quarterbacks in the league.”
New England could be down a couple of key offensive players as wide receiver Nelson Agholor (concussion) and rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson (illness) both missed Wednesday’s practice.
No. 1 running back Damien Harris (hamstring), center David Andrews (shoulder) and safety Adrian Phillips (knee) were among nine Patriots players listed as limited.
–Field Level Media