Monday Night Football on ESPN presents a passing of the guards for AFC East primacy.
Buffalo clinched the AFC East title for the first time since 1995 with their 48-19 win Denver last Saturday as a 6-point favorite. The Bills have secured hosting the wildcard round of the AFC playoffs. They remain in control of their destiny to claim the second seed in the AFC playoffs if they win their remaining two games. The Steelers are a half-game ahead of the Bills after their victory over Indianapolis on Sunday. Yet Buffalo controls the first tie-breaker due to their 26-15 win over Pittsburgh on December 13th. Holding the second seed not only reserves the right to host the playoff game in the AFC divisional playoff round, but Buffalo would also host the AFC Championship Game if top-seed Kansas City got upset in the divisional round of the playoffs.
The Bills make a case of being the best team in the NFL given their performance since Week 7. Buffalo has won seven of their last eight games while averaging 31.4 points-per-game and 399.9 yards-per-game. They have outgained their opponents by +79 net points during this run. All those numbers are the second-best in the NFL over that span.
Josh Allen completed 28 of 40 passes against the Broncos last week for 359 yards with two touchdown passes and no interceptions. He added 33 yards with another two touchdowns on the ground. Allen will look to add on to his 4000 passing yards in this breakout season. He is completing 68.7% of his passes with 30 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. He has added 383 rushing yards on the ground with eight touchdowns.
New England will not be AFC East champions for just the second time in the last 17 seasons. This game does offer this proud franchise the rare opportunity to play the role of the spoiler. The Patriots lost the first meeting between these two teams on November 1st by a 24-21 score as a 4-point underdog in Buffalo. It has been nineteen seasons since a divisional opponent swept New England. The Patriots have not endured a losing season since 2000, which was Bill Belichick’s first year as a professional head coach.
With their 22-12 loss to Miami last week, New England is eliminated from the playoffs. Cam Newton completed 17 of 27 passes for 209 yards with 38 rushing yards. Newton has completed 65.9% of his passes this season for 2381 yards with five touchdown passes but ten interceptions. He has added 489 rushing yards with 11 touchdowns on the ground. Belichick has been coy about who he will tap for his starting quarterback in this game, with Newton possibly not returning to the team next season. Backup Jarett Stidham may get an opportunity to audition for the job next season. The former Auburn quarterback has completed 18 of 33 passes this season for a 54.5% completion percentage for 212 yards with two touchdown passes and three interceptions.
The Patriots added cornerback Stephon Gilmour to their Injured Reserve list this week with his quad injury. He is the seventh player either out for the season or on their Injured Reserve list. Tight end Jordan Thomas joined defensive tackle Isaiah Mack on their COVID list. Belichick has 21 players listed as questionable, including running back Damien Harris.
Buffalo tight end Reggie Gilliam is out with his knee and hamstring injuries. The Bills have two players on Injured Reserve. Offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe and safety Jaquan Johnson are questionable with injuries.
BetAnySports lists Buffalo as a 7-point road favorite with the total set at 46. Kickoff is shortly after 8:15 PM ET.