It’s the Patriots and the Bills in the playoffs for the first time in decades. Normally for any Patriots game, I do the “3 Ways The Patriots Can Beat _______” but with this being the THIRD matchup with the Bills, I decided to switch it up a bit. An audible, if you will (pun intended). Instead of just general ways the Pats can win this Saturday, let’s get into the exact battles they need to win. So here’s the 3 key matchups for the Patriots going up against the Bills this weekend.
JC Jackson vs Stefon Diggs
Might as well start off with the most obvious one. While Diggs will be covered by multiple people Saturday night, Jackson will be on him the majority of the time. And while we all know how great Jackson is, one of his lone weaknesses seem to be Stefon Diggs. Last season, when JC was on Diggs, he allowed 10 catches on 16 targets for 172 yards and two scores. Not great! The last time the Bills and Pats played, Jackson only let up 4 catches to Diggs (he had 7 on the day), but it was more quality over quantity. With Jackson covering him, Stefon caught a TD, converted a 4th down and then a backbreaking 3rd and 10 on the final drive which led to a touchdown.
IF the Patriots are going to win in Buffalo this weekend, it’s crucial for Jackson to slow Diggs down when he gets the call. In games where the Pats hold Diggs to 80 yards or less, they’ve won each of those games. Jackson will be a vital cog in making that happen.
Jamie Collins vs Devin Singletary
If you watch the last matchup between these two teams, you likely got sick and tired of Josh Allen checking it down to Singletary for a quick 6-8 yards. Those types of plays are backbreakers for a defense. They keep drives going and force the D to stay on the field. That’s why there needs to be some sort of coverage on the Bills running backs at all times. While the Pats have a few backers who can get the job done, I think Collins athleticism makes him the best fit. He needs to work as almost a RB spy to try to take away that quick outlet for Allen. Too many times last game did it look like the Pats had the perfect coverage called, only for Singletary to get open and extend the drive. Can’t let that happen too much if New England wants to move on to the Divisional Round.
Josh McDaniels vs Himself
Josh McDaniels is his own worst enemy. He’ll have one game where he makes almost all the right calls, goes with what’s working and looks like the smartest man in the room. Then the next game, he runs goes 5-wide on 3rd and 1, gets obsessed with shotgun runs or seemingly forgets about how lethal the Jet Sweep has been this year. 1 step forward, 2 steps back. McDaniels needs to see what worked against this Bills team and go with that. I’m not saying run the ball 100 times, but it’s clear that when this team commits to it, they can run on almost anyone. With Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson both healthy going into this game, there’s no reason you shouldn’t put the load on them. At least to start the game. And when they run starts to work, that’s when you throw in some play action or misdirection.
The Bills defense is good, but the Patriots have shown that they know how to keep the pressure on them. Use the run to open up the pass. It’s that simple. The Boy Wonder doesn’t need to outthink himself with this one.
This game is too close to call. The fact that it’s going to be freezing cold with a high chance of snow acts as an equalizer. I don’t think we’ll see eye popping pass yards or anything like that. This strikes me as a game that will quickly turn into a rock fight with the toughest team coming out on top. It’s tough to beat any team twice in the NFL, but it’s also tough to beat Bill Belichick twice especially when that third game is in the playoffs. I’m going Patriots 17 – Bills 16. This one should be fun.
(Featured Photo Credit www.greeleytribune.net)
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Mike Sullivan (@msully5433 on Twitter)