What to Watch For: Bills vs Patriots
Sunday, December 24, 2017
Joe Calabro, GoLocalWorcester Sports Team
|Tom Brady has thrown an interception in four straight games|
The Patriots enter the game with a record of 11-3, while the Bills have won two straight games, making them 8-6 on the year.
“Every single time we play the Bills they're always battling hard. They're always mentally tough. They're always physically tough and this will be a big game Sunday,” said Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski during his press conference on Friday.
“We're playing a big game. They're all big this time of year and as you keep moving on they get bigger. We're going to have to keep winning games. That's what we're out there for,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during his press conference on Friday.
Game time is set for 1 p.m.
The Patriots can clinch home field with a win and losses by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers.
New England can clinch a first-round bye with a win and a loss by either Jacksonville or Pittsburgh.
If the Patriots were to lose one of these next two games, Jacksonville could slide into one of the top two spots, assuming they win.
The Jaguars own the tiebreaker with both the Patriots and Pittsburgh.
The Bills are currently the 6-seed in the AFC playoffs, but even if they beat New England they could drop out if Baltimore beats the Colts.
Bills vs Patriots
The Patriots and Bills will meet for the 116th time on Sunday with the Patriots holding a 71-43-1 advantage in the series.
Earlier this year, the Patriots beat Buffalo 23-3 up in Buffalo in a game that featured Brady screaming at offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Gronkowski's cheap shot on Tre' Davious White.
Last season, the two teams split the season series with Buffalo winning 16-0 at Gillette Stadium and the Patriots winning 41-25 in Buffalo.
New England has won 30 of the last 35 games between the two teams, dating back to the 2000 season.
SEE WHAT TO WATCH FOR IN THE SLIDESHOW BELOW
Gronkowski vs White
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will be a focus of Tre’Davious White the Buffalo Bills defense this week following Gronkowski's cheap shot on White just a few weeks ago.
"I just want to go into Gillette and win. That'd be the biggest revenge of it all. For us to go in there in a tough environment and win would be a big deal," said White earlier this week.
When White was further pressed on getting revenge, he added, "If we go out there and try to do anything selfish or anything to hurt the team, we could cost ourselves a playoff spot or cost us one of our main players by going out there and doing something stupid. We're going to put that on the backburner and just focus on winning."
During his Friday press conference, Gronkowski added, "I've just been preparing all week, just like any other week. Preparing for a big game on Sunday with the team, with the boys and just going to be ready for a hard-fought battle. Every single time we play the Bills they're always battling hard. They're always mentally tough. They're always physically tough and this will be a big game Sunday."
Gronkowski has dominated Buffalo in his career, hauling in 61 passes for 960 yards and 11 touchdowns.
In the last game against the Bills this season, Gronkowski had nine catches for 147 yards.
The Patriots will need to have a better performance on third down, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
On defense, the Patriots are one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to stopping opponents on third down.
According to NFL stats, the Patriots give up third down conversions 41% of the time, 9th worst in the NFL.
On offense, the Patriots convert third downs 42% of the time, which is 10th best in the NFL.
However, over the last two games, the Patriots are just 3 for 20 on third down.
New England went 0 for 11 against Miami and 3 for 9 against Pittsburgh.
Tom Brady has thrown an interception in four straight games for the first time since the 2013 season.
In his last three games, Brady has four interceptions and just two touchdown passes.
While Brady was not listed on the Patriots Friday injury report, he has appeared on the report in the past with an Achilles injury. During games, he can also be seen looking at his hand after taking a hit.
Brady has been hit 77 times so far this season.
The New England Patriots have the worst rushing defense in the NFL when it comes to yards per carry.
Led by LeSean McCoy, the Buffalo Bills enter Sunday's game with the sixth-best rushing attack in the NFL.
In the last game against Buffalo, McCoy had 93 yards rushing on just 15 attempts.
McCoy has rushed for 1057 yards and six touchdowns so far this year. He just went over 10,000 career rushing yards in the Bills last game.
"He's really good. Great feet, great vision, extremely hard to tackle in the open field. A lot times it's hard to get two hands on him in the open field. I think in their offense they do a good job of if you just open a small crack he'll see it," said Patriots safety Devin McCourty during his press conference on Wednesday.
Running back Rex Burkhead has been ruled out with a knee injury that he suffered last week meaning Mike Gilislee will likely make a return to the Patriots lineup.
Gillislee has not played for the Patriots since week eight against the Chargers having fallen behind Dion Lewis, Burkhead, and James White in the depth chart.
"I haven't been dressing, but I have been getting my reps so I don't feel like I've lost anything," Gillislee said when he met with the media on Friday.
On the season, Gillislee has 98 carries for 355 yards and four touchdowns.