- The Patriots and Bills face off on Saturday in Foxborough.
- The AFC East and key playoff positioning is at stake in Week 15’s biggest game.
- Here’s how Buffalo can pull off the upset.
There’s far more than a single football game at stake at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.
The New England Patriots will earn a remarkable 11th-straight AFC East title with a win. The Buffalo Bills, meanwhile, will keep dreams of the franchise’s first division crown since 1995 alive if they become the second team to embarrass New England at home this season.
Both teams have already clinched playoffs berths, but Saturday’s showdown will loom large to the postseason picture regardless. A victory will put the 11-3 Patriots one step closer to getting a first-round bye, a golden opportunity the 10-4 Bills are vying for, too.
How can Buffalo beat New England, further shaking up a top-heavy AFC playoff race?
1. The Bills Must Win Battles from the Slot
New England is hurting on defense. Standout slot cornerback Jonathan Jones was ruled out of Saturday’s contest earlier this week with a groin injury, and his most likely replacement, Jason McCourty, is currently listed as questionable while nursing a groin injury of his own.
The Patriots have proven time and again during the Bill Belichick era that their innovative schemes and commitment to execution defensively can easily compensate for lacking personnel. But Cole Beasley, Buffalo’s top receiving target, does the vast majority of his work out of the slot – where New England is suddenly most deficient.
It would be remiss to expect the Bills to move the ball consistently against football’s top-ranked defense. Josh Allen isn’t ready to beat elite competition with his arm alone, and the Patriots’ run defense ranks seventh in Football Outsiders’ efficiency metrics.
This is likely to be a low-scoring game, just like these teams’ first matchup in late September. Every little bit of offense Buffalo musters will matter, and the…