Fresh off a Thanksgiving night loss at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings, the New England Patriots will be faced with another tough opponent in a division rivalry game against the playoff-contending Buffalo Bills on Thursday night.
If the Patriots wish to make the playoffs, they likely need to win four out of their next six games to do so. It’ll be a tall task with at least two of those matchups coming against the Bills, who are clearly one of the best teams in football.
Let’s take a look at the key positional matchups that could sway the outcome of this ever so important Week 13 game.
Patriots new-look linebacker room vs Josh Allen
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One of the main concerns Patriots fans had in 2021 was the lack of speed and playmaking across the board, but more specifically at the second level defensively. The Patriots were dismantled in the first round of the playoffs, as their linebackers couldn’t force the Bills to punt, let alone slow Josh Allen down.
The Patriots added Raekwon McMillan who was out with an injury all last year and traded for disgruntled Mack Wilson Sr. in the offseason. Both linebackers have showcased their outside speed, which will be much-needed in this game, if they wish to turn the tides from last year’s playoff outcome.
Jabrill Peppers has also been a nice addition to the Patriots defense, and has added more athleticism and playmaking to a unit that was relying on that solely from players like Kyle Dugger and Matthew Judon.
It’ll be interesting to see how the new-look defense performs against a real Super Bowl-contending offense on national television come Thursday night.
Matthew Judon vs Bills OTs
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The Buffalo Bills are without their starting left tackle, Dion Dawkins, who was downgraded to out earlier in the week.
But then again, the Patriots saw a similar feat last week when the Vikings were without their two starting tackles, and they managed to scheme away from Matthew Judon.
Judon has had an incredible year thus far and will be given the tough task of bringing down Josh Allen. Not only will Judon need to have his best game as a pass rusher, but he will need to set the edge and contain Allen from escaping if the Patriots want to throw versatile looks at the Bills’ line.
Jon Jones vs Stefon Diggs
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Diggs is one of the games premiere wide receivers, so Jonathan Jones will have his hands full again after the Patriots’ secondary had a tough week containing Justin Jefferson. However, Jones should have a better chance against Diggs, who is a more methodical route-runner than a pure athletic burner.
Although Diggs has shown at times to make otherworldly plays, much like Jefferson, Jones should have a better time sticking to him through technique. Jalen Mills will most likely be shadowing Gabe Davis, but containing Diggs is the first step for any defense that goes up against the Bills’ wideouts.