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New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 03: Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, looks on before a game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on January 3, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Ready for the end of the trilogy? The Patriots and Bills are clashing yet again, in a rare AFC East “threematch” (that should be a real word) in the Wild Card round. And it looks like the conclusion of the saga will be another battle in the elements.

At the very least, it’s certainly going to be cold. The Patriots and Bills kick off their Wild Card matchup at Highmark Stadium on Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET, so freezing temperatures are a lock. But it sounds like it’s going to be more treacherous than that.

As of Monday, the weather forecast for Orchard Park calls for a high of 19 degrees, and a low of 14 when the Patriots and Bills kick off at nighttime. They’re also predicting a 40 percent chance of snow and up to an inch of accumulation.

Winds are projected to be only 5-10 mph, though. Contrast that with the Pats and Bills’ Week 13 matchup in New York, which at one point measured winds over 50 mph.

In any event, the Patriots and Bills are definitely going to make good use of outdoor practices this week. Foxboro is forecasted for temps in the teens on Tuesday, with a wind chill advisory in effect. But Bill Belichick may still make his guys tough it out in sub-zero weather, because the cold could end up being like on Saturday night in Buffalo, anyway.

  • Cold Weather Teams

    Dec 6, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) tries to move past Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde (23) on a run in the second quarter at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 6, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) tries to move past Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde (23) on a run in the second quarter at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    Since 2018, the Patriots and Bills have both been very good overall in colder weather. Buffalo is 11-3 in 14 games with a recorded temperature under 40 degrees, while the Patriots are 9-3 (per data at Stathead). In that same span, they’re also both 2-0 in games recorded at 30 degrees or colder.

    Most of those games have no real bearing on how Josh Allen and the Bills look on Saturday night. But you could count this season. They’re 4-1 in five sub-40-degree games in 2021. The one loss? Week 13 against the Patriots, which Pro Football Reference listed at 36 degrees.

    The Patriots, meanwhile, are 2-2 in sub-40-degree games this season. That includes a 1-1 split with the Bills. They beat the Titans and lost to the Colts.

  • Built For This?

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 26: Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills is hit by Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium on December 26, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    The Bills have the more talented roster than the Patriots, on paper. But it could be argued that the Patriots are built better for cold weather. They’ll be more committed to pounding the power run game, and they’re heavier on defense.

    Buffalo will definitely want to let Allen cook on Saturday night, especially now that they don’t have to worry about the wind (if they ever did in the first place). Allen also rushed for 763 yards on 122 carries in the regular season, the main reason the Bills averaged more yards per carry (4.8) than the Patriots (4.4). Buffalo averaged 4.3 yards per rush with everyone other than Allen.

    It’s likely the Patriots will still need to have one of their best defensive gameplans of the season, and execute it almost flawlessly, in order to upset the Bills on Saturday night. Otherwise, they’ll have to hope the Bills do what the Patriots did in their three post-bye losses: beat themselves.

  • The Patriots In The Cold

    FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10:  Wide receiver Bethel Johnson #81 of the New England Patriots looks on during the AFC divisional playoffs against the Tennessee Titans on January 10, 2004 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

    FOXBORO, MA: Wide receiver Bethel Johnson of the New England Patriots looks on during the AFC divisional playoffs against the Tennessee Titans on January 10, 2004. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

    It just so happens that Monday marks the anniversary of the coldest game in Patriots history. They beat the Titans 17-14 in the divisional round on Jan. 10, 2004, after a kickoff temperature of 4 degrees with a wind chill of minus-10.

    Under Bill Belichick, the Patriots have played three playoff games under 20 degrees, and they’re 3-0. So, history is on their side in that regard. But of course, all three of those games were with Tom Brady at quarterback. And the Pats’ roster is almost entirely different from the last sub-20-degree playoff game, which was the 2018 AFC Championship Game against the Chiefs.

    The Patriots will have to rely on their veteran experience in a spot like this. But at quarterback, the checkmark for experience goes to Allen and the Bills. So we’ll see how Mac Jones handles this opportunity in his playoff debut.

    But the likelihood is that the Patriots do all they can to protect him, much like the Week 13 game. So, aesthetically, expect Saturday to look at lot like your typical cold-weather game.

  • Podcast: The Patriots In Snow Games

    Alex Barth and I had a lot of fun recording the above podcast for 985TheSportsHub.com. There’s a chance we get some snow on Saturday night, so it’s worth re-living their rich history in the snow, as we did with this podcast in 2020.