Let’s try this again.
Postseason stakes aside, the Patriots and Bills facing off provides one of the most interesting X’s and O’s matchups in the NFL in the NFL this season. On one side is a team that is calculated and controlled, eschewing some new-age tendencies in the game to play to the strengths of its roster. On the other side is a boom-or-bust team that lives and dies by the big play, formatted as a textbook example of the league’s pass-heavy era.
That matchup – as it existed on paper – was more or less wiped out in the teams’ first meeting, when both sides had to make major adjustments to account for significant winds. Conditions won’t be perfect for their rematch in Foxborough, with near freezing temperatures and rain in the forecast, but neither team should be handcuffed quite as much as they were in Week 13.
Now getting ready for their second meeting on Sunday, it’s time to dive back into the key matchups between the teams. What is still true from three weeks ago, and what has changed since that noteworthy game?
While the weather won’t provide as much of a speed bump this week, each team is dealing with personnel issues that could force both offensive coordinators to call more runs than usual. The Bills will be without slot receiver Cole Beasley, who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week. Beasley is unvaccinated, meaning he must miss 10 days under the NFL’s COVID protocols. The 32-year-old has been a safety outlet for quarterback Josh Allen this year, catching 76 passes for 640 yards. The Bills could look to replace Beasley’s underneath route running with more runs, specifically from Allen.
As for the Patriots, they could be down as many as three receivers, including the team’s yardage leader Kendrick Bourne. Bourne missed his second practice of the week on Thursday as he remains in COVID protocol. He can’t return to the team until he has a negative PCR test. Nelson Agholor and N’Keal Harry also remain in question due to injuries suffered on Saturday against the Colts. Agholor missed practice Wednesday and Thursday with a concussion, while Harry has been limited as he works through a hip injury.
Without those three, the Patriots are left with just Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski as active wide receivers. They also have Kristian Wilkerson and rookie Tre Nixon on the practice squad, but the lack of experience at the position could lead to the Patriots being run heavy once again.
Speaking of the Patriots being run-heavy – that leads perfectly into the first key matchup of the week…