Thursday Night Football Preview: New England seeks revenge in key AFC East battle with Buffalo

Mandatory Credit: Photo by CJ GUNTHER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (13492918r) New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson runs for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the second quarter of the NFL American football game between the Chicago Bears and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, in Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA, 24 October 2022. Chicago Bears at New England Patriots, Foxborough, USA – 24 Oct 2022

Thursday Night Football Preview: New England seeks revenge in key AFC East battle with Buffalo

Buffalo Bills (8-3) at New England Patriots (6-5)

Time/TV: 7:15 p.m. CT/Prime Video

The AFC East has seen a clear and obvious change of the guard since former Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady bolted for sunnier pastures in Tampa. New England owned the division for the better part of two decades but now finds itself in last place despite carrying a winning record into Week 13. The division-leading Buffalo Bills come to Gillette Stadium Thursday night looking to further assert their dominance after beating the Patriots in three of their last four matchups. The Patriots’ most recent matchup with Buffalo came in the playoffs back in January, an embarrassing 47-17 loss that ended New England’s season.

Fans in Foxborough will certainly be craving revenge against the mighty Bills, and the Patriots need the win badly in the competitive AFC playoff hunt. New England’s last effort was a Thanksgiving disappointment in Minnesota, falling 33-26 as quarterback Mac Jones was repeatedly sacked in the final moments.

The Patriots’ defense has led the way when they have had success this season. New England allows just 18.4 points per game on the season, and has allowed just 8.7 points per game in their wins. While an impressive figure, it doesn’t bode well that a quarterback like Josh Allen is coming to town. New England’s six wins this season have come against quite a motley crew of starting QBs: Mitch Trubisky, Jared Goff, Jacoby Brissett, Zach Wilson twice, and Sam Ehlinger.

Josh Allen shares little in common with the names on that list and has been especially dominant against the Patriots of late. Allen passed for five touchdowns with just four incomplete passes against New England back in January and put up 378 yards of total offense with three touchdowns and zero turnovers in his trip to Foxborough last regular season. Over his last four games against the Patriots, he’s passed for 13 TDs without an interception.

A turnover-free game would go a long way for the Bills’ quarterback. Josh Allen has thrown seven interceptions over Buffalo’s last five games, a stretch that has seen it go just 3-2 with two one-possession wins mixed in.

On the offensive side of the ball, it would likely behoove New England to rely on the run game Thursday night. The Bills are suddenly without not only elite edge rusher Von Miller but also Greg Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa in the front seven, making a normally stout Buffalo run defense potentially vulnerable. The Patriots are without running back Damien Harris again, but Rhamondre Stevenson’s breakout season has been more than enough in his absence. Buffalo’s defense has allowed 27 points per game over their last three, opening the door for an inconsistent Patriots’ offense to potentially keep pace at home in front of a raucous crowd.

Buffalo, currently tied with Miami atop the AFC East, has to like their chances of holding first place alone by week’s end if they can take care of business given the Dolphins’ difficult task at San Francisco Sunday afternoon. The Bills are 0-2 on the road inside the division this season.

New England can advance to 7-5 with a win and have an excellent opportunity to make a move in the coming weeks with two straight opponents under-. 500 on deck. There’s little doubt that New England’s fans will bring the requisite energy to upset the mighty Bills, but none of those fans have to chase Josh Allen around all night.

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