Patriots vs. Bills: Time, how to watch, live stream, key matches, prediction for ‘Thursday Night Football’

A week after the two teams played Thanksgiving, the New England Patriots are set to host division rival Buffalo Bills for Week 13’s edition of “Thursday Night Football.”

Buffalo picked up a closer-than-expected win over the Detroit Lions last Thursday afternoon, while New England dropped a close one against the Minnesota Vikings in the nightcap. These two teams are vying for a position in the surprisingly competitive AFC East, as well as the AFC playoff image as a whole. Buffalo enters the game one step ahead of the competition and is therefore favored – even on the road.

Will the Bills win three in a row, or will the Patriots get back on track and pull off the upset? We will find out soon enough. Before we break down the game, here’s an overview of how you can watch the game.

How to watch

Date: Thursday, December 1 | Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Massachusetts)
Stream: Amazon Prime Video
Follow: CBS Sports App
Odds: Invoices -3.5, O/U 43.5

When the Bills have the ball

Like most young quarterbacks, Josh Allen had a rough start to his career against teams coached by Bill Belichick. In fact, in his first two seasons, Allen failed to complete more than half of his passes in any of his three starts against the Patriots. Combined, he was just 46 of 95 (48.4%) for 578 yards (6.1 per attempt), three touchdowns and five interceptions in those three games. That’s “good” for a passer rating of 56.4, or the rough equivalent of a performance in the range of someone like DeShone Kizer or Heath Shuler.

Since then, however, Allen has torn the Patriots apart in three of five starts (despite that streak, including the ridiculous wind game last year), and he’s had arguably the best playoff performance of all time in one of them.

2018 16 L 12-14 20 41 48.8% 217 5.3 1 2
2019 4 L 10-16 13 28 46.4% 153 5.5 0 3
2019 16 L 17-24 13 26 50.0% 208 8.0 2 0
first two All 0-3 46 95 48.4% 578 6.1 3 5
2020 8 F 24-21 11 18 61.1% 154 8.6 0 1
2020 16 F 38-9 27 36 75.0% 320 8.9 4 0
2021 13 L 10-14 15 30 50.0% 145 4.8 1 0
2021 16 F 33-21 30 47 63.8% 314 6.7 3 0
2021 bathroom F 47-17 21 25 84.0% 308 12.3 5 0
last two All 4-1 104 156 66.7% 1241 8.0 13 1

The New England defense ranks an excellent third in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ DVOA and first in the TruMedia version of the EPA by return, but in games against quarterbacks not named Zach Wilson or Sam Ehlinger, it was simply very good, rather than impossible to cast. versus. (Other quarterbacks completed 167 of 269 passes for 1,761 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions against the Pats, while this dreadful duo had 44 of 92 for 423 yards, two touchdowns and four picks — and three more dropped choices.)

In a game like this, one would expect Belichick to deploy his famous “1-Double” coverage, in which he uses his No. 1 corner to shade the opponent’s No. 2 receiver. while teaming up with the opposition’s No. 1 threat. But with Stephon Gilmore and JC Jackson each having moved on, there isn’t necessarily any logic to this matchup. Does Belichick trust rookie Jack Jones enough to use him on Gabe Davis all night while doubling up on Stefon Diggs? If not, would he use the bigger Jalen Mills on Davis and use Jones as part of the double on Diggs? Or would he rather sit in the zone and force Allen to repeatedly walk down the field with throws underhand? This would invite Allen to aim for Diggs all night, as the latter tends to work the short and middle areas of the court more often.

New England was nearly as effective overall against the run as against the pass, but that doesn’t matter much against Buffalo, which throws one of the highest rates in the league. If the Bills have a choice in the matter, it will all go through Allen, Diggs and Co. and not Devin Singletary and James Cook. Allen is also a threat in the running game, however, and his ability to change the math inside the box can prove difficult. Belichick’s defense has struggled with quarterbacks at times, as we’ve seen with Justin Fields earlier this season and Lamar Jackson in the past. Buffalo doesn’t like using Allen on so many engineered runs anymore, but he’s still a jamming threat and a dangerous weapon around the goal line.

When the Patriots have the ball

After enjoying his best game of the season by far, Mac Jones is set to pass a much tougher test than the one he faced last Thursday. Jones completed 28 of 39 passes (71.8%) for 382 yards (9.8 per attempt) and two touchdowns against the Minnesota Vikings — his first multi-touchdown game of the year. But where Minnesota sports a pass defense that ranks 27th in both DVOA and EPA by decline, Buffalo’s checks are seventh in DVOA and 14th in EPA to date.

Bills are also getting healthier. Tre’Davious White is back in the fold and will likely play more than the 16 snaps he made a week ago. Buffalo should also bring Gregory Rousseau and Tremaine Edmunds back to the field, which should help soften Von Miller’s loss. Rousseau was in the middle of a breakout season before his injury, and even without Miller, the Bills have plenty of complementary rushers to help him up front. New England’s offensive line hasn’t lived up to its usual standards this season, and there have been games where Jones has been under constant siege. He’s taken at least three sacks in each of the past four games, getting waived 19 times in total over that span. That’s bad news against Buffalo’s defensive front.

The Patriots will be without Damien Harris on Thursday night, and they could also be without Jakobi Meyers. Harris’ absence puts even more on Rhamondre Stevenson’s plate, but given the way Belichick spoke to him (apparently telling NBC’s Jason Garrett that Stevenson’s development reminds him of Tom Brady and Lawrence Taylor) , the Pats are probably fine with that. Buffalo encourages underhand throws with their zone defense, so Stevenson thinks he’s a very busy man in this game. (And he will be even more so if Meyers, the Patriots’ main short-term outside threat, can’t adapt.)

Attempting to move the ball downfield through the run and short pass has its drawbacks, however, in that it makes explosive plays much less likely. Against an opponent like the Bills, it’s a recipe for failure. Unless the offensive line can dominate up front and allow the Pats to control the ball for the vast majority of the night, this game is going to favor Buffalo pretty heavily.

Featured Game | New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills

Prediction: Bills 27, Patriots 17

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