The New England Patriots have a chance to get revenge in Week 13 when they take on the Buffalo Bills for the first time since their humiliating playoff loss last season.
New England is also looking to get back to the playoffs, too, holding a 6-5 record and sits two games behind Buffalo, who is 8-3.
Here are four bold predictions for Thursday’s game.
*Watch NFL games LIVE with fuboTV (click for free trial)*
4. Rhamondre Stevenson gets more receiving yards than rushing yards.
The Patriots’ running back has gotten used to playing a pivotal role in the passing game in recent weeks. I wouldn’t expect that to change on Thursday.
While the Bills have their own running back issues, they’re one of the best in the league against other teams’ opposing running backs – at least playing against them on the ground. Buffalo ranks best in the league in stuffed percentage (25 percent) as it’s held up strongly against some of the top running backs in the league in recent weeks.
That doesn’t mean the Bills completely play running backs well. They rank 21st in DVOA against opposing running backs in pass coverage, allowing 35 receiving yards per game on seven targets to running backs.
If that isn’t enough to think that Stevenson might have a strong game as receiver, well, he’s just flat-out played well in that role as the season has gone on. He has 50 receptions for 359 yards with a touchdown this season and has seemed to get more and more involved as a receiver in recent weeks.
Screen pass to Rhamondre Stevenson and he picks up 40 yards!! pic.twitter.com/XWc9DO4gdp
— 𝗙𝗢𝗟𝗟𝗢𝗪 @𝗙𝗧𝗕𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗱𝟳 (@FTBeard7) November 25, 2022
In Week 7, Stevenson had eight receptions on eight targets for 59 yards. That began a five-game stretch in which he’s recorded at least six receptions in all but one game. In Minnesota last week, Stevenson had his best game yet as a receiver, catching nine passes for 76 yards.
So, Stevenson might very well have a big game on Thursday, it’ll just be as a receiver instead of at running back.
3. Matthew Judon ends up in the backfield and gets multiple sacks.
This might not feel super bold considering that he’s the league leader in sacks, but when you dig a bit deeper, it might be.
Judon struggled against the Bills last season, recording a sack in the first matchup, but failed to get into the backfield in the other two matchups. He also struggled to get sacks in December last season, recording just one, and he didn’t get a sack against the Vikings last week, raising possible concerns that Judon might be having some déjà vu.
However, Judon still recorded a few pressures last week, which is a better sign that says he’s getting into the backfield and not completing sacks as opposed to not beating his blocker at the line of scrimmage.
Matthew Judon since signing with the Patriots.
2 red sleeves
— NFL (@NFL) November 4, 2022
On top of that, the Patriots will be going up against a battered Bills offensive line. Starting left tackle Dion Dawkins will miss Thursday’s game with an ankle injury and even though Judon typically doesn’t line up opposite of the left tackle, the Patriots moved him around last week and him playing on both sides of the defensive line. They could potentially use Judon to find a mismatch against backup David Quessenberry, who’ll likely start in Dawkins’ place.
2. One of the Patriots’ receivers will break out for a 100-yard day.
The Bills have struggled to defend opposing team’s No. 1 wideouts this season. Amon-Ra St. Brown, Justin Jefferson, Amari Cooper, Travis Kelce, Jaylen Waddle, and Cooper Kupp have all had 100-plus-yard receiving days against the Bills this season.
Sure, those guys are expected to have big days regardless of who they’re facing. But even Juju Smith-Schuster recorded a 100-yard day while rookies Garrett Wilson (92) and George Pickens (83) got close despite having two of the worst passing attacks in the league.
Jakobi Meyers would make sense as a receiver that could have a huge day on Sunday. He’s had a couple big games this season, posting 95 receiving yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers and 111 against the Detroit Lions. However, he’s dealing with a shoulder injury that cost him some time in the loss to the Vikings last week. So, Meyers might not play enough in order to have a big day.
But some receiver should be in-line to have a big day against the Bills. Buffalo’s defense ranks 28th in pass defense DVOA against an opposing team’s No. 1 receiver, allowing 86 receiving yards on roughly nine targets per game this season.
The Patriots might not have that star receiver, though they have a few receivers that are capable of having big game. We’ve seen DeVante Parker and Nelson Agholor each have 100-yard receiving games already this season and both got into the mix last week, combining for 145 yards on 10 receptions with a touchdown.
— 𝗙𝗢𝗟𝗟𝗢𝗪 @𝗙𝗧𝗕𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗱𝟳 (@FTBeard7) November 25, 2022
If it’s not those two, maybe Kendrick Bourne finally has that big game we’ve been waiting for all season. Or Stevenson could be the big receiver of the day for the Patriots. Regardless, there’s practically always someone that has a big receiving game against the Bills, and the Patriots have enough players that are capable to do that.
1. New England limits Josh Allen, but still falls just short.
The Patriots are getting the Bills at a good time.
Buffalo’s been struggling in recent weeks, losing two straight games before winning two in a row in unconvincing fashion. Allen’s looked a bit more human, throwing a league-high 11 interceptions so far this season. Prior to his dominant performance against them in the playoffs, the Patriots have had games in which they’ve been able to make Allen throw ill-advised passes that lead to interceptions.
It wouldn’t shock me if the Patriots were able to make those things happen again on Thursday. But even with all of Buffalo’s injuries and Allen’s potential downside, it’s still hard to ignore the all-around talent they’ve got on their roster plus Allen’s upside to make plays when they seem dead to rights. At the end of the day, the more talented team typically wins and I’d expect the same here, with the Bills winning a three- or four-point game where both teams score in the low-to-mid 20s.