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New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills: Facts, Matchups and a Prediction

The winning team, assuming there is one, will keep control of its playoff destiny.

Monday Night Football in Week 13 will feature all kinds of extra juice to capture the undivided attention of an international TV audience.

The Buffalo Bills, who made it to the AFC Championship Game last year, will be hosting the New England Patriots, who made it to the Super Bowl nine times in the last in the last 20 seasons, for first place in the AFC East.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones is believed to be leading the NFL Rookie of the Year race. His Bills counterpart, Josh Allen, has tossed 25 touchdowns.

Both defenses are elite.

And there will be sub-freezing weather conditions with wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour coming off Lake Erie.

So let's get right to the details:

THE BASICS

Game: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills.

Date: Dec. 6, 8:15 p.m.

Venue: Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park, N.Y.

Records: Saints (8-4); Bills (7-4).

Betting info: Bills by 3. Over/under, 41.

TV: ESPN.

Patriots depth chart

Bills depth chart

INJURIES

Patriots: C David Andrews (shoulder), DT Christian Barmore (knee), LB Ja'Whaun Bentley (ribs), RB Brandon Bolden (knee), T Trenton Brown (calf, wrist), K Nick Folk (left knee), WR Gunner Olszewski (ankle) and LB Ronnie Perkins (illness) are questionable.

S Kyle Dugger and RB J.J. Taylor are eligible to be removed from the Reserve/COVID-19 list. LB Harvey Langi (knee) is eligible to be activated from injured reserve.

Bills: G Cody Ford (biceps), FB Reggie Gilliam (ankle) and DE Efe Obada (hip) are questionable.

G Jon Feliciano (calf) is eligible to be activated from injured reserve.

ABOUT THE PATRIOTS

After losing four of their first six games, they have rebounded to win six in a row to seize control of the AFC East, a division they've won 17 times over the previous 20 seasons. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones has been instrumental in the turnaround, with a 70.3 completion percentage to go with 2,850 passing yards and a healthy 7.5 yards per attempt. He has thrown 16 TD passes against eight interceptions, only two of which have come during their current winning streak. Receivers Jakobi Meyers (59 receptions, 620 yards) and Kendrick Bourne (42 receptions, 623 yards, five TDs) are his favorite targets and TE Hunter Henry leads them with seven TD catches. Damien Harris (4.2 yards per carry on 154 attempts, eight TDs) is their leading rusher. Their defense controls the edges with Matt Judon's 11.5 sacks leading the team and Kyle Van Noy in second place with 4.0. Their defensive backfield is a takeaway machine led by J.C Jackson and his seven interceptions. 

ABOUT THE BILLS

Well rested after last playing on Thanksgiving in 31-6 win over the New Orleans Saints, the Bills expect to be as healthy as they've been all season despite the loss of star cornerback Tre'Davious White to season-ending ACL surgery. That's because the rest of the secondary is formidable with safeties Micah Hyde (44 tackles, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries) and Jordan Poyer (58 tackles and team-high five interceptions) manning the back end. MLB Tremaine Edmunds returned from a hamstring injury against the Saints and helped the defense seize control. QB Josh Allen has not been as accurate as his breakout season of 2020 but still has 25 TD passes in 11 games and has rushed for nearly 400 yards. RB Matt Breida, playing in just his fifth game of the season, was able to give their running game a boost and also caught a TD pass. TE Dawson Knox and top target Stefon Diggs (67 catches, 847 yards) lead the team with seven TD catches apiece.

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KEY MATCHUPS

Bills CB Taron Johnson vs. Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers

In less than three full seasons, the 6-foot-2 Meyers has developed into one of the NFL's top slot receivers. The 5-11 Johnson is an elite nickel corner whose size puts him at a disadvantage on 50-50 balls. 

This matchup should be fascinating and crucial for the Bills, especially since outside CB Tre'Davious White is out for the season.

Bills RT Spencer Brown vs. Patriots OLB Matt Judon

Judon has exploded this season with a team-high 11.5 sacks. Brown is a rookie who has missed the last two games after testing positive for COVID-19.

The thinking here is that Brown is going to need help from the backs and tight ends.

Eliminating pressure from the left side of the defense will be especially crucial for the Bills because QB Josh Allen is not nearly as effective when forced to scramble to his left.

Bills WR Stefon Diggs vs. Patriots CB J.C. Jackson

If Jackson hadn't recalled how well this same matchup worked out for Diggs the last time it happened, with Diggs catching nine passes for 145 yards and three TDs, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was certain to have reminded him.

No less than around 100 times over the last five days.

Jackson seems better equipped to handle the CB1 role this season, however. He already has seven interceptions.

PREDICTION

Having three extra days to rest and prepare for this game could prove to be the difference for the Bills in this highly anticipated matchup.

Getting starting offensive linemen Spencer Brown and Jon Feliciano and starting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei back also could be huge the Bills.

And just like their last game, this is one they absolutely have to win.

Why?

Because if the Patriots can come into this stadium and win under these circumstances, it doesn't bode well for the Bills even making the playoffs, much less winning the division.

You can bet it's been DEFCON 1 at the ADPRO Training Center all week as well.

It all adds up to a win for the more desperate home team.

Bills 24, Patriots 20.

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro. Email to Nicky300@aol.com.