As the New England Patriots prepare for their pivotal Week Thirteen matchup with the Buffalo Bills, head coach Bill Belichick will have his team ready for the various on-field challenges presented by their divisional rivals. Solid in all three phases, the Bills are expected to provide the Pats with their toughest test, to date.
In addition to facing such a formidable opponent, Monday night’s game will take place at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York; an area not exactly known for its pleasant weather conditions.
Winters in the region are often unforgiving, marked by cold, damp and sometimes icy conditions. While Monday night’s forecast is far from being excessively fearsome, the weather may be enough to impact game play. Early predictions call for a 44 percent chance of wintry precipitation, with gusty winds from 20 to 30 mph, and a low temperature of 24 degrees.
Despite the harsh weather conditions, Belichick and the Patriots will not be spending a wealth of time worrying about the elements. On Friday, the Pats’ head coach was asked about preparing for bad weather-games and when he may start considering the weather conditions in his preparations for Monday night’s game. Belichick offered the following insight.
“Usually we talk about it once we know for sure when it is, which, a lot of times, that's when we get to the stadium,” Belichick said. “It's hard to really hang your hat on one of the predictions here. We'll go with the known information.”
Oftentimes, the anticipation of inclement weather can be more detrimental than braving the cold and the elements, themselves. This fact has not been lost on Belichick, who makes it a point to instill preparedness to his team, regardless of the environment surrounding them.
“I would say, on the weather, we don’t really spend a lot of time on that. We practice in a variety of conditions from the start of training camp to the end of the preseason, so whenever they come up, they come up. We learn from those. Those may or may not be what we get that particular week. Somewhere along the line, it could come into play. We talk about that, how it would affect certain plays, situations and ball handling. It's kind of a continual conversation we have on that.”
As for the conditions themselves, Belichick does not expect either the cold temperatures or the potential precipitation to befuddle his roster, including those without a wealth of experience braving the adverse weather conditions, such as rookie quarterback Mac Jones. The Patriots are known to practice in all types of climates and conditions, and their head coach believes that it will serve them well on Monday night.
“I don’t think there’s too much we haven’t seen. We haven’t seen a lot of snow this year, but I don't know what we could do about that. We practice in the wind. We practice on sunny days, cloudy days, windy days, calm days, hot days, cold days, wet days, dry days. What's it going to be? Whatever it is, it is, and if we haven't done it, then we'll adjust to it. We've dealt with almost everything.”
While Belichick and the Patriots seem unfazed by the elements, one potential game-changer may be the wind, which can cause problems in both the passing game and the kicking game. When asked about its potential impact, Belichick acknowledged that the wind could be a factor during Monday’s game.
“Buffalo’s always a challenging place to play, because the wind will affect the kicking game more than it will affect the passing game,” Belichick said. “So, as it relates to field position, ball-handling, field goal range, direction of the kicks, and so forth, it’s obviously a key factor of the game depending on what it is. It’s part of the challenge of playing there. It’ll be the same for both teams and we’ll see how everybody handles it. But, it’ll definitely be a factor more in the kicking game than the passing game. It could be a factor in the passing game, but it’ll affect the kicking game first.”
The weather in Orchard Park may be cold, windy, wet and damp on Monday night. Unpleasant as it may be, it is expected for Buffalo and its surrounding areas. Bill Belichick will have his team ready for whatever conditions may arise. Still, there is one type of weather the Pats’ head coach feels confident in leaving off of his preparation list.
“We're not expecting overheating and fans on the sideline,” Belichick joked.
The Patriots and Bills are set for an 8:20pm kickoff on Monday night, December 6, from Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.