The New England Patriots are traveling north to Western New York for a Monday night date with quarterback Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. Monday’s Week Thirteen matchup will take place at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York at 8:15pm ET.
Though many Patriots players are expected to garner some attention during Monday’s matchup, here are three players on offense that might raise an eyebrow when the Pats take the field against the Bills.
Having been named Offensive Rookie of the Month for November 2021, Jones continues to be among the most productive players at the position. In the month of November, the 23-year-old completed 76.8 percent of his passes for 854 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions for a 117.2 rating. Jones’ passer rating (117.2 – first), completion percentage (76.8 percent – second) and passing touchdowns (seven – tied-fifth) all rank among the top-five in the NFL since Week Nine. His 142.1 rating in Week Ten (vs. Cleveland Browns) was the fifth-highest single-game passer rating by a rookie quarterback in the Super Bowl era (with a minimum of 20 attempts). In the process, led the Patriots to a 4-0 November record.
Still, Jones is facing his toughest test to date in the Buffalo Bills. While solid at all three levels, the Bills’ defensive brain trust is likely to attempt to confuse the Pats’ rookie by deploying strategically placed blitzes from the second and third level of the defense. Both the Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans (the Pats’ two previous opponents) recently had some success in blitzing from the defensive backfield. Buffalo’s secondary ranks second in the league, allowing just 178.5 yards per game through the air and first with 5.3 yards per pass. Despite the loss of star cornerback Tre’Davious White to injured reserve, Buffalo still possesses the ability to take the ball away, logging 16 interceptions on the season. Their prolific safety tandem of Jordan Poyer (5 INTs) and Micah Hyde (3 INTs) are more than capable of making life difficult for Jones in the passing game. To say that the Pats' rookie has been impressive this season may be an understatement. However, he will need his best game of the season to conquer a daunting Bills’ defense.
For the second straight week, New England will look to Harris to be the centerpiece of their running game. In Week Twelve, Harris finished the contest, compiling 40 yards on 11 carries with one touchdown. His final numbers may not have leaped off of the stat sheet. However, his performance looks more impressive when considering the fact that the Titans’ tough and physical defensive front is one of league’s most stout units at preventing the run. The Bills rank second in the league by allowing just 3.9 yards per carry and fifth with 96.6 rushing yards per game. Their run-stoppage unit will be bolstered in Week Thirteen with the return of defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, who missed the last two games due to COVID protocols. Lotulelei is Buffalo’s premier run-stuffer in the middle, joining Ed Oliver, Harrison Phillips and Vernon Butler on the inside. The Bills were also without linebacker Tremaine Edmunds against the Colts and he is expected to play. With fellow linebacker Matt Milano alongside him in the middle, Harris will have his share of difficulty attempting to find his footing on the ground in Orchard Park on Monday night.
Despite the amount of well-deserved praise being heaped upon the Buffalo Bills’ defense throughout the week, the one area in which they may be vulnerable is in defending tight ends. According to Football Outsiders, the Bills are the 12th most productive in the league versus tight ends. As a result, look for Henry to play a major role on Monday. While widely praised for his versatility, he is most productive when playing the traditional “Y” role, accentuating his route-running skills, as well as his ability to box out. He has also proven himself a strong blocker and reliable pass catcher. He leads the team with seven touchdown receptions and has developed quite the synergy with quarterback Mac Jones. Again, what makes Henry such an effective receiver is hit route running ability, which he does as well (if not better) than any tight end in the league. With the Patriots poised to heavily utilize the running game on Monday, their passing opportunities will likely come mostly from play action. In that regard, Henry should see significant looks. in short-yardage situations, as well as a handful of targets in the endzone.