FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — The New England Patriots are in unfamiliar territory, facing a playoff game on a wild card weekend for the first time in nine seasons.
The Patriots are heading into week 16 of the regular season as the number 3-seed in the AFC playoff picture trailing the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans.
But the AFC Champion Patriots can slide back into a bye with some help.
If the Texans lose either of their remaining two games and the Patriots win at home against the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets, they will secure a bye for a ninth straight season.
The Patriots are coming off two tough losses, including a last second “Miami Miracle” against the Miami Dolphins and a 17-10 letdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Patriots lost back-to-back games in December for the first time since 2002.
The good news for the Patriots is they have tremendous success against Buffalo. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is 29-3 all-time against the Bills.
Coach Bill Belichick said one major difference between the team they faced in October and the team they will face this weekend is the quarterback.
The teams last met back in Week 8, and the Bills have experienced several significant turnovers since then, especially following the injury of quarterback Josh Allen in Week 6. The last time the teams met, Derek Anderson was the quarterback, so the Patriots have yet to play against Allen this season.
“He’s had three 100-yard games in a row. He’s the leading rusher. He’s a good player,” Belichick said of Allen. “He’s a hard guy to defend. I mean, he had almost three quarters of their total offense against the Jets. It’s a lot.”
When the teams last met in Buffalo at New Era Field, running back James White had 10 catches for 79 yards plus 15 rushing yards and a touchdown. When White has at least 13 touches, the Patriots are 9-0. When he has less than 12, they’re 0-5.
“They’re a defense that makes you drive the ball down the field so they’re going to make you work for it,” White said. “I just try to make the most of the opportunities that I get whether it’s more work, less work. You’ve just got to capitalize on what you get.”
Kick-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro against the Bills.