FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) — The New England Patriots are a win away from clinching their 13th playoff berth in 14 seasons.
They will close their season against a Buffalo Bills team who’ll be motivated to win for safety Damar Hamlin, who is recovering after going into cardiac arrest on the field in Cincinnati.
The Bills have gone from being emotionally devastated from seeing Hamlin being resuscitated on Monday to uplifted after the second-year player addressed the team on a video chat Friday.
Buffalo has already clinched its third straight AFC East title.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. on WPRI 12.
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♦ Kickoff: 1 p.m. on WPRI 12
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PATRIOTS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Rhamondre Stevenson. He enters this week 14 yards shy of reaching 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career. He would become the first 1,000-yard rusher for the Patriots since 2016 when LeGarrette Blount rushed for 1,161. He also enters the week fourth in the NFL among running backs with 64 catches and eighth with 393 receiving yards.
BILLS PLAYER TO WATCH: All of them. The Bills have gone from being emotionally devastated in witnessing Hamlin having to be resuscitated on the field in Cincinnati to being uplifted when the second-year player addressed the team on a video chat Friday. Their emotions should be running high, especially playing in front of what is expected to be a loud home crowd.
KEY MATCHUP: Patriots QB Mac Jones vs. Bills pass defense. With Buffalo expected to focus on stopping the Patriots running attack, the pressure will be on Jones to loosen up the Bills D with the passing game. Jones has struggled in finding his rhythm, going a combined 38 of 71 for 359 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in three meetings against Buffalo, including the playoffs. In his lone win, Jones completed just two of three attempts for 19 yards in gusty conditions at Buffalo last season.
INJURIES: Patriots TE Jonnu Smith and DB/PR/KR/WR Marcus Jones both began the week in the concussion protocol, but returned to the practice field Thursday. DBs Jalen Mills (groin) and Jonathan Jones (chest) were both limited Wednesday. WR DeVante Parker also returned to practice on a limited basis after missing the previous three games with a concussion. Coach Bill Belichick said Friday that P Jake Bailey (back) has reverted back to injured reserve and is done for the season. … Aside from Hamlin, the rest of the Bills’ roster is injury-free, including CB Taron Johnson, who practiced fully Friday after sustaining a concussion Monday.
SERIES NOTES: The Bills have won four of the past five regular-season meetings. The teams split last year’s regular-season series, with the Patriots winning in Buffalo 14-10 in Week 13, and Buffalo winning in New England 33-21 in Week 16. The teams met again in the wild-card round of last year’s playoffs, with the Bills defeating the Patriots in Buffalo 47-17. It marked the second postseason meeting between the two clubs. Allen set career highs in touchdown passes (five) and passer rating (157.6) in the victory. The Patriots won 15 straight games against the Bills from 2003 through 2010, tied for the fourth-longest winning streak over a single opponent in NFL history.