New England Patriots: 3 keys to beating the Buffalo Bills in Week 13

Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots play the high-flying, tough, well-coached, and talented Buffalo Bills in Week 13 at Highmark Stadium. This game will play a big part in determining who ends up winning the AFC East.

Buffalo had controlled the AFC East since the start of the 2020 season before the Patriots took back that spot after Week 11. They maintained their lead of the top spot by half a game after beating the Tennessee Titans in Week 12.

To beat the Bills is going to take a complete game in all phases of the Patriots’ game. Let’s take a look at three big keys to making that happen.

The New England Patriots have to win the turnover battle

This game in Buffalo will help determine who wins the AFC East, but it will also determine who gets a leg up in the race for the top seed in the AFC, which comes with a bye week in the opening round and home field advantage throughout the postseason.

The New England Patriots are second in turnover differential, trailing only the Indianapolis Colts. The Bills are third. Both teams take away the ball. Big time.

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That’s where this turnover battle comes into play. The Patriots wrecked the Titans in Week 12 by forcing 4 turnovers. That resulted in a win, despite the fact the Titans ran for 270 yards on the day.

The Titans on the other hand forced no turnovers. They need to replicate that type of outing against Buffalo if possible. Worst case, they have to have fewer turnovers than the Bills.

The New England Patriots need to use Christian Barmore over the nose

New England Patriots rookie defensive tackle Christian Barmore is a game-changing player. His rather pedestrian stats belie his importance to the Patriots defense.

Barmore is a creator. His ability to crush a pocket operating from the one-gap over the center totally disrupts an opponent’s offense. He is best deployed there, but the Patriots coaches haven’t always placed him in his most productive position.

Hopefully, Barmore will find himself in the one-gap role against Buffalo. The counterargument in this particular game, however, bears merit. The Bills have a mobile quarterback in Josh Allen who can hurt you on a broken play.

True enough. Yet, when a pocket collapses more good things can happen for a defense than bad. A sack can eventuate.

A poor pass on the run is possible. Even an ill-advised pass leading to a pick is in the equation. Conversely, Allen can get a big gainer on the ground or pass on the run. Fair points.

Yet, those two points notwithstanding, Barmore still should be deployed on the nose. Few NFL centers can block Barmore without help.

Whoever helps leaves gaps for the other defensive linemen and pass-rushers like Matt Judon and Kyle Van Noy to exploit. This, plus maintaining contain on the edges, will make a big difference against the Bills.

New England Patriots should forget using Mac Jones under center without play-action

Mac Jones is the second-most accurate quarterback in the NFL. Not bad for a rookie. Yet, every time the Patriots put him under center with one back behind him, they telegraph the run.

As was saw against the Titans, it didn’t work. The remedy is not rocket science. They have two options essentially.

First, if Jones is under center with a back behind him, use play-action. Jones is a master of deception at that tactical move. If it freezes the linebackers, even for a split second, it plays right into Jones’ hands.

Jones releases the ball so quickly that a slight advantage is all he needs to blister any NFL defense. When Jones is under center with a back behind him, simple runs haven’t worked and it’s time for the Patriots’ coaches to realize that.

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In addition, when in a shotgun formation (he’s best deployed in that with a back beside him), use the back in play-action or in an RPO play to freeze defenders and give his receivers a split second more to get open. Then, he’ll find them. No doubt about that whatsoever.

So these are three keys to how the New England Patriots can go to Buffalo on Monday night in Week 13 and beat the Bills. What do you think are the keys to this game? We’d like to hear.