It’s time to find out who the New England Patriots really are

J.C. Jackson #27 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
J.C. Jackson #27 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images) /

It’s clear that the New England Patriots Week 13 contest against the Buffalo Bills is their most important game of the season so far. Yet somehow, the stakes have managed to get raised even more over the past 24 hours.

Despite not playing yesterday, the Patriots now hold the top seed in the AFC thanks to the Pittsburgh Steelers pulling off an upset win over the Baltimore Ravens yesterday afternoon.

So not only does this game have huge implications for the AFC East, but now the top seed in the AFC is at play too. Whichever team wins this game will sit a top the AFC for the upcoming week. Granted, there is still a lot of football left to play this season, but having that control this late in the season can go a long way.

The narratives of this game have been played out all week long. The Patriots are riding a six game win streak, and are the hottest team in football. The Bills have struggled lately, going 3-3 over their past six games, but they are as healthy as they have been over the past few weeks, and with star quarterback Josh Allen under center, Buffalo’s offense is capable of breaking loose at any given moment.

While these narratives are true, I think the importance of this game for both sides is being undersold, particularly for New England. New England wasn’t supposed to be in this position this season, and while their six game win streak has been impressive, we still don’t really know what this team’s identity is. That changes tonight though. Tonight, the world will find out who exactly the New England Patriots are, and just how good they can become this season.

The New England Patriots are about to prove whether or not they are for real

The validity of the Patriots recent win streak has come under fire for a myriad of reasons, and honestly, some of the points have some weight to them. The defense isn’t going to demolish opposing offenses every week. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones‘ lack of experience hasn’t caught up to him yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t down the line. Many of the opponents New England played haven’t been at full strength, with some being drastically limited in terms of personnel.

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All are valid points, but a win against Buffalo would really cast all of them aside. Despite their struggles recently, Buffalo still boasts one of the top defenses in the league, and their passing attack is among the best in the league. New England has faced some top tier teams such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys earlier this season, but they didn’t have the winning expectations that this team now suddenly has.

It might be jumping the gun a bit, but the Patriots-Bills matchup feels like a culmination of New England’s season so far. This team struggled out of the gate, but that’s what happens when you turn things over to an unproven rookie quarterback. Now they are on fire, and face their biggest test of the season, and we are about to find out whether this team is for real or not very quickly.

Now, this isn’t to say that a win is needed to validate the Patriots recent win streak. On paper, the Bills are the better team, and they have the experience of playing in big stage games such as this one. They are favored, and rightly so considering their level of skill, and the fact that this game will be played on their home turf. Considering these two teams will square off again later this month, the Patriots will have a shot to right their wrongs if they end up walking away without a win.

But a win in this game could drastically alter the outcome of the Patriots season. Even with a bye week in Week 14, the Pats would maintain the top seed in the AFC through next week if they win this game, regardless of what happens in during the week. That would automatically give them the inside track to the top spot in the AFC with just four games left afterwards.

Even if you want to set the bar lower and set your sights on the AFC East, this game would go a long way in putting some much needed distance between themselves and the Bills. Buffalo would basically have to win out and hope New England slips up somewhere else along the way, although the Indianapolis Colts in Week 15 stands as another daunting matchup for the Pats.

Truth be told, I see this game as being where the New England Patriots either make or break their season. They have proven they can hang with the best of them as they did with the Buccaneers and Cowboys early on in the season. They have faced adversity that not many other teams have faced this season, and now it’s time to see if they can learn from mistakes and put all the pieces together.

Some of you may believe that they already have. That’s what the win over the Los Angeles Chargers was supposed to signify, but the Chargers have proven to be quite inconsistent since then. Wins over the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans were nice to see, but considering how banged up those teams are, they were almost expected at that point.

The combination of the opponent and the expectations this team now face make this the biggest challenge New England has faced this season. Who knew that less than a year after the Bills shellacked the Patriots to the tune of a 38-9 victory that these two teams would be playing one of the most important games of the regular season so far. This is the type of game New England wasn’t supposed to be involved in for some time, yet here they are, back again.

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The New England Patriots have their season all in front of them. A win over the Buffalo Bills would go a long way in proving that they mean business, and are here to stay for the foreseeable future. This isn’t the final game of the season, but it feels like this is the Patriots final test to prove whether or not they are a true contender or not. If they pass, watch out, because the rest of the league could be in trouble.