Toughness the deciding factor between the New England Patriots & Bills

New England Patriots outside linebacker Matt Judon (9) (Mandatory Credit: The Indianapolis Star)
New England Patriots outside linebacker Matt Judon (9) (Mandatory Credit: The Indianapolis Star) /

The New England Patriots Week 16 game Sunday against the Buffalo Bills will be decided by one thing and one thing only, and it’s called guts. With COVID ravaging the entire NFL (and everywhere else), whoever has the most guts will prevail in his one.

For the New England Patriots, a victory would potentially result in locking up the AFC East and a home game in the playoffs. For the Bills, a win would result in them retaking the lead in the AFC East, and having the inside track to secure it the rest of the way out. It’s a huge game for both teams.

No question about it, this single game will help decide what the 2021 New England Patriots are made of. Are they a playoff team, a championship-caliber team, or neither?

The fate of the New England Patriots 2021 season rides on beating the Buffalo Bills

The Patriots are not a team to be happy with being a wild card playoff team. They are a team that, for the past 20 years, has not been satisfied with anything but a first-place finish in the AFC East, and a bye week in the playoffs. Anything else was deemed a failure.

The 2020 team failed to make the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. It was a transitional year predicated on the departure of the greatest player in NFL history, Tom Brady.

Brady went south and on to win the Super Bowl. The Patriots went “south” and stayed home for the playoffs. That left a bad taste in the mouth of the team’s owner, Robert Kraft.

Kraft stepped up in the offseason and expressed his desire in no uncertain terms that the Patriots secure top free agents, have a good draft, and get their quarterback of the future.

To make his commitment and hunger for a return to excellence even more emphatic, Mr. Kraft opened up his wallet and dished out more than $150 million guaranteed in free agency.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick got the message

It seems like football majordomo, Bill Belichick got the message. First, he went on a free-agency spending spree and brought in a lot of good players, including Pro-Bowl edge player Matt Judon.

Then, he had his best draft in years, which we should consider a consensus type draft where he selected players that were not off other teams’ or analysts’ draft boards. He brought in a top young quarterback, Mac Jones, and a game-changing young defensive tackle, Christian Barmore. And, to top it off, he finally brought in a big back with tremendous potential in Rhamondre Stevenson. Those three alone checked off three big boxes of need.

Yet now, 14 games deep into the season, big results hinge on the final three games. Unlike during the Brady era, the division is still up for grabs, as is a possible playoff spot. Every game lately is and has been a playoff game in reality if not in name. The Bills game Sunday is right there at the top of the list.

It’s gut-check time for this new, 2021 version of the New England Patriots. After a disappointing showing against the Indianapolis Colts, they need a big bounce-back win, or the euphoria of their seven-game win streak prior to the Colts game will fade into distant memory.

Mac Jones is now the man and he’s approaching veteran status after 14 games into his rookie season. He needs to step up big against Buffalo, leave any turnovers behind, and deliver one of his patented 70 percent-plus completion games and throw for a couple of touchdowns.

The offensive line has to steel up, give Jones the time to pass that he needs, and open up holes for the running backs to exploit.

dark. Next. Pats depleted WR corps could be a big issue against Buffalo

Also, the defense has to return to its best in sacking Josh Allen, Buffalo’s elusive and very effective young gunslinging quarterback, and stuffing their running game.

It’s gut-check time and a tall order, but after a disheartening loss at Indianapolis, it’s what the Patriots will need to do.

We’ll see on Sunday at 1:00 PM at Gillette Stadium what the 2021 version of the New England Patriots are really made of and if they can get their freight train back on track. It’s all on the line then.