All the marbles are up for grabs when the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills meet on Super Wild Card Weekend. Of course, unlike their previous two matchups during the regular season, the loser’s Lombardi hopes will come to a swift end on Saturday night, while the other will advance to the divisional round.
Highmark Stadium will certainly be a hostile environment, but the Patriots have already shown they can go into Buffalo and earn a win as they did back in Week 13. Naturally, things will be a bit different than in that game — which featured 40 mph winds — and it seems unlikely New England will be able to get away with throwing the football just three times.
So how can the Patriots pull off this upset and advance to the next round? Here are three factors that could help them edge out a win.
Defense comes up with timely stops
Over the last few weeks, as it finished out the regular season, New England’s defense reverted back to its struggles from the start of the year where it was unable to get off the field in timely situations. Allowing a back-breaking fourth-quarter touchdown to Colts running back Jonathan Taylor in Week 15 and a fourth-and-1 conversion by Josh Allen in Week 16 are some recent examples where the defense couldn’t put the clamps down on its opponent. To win this game, the defense will need to be a bit sharper in that area.
Statistically, the Patriots have been very good defensively on the road. They gave up just 284 yards per game and 157 passing yards per game on the road, which ranked No. 1 in the NFL this season. They lined up in Cover 3 on 46% of their defensive snaps on the road this season, which was the second-highest rate in the NFL. That does play well against Josh Allen, who hasn’t played particularly well against Cover 3 defenses. Against that scheme, Allen averaged 7.4 yards per pass attempt (19th among 31 qualified QBs) and has thrown six…