Biggest Matchups Patriots Must Win in Huge Game vs. BillsDecember 1, 2021
Biggest Matchups Patriots Must Win in Huge Game vs. Bills
The New England Patriots are set to star in the biggest game on the NFL's Week 13 slate when they travel to Orchard Park to take on the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football.
The Patriots have become the front-runner of the AFC East by virtue of their six-game winning streak that puts them a half-game ahead of the Bills. That lead will be put to the test with the first meeting between the two clubs in prime time.
While the Pats have been impressive, it's fair to question the quality of competition they've seen in their winning streak. Of the six teams they've beaten, only the Chargers and the Derrick Henry-less Titans have a winning record.
The Bills will change that, despite their inconsistency over the last six games following a 4-1 start.
On paper, this looks like a close game, but football is a game of matchups. Winning some of the more pivotal ones will be key to the Patriots' success on Monday night.
Here's a look at three they have to win to claim victory against the Bills.
Jakobi Meyers vs. Taron Johnson
This may be a new era of New England Patriots football with Mac Jones at the helm, but Bill Belichick's love affair with slot receivers remains. Jakobi Meyers is the team's leading receiver, and he does much of his damage in the slot.
The 25-year-old has the team lead with 59 catches on the season and has been targeted 90 times. Quarterback Jones has shown trust in the third-year receiver, and he has responded with just two drops all season.
Meyers is about to see one of his toughest challenges of the season, though. Taron Johnson plays the slot for the Bills and has quietly put together a strong season. He's the 13th highest graded cornerback on PFF and has held opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 62.8 this season.
With Tre'Davious White out for the season, the Bills' secondary has a serious hole on the outside. But the Pats' passing game is still predicated on working underneath routes with Meyers.
To do that, they are going to have to get a good game from the North Carolina State product, which will put even more stress on the Bills' secondary.
J.C. Jackson vs. Stefon Diggs
This isn't a new matchup between these divisional foes. J.C. Jackson and Stefon Diggs got to know each other last year, and they did some jawing before the Buffalo receiver beat the corner for two touchdowns.
In fact, Diggs has found plenty of success against the Patriots in general. In their final 2020 game last season, he paced the Bills' offensive explosion with nine catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns.
In their first 2020 game, the Maryland product still put up a solid six-catch, 92-yard stat line in another win.
Diggs has scored at least one touchdown in five of the last six games, including a two-touchdown performance against the Indianapolis Colts.
Jackson has had a great season thus far. He's PFF's 11th highest-graded corner and has given up just one touchdown on 75 targets this season.
This might be the most fun matchup on the field on Monday. Once again, the two are among the best at what they do and will likely have a few more words for one another.
Interior O-Line vs. Ed Oliver
The Buffalo Bills don't have a star pass-rusher in terms of sheer counting stats, but they do have a burgeoning star in Ed Oliver.
The defensive tackle has the second best pass-rushing grade from PFF of any interior defender over the last three weeks of the season. He only has half a sack on the season, but Sports Info Solutions credits him with 23 total pressures on the year.
Nine of those have come over the last three games, but fortunately for the Patriots, they have one of the best tandems of interior blockers.
Both center David Andrews and right guard Shaq Mason have received high grades from PFF. Both have surrendered just one sack on the season.
Left guard is a different story, though. Ted Karras, who played there last week, has surrendered three sacks on the season. Keeping Mac Jones in a clean pocket can help the rookie have success in one of the biggest games he will have played in to date.
Making sure they get Oliver blocked is going to be key to New England making that happen.
All statistics via Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.