NFL

Patriots vs Bills: five players to watch in wild card round clash

The New England Patriots visit AFC East rivals the Buffalo Bills in the wild card round of the 2021/22 NFL playoffs on Saturday.

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Patriots vs Bills: five players to watch in wild card round clash
Bryan M. Bennett AFP

The New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills meet for the third time this season on Saturday, as the Bills host their AFC East rivals in the second wild-card clash of the 2021/22 NFL playoffs.

It’s the first time the two franchises have faced each other in the playoffs since the Patriots earned a 26-8 divisional round win over the Bills back in 1963.

So far this term, the visiting team has always come out on top in clashes between the Patriots and the Bills: New England won 14-10 at Highmark Stadium in Week 13, before Buffalo claimed a 33-21 victory in Foxborough in Week 16.

Here are the players who could well decide whether it’s the New England Patriots or the Buffalo Bills who advance to the divisional round:

Mac Jones, QB, Patriots

In the teams’ first meeting this season, the poor weather led the rookie quarterback to register just two passes and 19 yards. Tricky conditions are also expected in Buffalo on Saturday - with a temperature of 15ºF forecast at the start of the game - and that could affect the performance of a Florida native who isn’t used to the cold.

Mac Jones attempts a pass during the Patriots' Week 18 defeat to the Miami Dolphins.

Josh Allen, QB, Bills

It wasn’t only Jones who was affected by the weather back in December. Fellow QB Allen threw for a mere 145 yards and one touchdown, before enjoying a far more successful outing in Foxborough (314 yards and three TDs). What version will we see on Saturday?

Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Patriots

While Damien Harris is the face of the Patriots’ ground offence, Stevenson is Bill Belichick’s secret weapon. The rookie running back finished the regular season with 606 yards and got through a tonne of work for New England in Buffalo (24 drives for 78 yards).

Mario Addison, DE, Bills

The Bills defence was the NFL’s 11th-most effective in terms of sacks (42) in the regular season, but only managed one in two games against the Patriots. Addison is the Buffalo’s leader with seven sacks, and will be the man chiefly charged with making life difficult for Jones.

Matt Judon, LB, Patriots

The Patriots weren’t as effective as the Bills when it came to sacks (36), but Judon was one of the NFL’s best in the department, his total of 12.5 putting him seventh in the league. The linebacker already has one sack against the Bills this season, and will be out to add to that tally in the playoffs.