Bill Belichick downplays Bills playoff rematch, but momentum is against Patriots

Belichick says Patriots-Bills III doesn't offer "any big advantage" to either team. But the Bills have the advantage of playing much better football than the Patriots have of late.

Josh Allen Patriots Bills
Josh Allen breaks away from a tackle attempt by New England Patriots middle linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley in Week 13. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)
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The Patriots might have been about 40 seconds and a possibly ill-timed Brandon Staley timeout from taking a trip to Cincinnati to play a Bengals team they haven’t seen before.

Instead, the Raiders plowed ahead on Sunday night in overtime and went for the kill, hitting a field goal to push them past the Chargers and leapfrog the Patriots in the wildcard standings. That means New England will travel to Orchard Park, NY., to face the devil they know exceedingly well: the Buffalo Bills.

This time, it will be winner-take-all: both for bragging rights on the season and for a chance to advance in the playoffs. Who doesn’t love a good rubber match with everything on the line?


But in his Monday morning interview with WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick tried to portray Saturday’s clash with the Bills as (mostly) just another game.

“I think for our team, we just have to look at it the same way we looked at the other games against Buffalo,” Belichick said. “It’s a big game, and we played 17 games this year, plus three preseason games, so it’s really just playing a good football game. Whatever the Wild Card and seedings are and all that, it doesn’t really have anything to do with the outcome of the game.

“The game will be determined by how well we prepare, play in those 60 minutes. That’s really our challenge. I don’t think we need to do a lot of looking back, we need to look ahead and as I said, put our best football out there Saturday night.”

Naturally, it’d be hard to expect Belichick to say anything different publicly about a division rival. On top of that, he and the Patriots are still reeling from the inability to do against Miami what the coach just said they must: play a consistent football game for 60 minutes. Sunday afternoon’s lethargic loss to the Dolphins is about a dispiriting way as New England could have gone into their playoff preparations this week.


Still, the idea that the Patriots would look at this game “the same way” as their other contests against the Bills or “just” focusing on playing good football is mere coach-speak. This is for a shot to compete for a Super Bowl, and it’s also about who the real power is in the AFC East.

Right now, the Bills have all the momentum. After losing Week 13’s snow-globe game in Buffalo to a Patriots team that only passed the ball three times, Josh Allen and crew came to Gillette Stadium a few weeks later and outclassed New England for 60 minutes of football. In the process, Buffalo wrested control of the AFC East en route to a second-straight division title and won their last four games. New England, meanwhile, dropped three of its last four after that Buffalo win.

Throw in the fact that Buffalo has won three of the last four meetings between the Patriots, and this doesn’t feel like a matchup that favors New England. Allen has ascended, which was clear in Week 16, and Mac Jones is going through growing pains at the worst possible time.

So, despite Belichick downplaying the rematch as being “the same for both teams” without “any big advantage,” the reality feels different. Buffalo is playing better football than New England, and the Bills have the better quarterback.


This is where the Patriots having the better head coach — the best one in the NFL — has to mean something.


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