ORCHARD PARK – In case you hadn’t heard, it’s cold in the land of the Buffalo Bills.
But the mere description “cold” doesn’t really do it justice because the conditions for Saturday night’s AFC wild-card showdown against the arch rival New England Patriots are so bitter, so severe, that this game may go down as the second-coldest the Bills have ever played.
The Bills have been playing since 1960, so that covers an awful lot of territory. If the forecast is correct and the temperature at game-time is around five degrees, that would mean the only game played in colder temperatures occurred – interestingly enough – 28 years ago to the day, Jan. 15, 1994 – when Buffalo defeated the Los Angeles Raiders 29-23 in an AFC divisional round playoff game.
The good news is that there is almost no wind blowing at Highmark Stadium, so the wind-chill won’t come anywhere close to matching the minus-32 on that day against the Raiders. Still, it figures to be below zero and the big question is going to be which team – both are accustomed to wintry weather – will rise above it and move on to the next round?
Sal Maiorana and Ryan Miller will have live updates on what’s happening all night from Highmark Stadium.
Bills are remarkably healthy for wild-card game
I’m not sure how often this has happened before in the NFL playoffs, but the Bills had an injury report that was completely clean. No players carried a game night designation, meaning everyone the Bills deem inactive will be healthy scratches.
This is not the case for the Patriots. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn, though listed as questionable on New England’s lengthy injury report, has already been ruled out. In his place the Patriots might start Justin Herron, the player who took over when Wynn got hurt last week in Miami.
Or, they could switch Trent Brown from right to left and start Michael Onwenu at right tackle. Brown, who has played left tackle in the past, hasn’t been there this year.
Also already ruled out for New England is cornerback Jalen Mills because of COVID-19. Like Wynn, that costs the Patriots are good player, and the Patriots enter the game a little thin at corner which could be problematic against the Bills’ passing game.
Mills has been outstanding this year. Per Pro Football Focus, Mills has allowed just 35 receptions on 60 targets this season (58.3%). In the two games against Buffalo, Josh Allen targeted him seven times and completed only three for 34 yards.
In all, the Patriots had 13 players as questionable, though it seems likely that everyone else besides Wynn and Mills will play. The Patriots, after all, typically overload their injury report.
How to watch, listen to Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots game
When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday
Where: Highmark Stadium
TV: CBS (Ian Eagle, Charles Davis, Evan Washburn)
Satellite radio: Sirius 81, XM 227
Radio: 96.5 FM/950 AM
Series: Patriots lead 77-46-1 counting playoffs
Tipico betting line: Bills -4.5
► Patriots coach Bill Belichick on playing the Bills for a third time: “I’d say what’s a little bit different about this one is just how quickly we’ve played Buffalo with a couple of weeks in between each of the games. We know each other well. I’m sure there’ll be wrinkles, I’m sure there’ll be things that both teams will do that try to keep the other team off balance or to give them a little bit of a different look. I think that’s just part of it, whether it’s three games or you play a team twice every year for multiple years.”
► Patriots QB Mac Jones on the Bills: “I think we’re very familiar with their players and they are very familiar with us. We just have to go there and trust the coaches and our game plan and just execute it a little better than we have in the past games. That’s what it comes down to, execution, and obviously like I said, the teams know each other really well and we have the most respect for the Bills.”
► Patriots LB Kyle Van Noy: “It’s 0-0 to playoff game. The Bills won the division. They’re playing at home. We gotta go up there and win. We have to prepare like this week’s the last week. I mean, it’s all on the line. We have to go in there and be on the top of our game. It hasn’t been working, but what better week to start than this week against a really good team on the road? I’m excited for the challenge, I’m excited to play in a playoff game for all the marbles, and then move on to work another week and get another opportunity.”
Total offense: 381.9 yards (5th); 353.4 (15th)
Rush offense: 129.9 yards (6th); 126.5 (8th)
Pass offense: 252.0 yards (9th); 226.9 (14th)
Points scored: 28.4 (3rd); 27.2 (6th)
Total defense: 272.8 yards (1st); 310.8 (4th)
Rush defense: 109.8 yards (13th); 123.7 (22nd)
Pass defense: 163.0 yards (1st); 187.1 (2nd)
Points allowed: 17.0 (1st); 17.8 (2nd)
Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots individual leaders
Bills: Devin Singletary 188 carries, 870 yards; Josh Allen 122-763; Zack Moss 96-345; Matt Breida 26-125; Isaiah McKenzie 9-47; Emmanuel Sanders 2-31; Mitchell Trubisky 13-24.
Patriots: Damien Harris 202-929; Rhamondre Stevenson 133-606; Brandon Bolden 44-226; Mac Jones 44-129; Kendrick Bourne 12-125; Jonnu Smith 9-40; James White 10-38; J.J. Taylor 19-37.
Bills: Josh Allen 409 of 646, 4,407 yards, 36 TDs,15 interceptions.
Patriots: Mac Jones 352 of 521, 3,801 yards, 22 TDs, 13 interceptions.
Bills: Stefon Diggs 103 catches, 1,225 yards; Cole Beasley 82-693; Dawson Knox 49-587; Emmanuel Sanders 42-626; Devin Singletary 40-228; Gabriel Davis 35-549; Zack Moss 23-197; Isaiah McKenzie 20-178; Tommy Sweeney 9-44; Matt Breida 7-72.
Patriots: Jakobi Meyers 83-866; Kendrick Bourne 55-800; Hunter Henry 50-603; Brandon Bolden 41-405; Nelson Agholor 37-473; Jonnu Smith 28-294; Damien Harris 18-132; Rhamondre Stevenson 14-123; N’Keal Harry 12-184; James White 12-94.
2021 Buffalo Bills schedule
9/12 vs. Steelers, L 16-23
9/19 at Dolphins, W 35-0
9/26 vs. Washington, W 43-21
10/3 vs. Texans, W 40-0
10/10 at Chiefs, W 38-20
10/18 at Titans, L 31-34
10/24 Bye week
10/31 vs. Dolphins, W 26-11
11/7 at Jaguars, L 6-9
11/14 at Jets, W 45-17
11/21 vs. Colts, L 15-41
11/25 at Saints, W 31-6
12/6 vs. Patriots, L 10-14
12/12 at Buccaneers, L 27-33 OT
12/19 vs. Panthers, W 31-14
12/26 at Patriots, W 33-21
1/9 vs. Jets, 1 p.m.
1/15 vs. Patriots. 8:15 p.m.
Sal Maiorana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Live updates Buffalo Bills vs New England Patriots AFC wild-card game