BOSTON – The out-of-town scoreboard will be just as important for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday as their result in New England.
With Baltimore having won Saturday night, the biggest game remaining on the Week 16 schedule for the Bills involves the Chargers and Jets. A loss by Los Angeles would mean the Bills would go to Week 17 needing a win against Miami and a loss by either Baltimore (against Cincinnati) or Tennessee (against Jacksonville) to end the 17-year playoff drought. The Bills can control their own destiny in Week 17 with a win Sunday against the Patriots and a Tennessee loss to the L.A. Rams.
Here are all the details you need for the game, plus five things we'll be watching for:
• TV: CBS. Announcers: Jim Nantz (play by play), Tony Romo (color analyst).
• Radio: Bills Radio Network. Buffalo-WGR 550 AM; Toronto-Fan 590 AM; Rochester-WCMF 96.5 FM and WROC 950 AM; Syracuse-WTKW 99.5 FM and WTKV 105.5 FM. Announcers: John Murphy (play by play), Mark Kelso (color analyst).
• Series history: Patriots lead, 71-43-1. The Bills can get to 9-6 for the first time since 2004 with a win.
• Bills injury report: Out: WR Andre Holmes (neck). Questionable: WR Kelvin Benjamin (knee), CB E.J. Gaines (knee), G John Miller (ankle), TE Nick O’Leary (back), DT Kyle Williams (groin). Patriots injury report: Out: RB Rex Burkhead (knee), DT Alan Branch (knee). Questionable: RB Brandon Bolden (groin), WR Chris Hogan (shoulder), DB Brandon King (hamstring), DE Eric Lee (ankle), WR Matt Slater (hamstring), LB Kyle Van Noy (calf), OL LaAdrian Waddle (ankle), RB James White (ankle).
• Point spread: The Bills are 11.5-point underdogs at footballlocks.com.
• Did you know? Not only did running back LeSean McCoy reach the 10,000 career rushing yards milestone last week, he also became the first player in NFL history with 10,000 rushing yards, 400 receptions, an average of 4.5 yards per carry and 80 touchdowns.
• Next up: The Bills close out the regular season with a trip to Miami to face the Dolphins. Will a postseason game follow?
Here are five things to watch against the Patriots:
1. White vs. Gronk. The biggest storyline to come out of New England's 23-3 win over the Bills in Week 13 was Rob Gronkowski's cheap shot against rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White. Gronk served a one-game suspension the following week, while White thankfully did not miss any time because of injury. Defending Gronkowski has been next to impossible for the Bills. There is a good chance Sunday that White draws the assignment at times. Given their history, that will be an intriguing matchup.
2. Can Tyrod rebound? After suffering a knee injury on the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Tyrod Taylor gutted it out in Week 13 for three quarters before leaving the game. At that time, it looked as if Taylor may have played his final down with the Bills, but he missed just a week and returned to the starting lineup in Week 15 against Miami. Taylor played an excellent first half against the Dolphins. He'll need a similar effort over four quarters Sunday to hang with New England.
3. Kyle Williams has a favorable matchup. The Bills' veteran defensive tackle hasn't been able to practice much over the last couple weeks because of a groin injury, but it shouldn't force him to miss the game. The Bills need Williams to provide the interior pass rush because the weak spot of the Patriots' offensive line is guard Joe Thuney. He's given up four sacks in the last three weeks and seven quarterback hurries in just the last two. Getting pressure with the front four has to be the Bills' goal on defense, because Tom Brady is so good at beating the blitz. That starts with Williams.
4. Can the secondary come up big again? The Bills have been at their best this season when the defense takes the ball away. While that might seem like a big ask against Brady, the Patriots' quarterback has been uncharacteristically charitable with the ball lately. Brady has thrown at least one interception in his last four games, and has just two touchdown passes over that time. The Bills recorded three interceptions last week against the Dolphins. Matching that number would be a surprise, but picking Brady off once or twice could make a big difference.
5. Will Mike Gillislee have his "revenge game?" The former Bills running back has been a healthy inactive in recent weeks for New England, but will get back into the lineup because of an injury to Rex Burkhead. Patriots coach Bill Belichick likes to twist the knife, so it wouldn't be a surprise if he gave Gillislee plenty of chances to get into the end zone against his former team.