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Pregame primer: 5 things to watch when Bills host Patriots on MNF

Everything you need to know, plus what I’ll be watching for Monday when the Buffalo Bills host the New England Patriots.

TV: ESPN. Announcers: Joe Tessitore (play-by-play), Jason Witten, Booger McFarland (color analysts).

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, 72-43-1. The Bills' 116 games against the Patriots are the most against any opponent.

Bills injury report: Out: RB Taiwan Jones (neck), QB Josh Allen (elbow), DE Trent Murphy (knee). Questionable: RB LeSean McCoy (concussion). Patriots injury report: Out: TE Jacob Hollister (hamstring), CB Eric Rowe (groin), OL Brian Schwenke (foot). Doubtful: RB Sony Michel (knee). Questionable: OT Trent Brown (ankle), OT Marcus Cannon (concussion), WR Josh Gordon (hamstring), DL Geneo Grissom (ankle), TE Rob Gronkowski (ankle/back), LB Dont'a Hightower (knee), DE John Simon (shoulder), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (ankle/knee).

Point spread: The Bills are 14-point underdogs at footballlocks.com.

Did you know? The Bills and Patriots are two of the four teams in the NFL that have yet to attempt a two-point conversion this season.

Next up: The Bills stay home to welcome Khalil Mack back to Buffalo. Kickoff against the Bears is 1 p.m. Sunday.

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Here are five things to watch against the Patriots:

1. Can Derek Anderson take better care of the football? The veteran quarterback played reasonably well in the first half last week against the Colts, but his performance went in the tank when he started turning the ball over. Anderson's three interceptions and one lost fumble were way too much for a sputtering offense to overcome. If the Bills are to have any chance Monday night, they have to win the turnover battle. That starts with Anderson not throwing it to the other team.

2. Is this it for LeSean McCoy and/or Kelvin Benjamin? The trade deadline arrives less than 24 hours after the conclusion of Monday's game. McCoy and Benjamin are the two names most often brought up as possible trade candidates – for different reasons. McCoy could give the running game a boost for a team with playoff aspirations, while Benjamin is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season. It would be a surprise if the Bills were interested in bringing him back, so getting something for him now would be a no-brainer.

3. Can Tremaine Edmunds slow down Rob Gronkowski? The Amherst native and Patriots star tight end has made a habit of sticking it to his hometown team. In 13 games against the Bills, Gronkowski has 66 catches for 1,027 yards and 12 touchdowns. The addition of rookie linebacker Tremaine Edmunds gives the Bills a player who can match up with Gronkowski physically. Edmunds, though, has struggled at times in coverage this season.

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4. The halftime ceremony. Usually a time to grab a beer or make a sandwich, Monday night will be different. The Bills will retire Thurman Thomas' No. 34 during a ceremony at halftime. Thomas will join fellow Hall of Famers Jim Kelly (No. 12) and Bruce Smith (No. 78) as being the only players in franchise history to have their numbers retired. It will be a chance for fans to celebrate Thomas' career and fondly recall the Super Bowl days.

5. Can the crowd make an impact? Gronkowski said the atmosphere at New Era Field will be "straight popping," and he's right. It's been nearly 10 years since the Bills' last Monday night home game. The crowd should be in a frenzy at the start of the game. If the defense can get an early turnover off Tom Brady or the offense can strike quickly for a touchdown, the reaction should be deafening. The Bills will gladly welcome that home-field advantage.

For Thurman Thomas, retiring '34' is 'right up there' with the Hall of Fame

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