The Worksheet, a fantasy football overview by Rich Hribar, breaking down everything you need to know for the Wild Card New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills Saturday night game.
|44.70%||24||Opp. Rush %||43.59%||22|
|55.30%||9||Opp. Pass %||56.41%||11|
Against the Spread
Bills ATS at Home: 4-3-2
Patriots ATS Away: 5-3
Bills ATS as Favorite: 7-5-2
Patriots ATS as Underdog: 3-2
Saturday night features another rematch from the regular season against division rivals. The Patriots went into Buffalo in Week 13 and pulled out a 14-10 win in a game that featured heavy winds and three pass attempts from their offense. These teams then hooked up again in Week 16, with the Bills winning 33-21 in a game in which they were the first team not to punt against the Patriots in a game under Bill Belichick. The Bills were aggressive and went for four different fourth downs in that game, converting three.
Buffalo enters the postseason leading the league in percentage of offensive snaps with a lead (58.1%) and the fewest rate of snaps trailing (25.9%). Five of their six losses were by one score while every one of their wins was by double-digits.
Both teams hit the postseason ranking first and second in points allowed per drive defensively, but the Patriots have shown more vulnerability to close the season, losing three of their final four games since their Week 14 bye, allowing 27 or more points in all three of the losses.
Buffalo was not overly pressed on the schedule by opposing quarterback play, but they still only allowed 12 touchdown passes all season, the fewest in a season by any team since the 2011 Ravens and their fewest as a franchise since 1999.
As a partial byproduct on defense, offensively Buffalo averaged 109.2 more yards from scrimmage per game than their opponent, the most in the league. The next closest team was the Buccaneers with 74.5 yards gained per game than their opponents.
We also have Mac Jones becoming the first rookie quarterback to start in the Wild Card Round since Lamar Jackson in 2019. The last rookie quarterback to win in the Wild Card Round against another non-rookie was T.J. Yates in 2011. The last rookie underdog to win was Mark Sanchez in 2009.
Josh Allen: Allen closed the books in 2021 as the first repeat fantasy QB1 in overall scoring in back-to-back seasons since Drew Brees in 2011-2012 and the first QB1 in points per game in consecutive seasons since Daunte Culpepper in 2003-2004.
It was not always pretty down the stretch as Allen completed 57.2% of his passes for 5.7 yards per pass attempt the final six games, but his rushing and touchdown production were anchors for fantasy. Buffalo got much more aggressive with Allen running down the stretch, with him carrying double-digit times in three of the final five games with 10.4 rushing points per game over that span.
Allen scored 11.7 fantasy points when these teams played in the wind game on Monday night, then came back with 30.9 fantasy points in Week 16, passing for 314 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 64 yards.
We will of course be on weather watch here heading into the weekend since the Bills and Allen have not been at their best this season when pressed with suboptimal conditions. Of course, we have the wind game these teams played in Week 13 that everyone remembers, but we also have Week 11 in the rain versus the Colts, and Week 17 in the snow against the Falcons all at home.
In those three games, Allen threw for 6.0, 4.8, and 4.6 yards per pass attempt. That Week 17 game was the coldest game Allen has started (26 degrees) while he has started four career games below freezing temperatures in his career, throwing for 193 yards or fewer in all four with a game-high 55.9% completion rate, four touchdowns, and seven interceptions.
Allen’s legs offer him an out for fantasy no matter the weather and what we really care about is wind and precipitation over it just being cold. If we get the latter then we have to lower expectations in chasing down that Week 16 fantasy ceiling, but Allen carries as high of a ceiling as any quarterback playing this weekend.
Mac Jones: Jones closed his rookie season on a down note in Miami, scoring 10.8 fantasy points. Despite his overall success as a rookie, Jones managed just four starts in the top half of weekly fantasy scoring. All four of those games came against teams in the bottom half of the league in pressure rate while the Bills sit at the top of the league (29.1%). Jones has had seven games against top-10 defenses in pressure rate and in those games has averaged 9.1 fantasy points. Those teams were able to pressure Jones on 32.2% of his dropbacks in those games, with him completing 27-of-52 passes (48.2%) for 295 yards (5.3 Y/A) with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Bills led the NFL in completion rate (56.1%), yards allowed per pass attempt (5.8 Y/A), and touchdown rate (2.3%).
Devin Singletary: Singletary stayed hot in the season finale, turning 21 touches into 112 yards and two touchdowns. Singletary closed the year with four straight top-10 scoring weeks while accounting for 84-of-101 backfield touches over that span.
Singletary only rushed 10 times for 36 yards and 12 times for 39 yards in the two matchups versus New England, but he was able to reach the end zone in Week 16 while catching 5-of-6 targets for 39 yards in that game.
The Bills did not find a lot of success running on New England in either matchup, but we have seen the Patriots struggle against backs this year, allowing 4.51 yards per carry (27th) to backs. The receiving work is another out if the yards stay lean on the ground since New England allowed 11.5 receiving points per game (24th) to backs.
Damien Harris: Harris was back to his normal usage to close the season, playing 48% of the snaps in the season finale. Game script just got away from New England, which limited Harris to 15 touches, but he was still able to find the end zone for the third consecutive game. It was the 10th game that Harris has scored over his past 11 played. Harris did catch a season-high four passes last week, but with 18 catches all season, we are still dependent on him getting into the end zone to carry his fantasy upside.
While Buffalo has not bent against the pass often, we have seen them allow rushing production, particularly in the power run game. The Patriots rushed for 222 yards in Week 13 and then 149 yards in Week 16. Harris himself rushed 10 times for 111 yards and a 64-yard touchdown when these teams met in Week 13 before exiting with a hamstring injury and then came back and rushed 18 times for 103 yards and three scores when these teams played in Week 16.
Rhamondre Stevenson did not play in that second game, but the only time that Stevenson has popped for fantasy over the back half of the season has been with Harris sidelined or cleaning up garbage time in a blowout versus the Jaguars. Stevenson has not had double-digit touches in a game played by Harris in full since Week 9.
Brandon Bolden: Bolden was the back against Miami to pop last week, turning nine touches into 66 yards and a touchdown. It was the most touches that Bolden has had in a game since Week 9. The Bills have been excellent against backs out of the backfield, allowing 7.3 receiving points per game (second) to backs. Bolden totaled nine touches for 59 yards in the two matchups with Buffalo in the regular season.
Stefon Diggs: Diggs closed his season out catching 9-of-14 targets for 81 yards and a touchdown, giving him a career-high 10 touchdowns to go with 103 receptions and 1,225 yards in his second season in Buffalo.
Diggs only notched two 100-yard games this season but leading the NFL with 22 end zone targets gave him enough weekly scoring upside. Diggs found the end zone in three of his past four games.
The Patriots played heavy man coverage in both matchups against the Bills, playing man 42.2% of the time in the first matchup (third-highest that week) and 41.2% in the rematch (fourth). Diggs is the featured target for Josh Allen regardless, but especially against man coverage. Against man coverage, Diggs logged 30.4% of the Buffalo targets and was targeted on 27.3% of his routes. Against zone coverage, Diggs carried a 25.0% target share and was targeted on 23.3% of his routes. In those two games versus New England, Diggs received 23.3% (4-51-0) and 30.3% (7-85-1) of the targets.
Gabriel Davis: Davis had a career-high 14 targets in Week 18 but closed the season with just three catches for 39 yards between a game of drops and just missed opportunities. With Emmanuel Sanders banged up to close the year, Davis has played 83%, 90%, 87%, and 91% of the snaps over the final four games.
We will have to monitor the status for Sanders this week, but even if he returns, Davis is the better bet for production and potentially playing time. Sanders had just 28 yards or fewer in each of his final six games played.
This is a tough draw for either pass catcher, however. New England allowed 6.9 yards per target (second) and a 59.2% catch rate (second) to opposing wideouts. Where Davis can make an impact is that he is second on the team in end zone targets (12) with seven over the past five games.
Jakobi Meyers: Meyers ended the season with an 83-866-2 line on 126 targets. Those targets were 51 more than the next closest Patriot. While the targets are there, we know what we are getting from Meyers as a reception-based floor option for fantasy. Meyers cleared 73 yards in just two games this season.
Buffalo allowed a league-low 8.5 points per game to opposing slot receivers, including a 6-59-0 line on eight targets to Meyers in Week 16.
Cole Beasley: Beasley took a significant step back this year compared to 2020. He caught the same number of passes (82) as last year but produced 274 fewer yards and three fewer touchdowns. Beasley’s 8.5 yards per catch was his lowest rate since his rookie season.
The Patriots did allow 10 touchdowns (22nd) to opposing slot receivers but were second in the NFL in receptions allowed to slot wideouts (5.6 per game).
Kendrick Bourne: After a small spike in the middle of the season, Bourne has not been a large part of the New England offense to close the year. Bourne has had four or fewer receptions in 11 of his past 13 games while having more than four targets in just two of his past nine games. After seeing 20.6% and 22.2% of the team targets in Week 8-9, Bourne has seen just 13.9% of the looks over his past eight games played. Bourne caught 2-of-4 targets for 33 yards when these teams played in Week 16.
Dawson Knox: Knox carries touchdown upside paired with offensive attachment, but he has lived as a touchdown-or-bust tight end this season. Knox has had more than 49 yards in just three games all season, but he is third among all tight ends in end zone targets (10).
Knox had games of 2-14-0 and 2-11-1 against New England this season, who was tough on tight ends all season. The Patriots allowed a league-low 53.5% catch rate and 5.1 yards per target to opposing tight ends during the regular season.
Hunter Henry: Henry posted a season-high 86 yards to end the season, anchored by a 35-yard reception, his longest catch since his rookie season in 2016. Henry closed the year with a 50-603-9 line on 75 targets, which was second on the team.
Like Knox, we are largely chasing a touchdown from Henry, who was second among all tight ends in the league with 13 end zone targets. Buffalo was also stingy against opposing tight ends, allowing a 58.7% catch rate (second) and 3.3% touchdown rate (sixth) to tight ends. In Week 16, Henry caught 1-of-6 targets for nine yards against the Bills.
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