5 difference makers to watch out for in Patriots vs Bills Wild Card Round game

Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen and New England Patriots QB Mac Jones
Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen and New England Patriots QB Mac Jones

Welcome to the playoffs. The Super Bowl is in range for the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills. However, to get there, each team needs to win today. That said, there can only be one winner.

Who will emerge victorious? That will be up to the teams to decide. Of course, some pieces on each team will make a bigger impact than others. Here's who the five biggest difference makers should be in this WIld Card matchup.

For better or worse: most impactful pieces in Patriots-Bills playoff matchup

#1 - Mac Jones

Mac Jones setting his receivers up for a play
Mac Jones setting his receivers up for a play

In football, the quarterback is the biggest difference-maker in most games. Generally speaking, if the quarterback has a bad day, the team will lose. If he has a good game, the team has a good shot of winning. Put simply, a quarterback can't win a game with their first few throws, but they can definitely lose it.

Mac Jones is going into his first playoff game in the NFL. In theory, he is coming off a season in which he won a championship, however, that was in college playing for Alabama under legendary head coach Nick Saban. The NFL is a different beast though, but what better mentor to help guide you through your first season in the league than the equally legendary Bill Belichick?

Being in the NFL comes with a different type of pressure and there are many questions surrounding the young quarterback. Will Jones be composed when he steps on the field on Saturday? Since April, his entire NFL career has been building to this moment. Will the moment be too big for him?

Jones has regulary been compared to Tom Brady this season, but those could end swiftly if he has a bad game today.

#2 - Hunter Henry

Hunter Henry celebrating a win
Hunter Henry celebrating a win

For the Patriots to win, they are going to need to score points. To do so, they will need everyone to contribute, but Hunter Henry could see more targets in this game than normal. After playing each other twice, both divisional opponents are quite familiar with each other's tendencies. Meaning, it will be up to one side to surprise the other with a new focal point on offense.

In the two teams' first encounter, the run game was the main vehicle through which the Patriots' ran their offense. In the second game, Mac Jones' arm took center stage, targeting his receivers for most of the day. This time, the team will need an unconventionally big game from the tight end.

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The tight end could implode or explode in this game, If Hunter Henry can handle the additional workload, he could be the driving force of the team's offense. Should the Patriots be able to put up points while minimizing turnovers, they'll emerge victorious. Henry has had 50 catches for 603 yards and nine touchdowns so far this season. He has the talent to take over a game. Will it happen on Saturday?

For better or worse: most impactful pieces in Patriots-Bills playoff matchup (2/2)

Here are the remaining three Patriots or Bills players that could have a massive impact on the game tonight.

#3 - Josh Allen

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills
New York Jets v Buffalo Bills

As said earlier, the quarterback can make or break his team during any given 60-minute period of football. If Josh Allen has a good day, his team will likely win. However, if he has a bad day, his team is likely going home. It is largely up to him to decide which day he is going to have.

Those who have watched Allen in the playoffs up to this point in his young career have bared witness to a few on-field implosions. Think back to this exact game last year against the Houston Texans, when Allen had a zero touchdown outing on his way to being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

If Allen has a meltdown against the Patriots, the defensive genius that is Belichick will take advantage and it could get ugly. Allen will need to keep his turnovers to a minimum and not allow the game to get away from him and the Buffalo Bills.

#4 - Emmanuel Sanders

Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs
Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs

Bill Belichick's famous goal of making teams beat him left-handed will be turned up to 11 in this game. Stefon Diggs will be smothered with coverage. As a slot option, Cole Beasley will see plenty of attention. Tight end Dawson Knox will not go unnoticed either.

However, Emmanuel Sanders, who has played in multiple Super Bowls, could be overlooked by the Patriots heading into this game, thanks to a somewhat quiet season.

As such, he could be what opens up New England's defense. If the Bills are anticipating this, Sanders could have a big day. If he has one or two big plays, Belichick may relocate resources to focus on him. Josh Allen would then be able to open the rest of the team up for a big game. Belichick might be in trouble as he scrambles to fill holes in his defense.

The first couple of targets for Sanders could be massive. If he drops them, the Bills could look elsewhere, which would leave them with very few open options. On the other hand, if he catches them and looks explosive, the Bills would be squarely in business. The first quarter and a half will be massive in setting up Sanders and the Bills' offense for the duration of the game.

#5 - Kendrick Bourne

Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots
Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots

Kendrick Bourne is the second player on this list to have appeared in a Super Bowl. As such, he will be one of the more reliable playoff weapons for the Patriots offense. He has shown an ability to break off big plays at times this season. If he can do that in this game, it could take a lot of pressure off Mac Jones, the defense, and the team overall.

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It would be especially good if he could do so early to set the tone for the New England Patriots' game. A strong early showing from Bourne could intimidate the Bills secondary, while indirectly putting pressure on Josh Allen to make his own big throws. Belichick's goal will be to force as many mistakes as he can from Josh Allen to get turnovers, one way to do it could be to get a big-play touchdown early.

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Edited by David Nyland