The AFC is up for grabs when the New England Patriots, led by rookie quarterback Mac Jones, take on fourth-year signal-caller Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. The Patriots are riding a six-game winning streak, while the Bills steadied the ship last week with a Thanksgiving win at the New Orleans Saints.
The game has many great matchups. But perhaps the biggest obstacle facing players -- and fans, for that matter -- is the weather. Now that temperatures have dropped, the wind picks up and an outdoor stadium like Orchard Park in December can often have difficult, memorable weather conditions.
Monday night presents just such a challenge.
Snow swirling before Patriots and Bills showdown
In typical western New York fashion, the Highmark Stadium field has a light coat of white snow, but the real issue, other than the cold, is the extremely strong wind gusts, not for the faint hearted. Take a look.
While the players will have to deal with all facets of a crucial game, dealing with the weather is going to be just as important to the outcome. Patriots coach Bill Belichick acknowledged the weather would be a factor when speaking to a reporter outside his team's locker room during ESPN's "Monday Night Countdown" broadcast.
The Patriots rely heavily on the run game to take the pressure off Mac Jones, so the weather could play into New England's hands.
As for the Bills, their running game has seriously struggled of late, and they have relied on Josh Allen to throw them to wins. In Monday night's clash, especially with the wind causing havoc, throwing the ball 35-40 times is likely to be out of the question. One player casually tossed a football in the air during warmups, only to have the ball fly away before he could catch it.
Seeing how the teams' weather-adjusted gameplans unfold will be interesting, and the weather could favor the Patriots, despite playing away from home. New England, of course, has to prepare for similar conditions in Foxboro, Mass.
As it stands, the Patriots (8-4) enter as the top seed in the AFC. However, with a win Monday night, the Bills can take the lead in the AFC East. It is sure to be a fascinating matchup with Bill Belichick's outstanding defense facing one of the league's best quarterbacks.
For Mac Jones, the game represents a chance to further his developing game in his first year in the NFL. After a rocky start, Jones has looked better with every week. A six-game winning streak has the Patriots on one of the best rolls in the NFL, and the Bills are going to have to be at their best to secure the win.