(CBS Boston)- The New England Patriots find themselves in a bit of an unfamiliar position heading into Week 16 of the NFL season. The defending Super Bowl champions have yet to clinch their division. Now, they can clinch the division if they beat the Buffalo Bills at home this Sunday. But unlike in years past, that isn’t necessarily a sure thing.
“You look at Buffalo, they’re a covering machine on the road, 6-0-1 against the number this year on the road,” said SportsLine senior NFL analyst Larry Hartstein when asked about the matchup. “The only number they didn’t cover in Cleveland, it was a push. They missed both of their field goal attempts, lost by three. The Patriots, dominant at home, 42-19-2 in their last 63 home games. You have to wonder, do those Patriots teams resemble this year’s, and is that relevant anymore?”READ MORE: Bird Feeders, Baths Still Discouraged In Massachusetts, But 'No Large-Scale Mortality Events' Reported
The Patriots offensive struggles this season have been well documented. Aside from not having the same sort of deep threat receiver as years past, the play of quarterback Tom Brady has regressed some. Whether that is more attributable to the various injuries he has been battling or general age-related decline is hard to say. Either way, Sunday’s matchup is likely to be another tough one for the Pats offense.
The Bills sit just behind the Patriots in pass defense and total defense on the season. In the first meeting, Buffalo held Brady and company to just 224 yards. But, the Patriots won the turnover battle and got a big special teams play that were the difference in the game. While it’s hard to count on both turnovers and your special teams unit blocking a punt from game to game, the Patriots have certainly made a living out of those plays in the Belichick era. That makes it difficult for Hartstein to make a pick for Sunday’s matchup, but he is leaning one side over the other.READ MORE: Target Will Once Again Require Some Employees To Wear Face Masks
“Yeah, you know, the stats show that Buffalo completely outplayed the Patriots. They out-gained them by 150 yards. They were minus-3 in turnover margin. They lost their quarterback Josh Allen to a concussion and almost came back to win behind Matt Barkley of all people,” said Hartstein. “And, the Patriots had a blocked punt for a touchdown. Those are things that typically do not occur again. Credit to the Patriots special teams. They have done it a few times this year, but everything points to Buffalo taking the points.”
The Patriots are a shade under touchdown favorites in this matchup, currently sitting as 6.5-point favorites. But, the more interesting number is the over/under, which currently sits at 37, meaning the oddsmakers are expecting a low-scoring affair.
It’s a Saturday afternoon affair for the Patriots and Bills with kickoff set for 4:30 p.m. EST.MORE NEWS: Surveillance Video Shows Suspect Smashing Into, Running From Franklin Jewelry Store During Robbery