Bills-Patriots Preview

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Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson, right, catches a pass ahead of New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty, center, and cornerback Jonathan Jones, left, during the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)


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New England Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) tries to break a tackle by Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)


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Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen scrambles during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)


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Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott watches from the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The most recent time the Bills faced the Patriots, they left little doubt about their status as the pacesetter in the AFC East.

Buffalo walked off the field with a 47-17 win in the wild-card round of the playoffs this past January, demoralizing a New England team that was celebrating being back in the postseason after a one-year absence.

The Bills (8-3) will look to add to their recent run of success in a rivalry once dominated by the Patriots (6-5) during their latest trip to New England.

Buffalo enters Thursday night's matchup the winners of three of the past four regular-season meetings and is in second place in the AFC's only division in which all four teams are above .500.

But it has yet to notch a division win with close losses to Miami and the New York Jets. Both setbacks were on the road, a fact not lost on quarterback Josh Allen.

''Division games, you got to win them,'' Allen said. ''We know our record this year in them. It's not easy going on the road and playing in division games. We got to understand that and be ready for it again, a hostile environment.''

For New England, which is coming off its best offensive performance since quarterback Mac Jones returned from an ankle injury, the approach has been to remember but not fixate on last year's playoff debacle.

''I'm not going to just dwell on something that's in the past, but it was definitely in my mind how we ended the season last year,'' running back Rhamondre Stevenson said. ''I feel like we get to go out and put a different game on film.''

Thursday's game will be the third in 12 days for the Patriots, coming off having their season-best three-game winning streak ended in a 33-26 loss on Thanksgiving at Minnesota.

Back in last place in the division, it's left little room for error with six games remaining.

''We're going to need to play our best game and that's what we're going to prepare to do this week,'' Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.

NO MILLER

The injury bug has migrated around the Bills' defense this season. The latest to be affected is top pass rusher Von Miller after he was ruled out with a knee injury.

Miller leads the team with eight sacks, but left Buffalo's 28-25 win over Detroit on Thanksgiving. It creates a big hole for a unit that has allowed just 18.1 points per game this season, the fifth fewest allowed in the NFL.

Coach Sean McDermott acknowledged it will be one of their toughest adjustments yet.

''He's a future hall of famer for a reason,'' McDermott said. ''That said, we've got to move forward this week. And the person or the people responsible to step in and step up have got to do the job, and that's the way it goes.''

The news isn't all bad. Buffalo's other starting defensive end Greg Rousseau started the week as a full participant in practices after missing the previous three games with a high ankle sprain.

''We've got to hold together,'' defensive tackle Ed Oliver said. ''Von did the same thing for us.''

PUNT WATCH

If the Patriots are going to snap their two-game losing streak to Buffalo, it may start with forcing the Bills to punt the ball.

Buffalo scored on all seven of its drives without punting in last season's playoff win and went nine possessions without punting in its 33-21 regular-season victory.

''We went out there and it was negative-1 (degrees) and went out there and basically got our face kicked in,'' Patriots safety Adrian Phillips said. ''It's a big deal, but at the same time you can't let that consume you. It's a whole new team, a whole different mindset.''

MR. 200

Patriots team owner Robert Kraft interrupted McCourty's weekly news conference this week to present him with a photo collage in commemoration of what will be his 200th game for New England on Thursday.

The collage was made up of photos of McCourty from each of his previous 199 appearances for the Patriots over 13 seasons - all starts. It ranks third in team history behind only Bruce Armstrong (212 starts) and Tom Brady (283 starts).

''I came in here as a young pup and accomplishments didn't matter - individual accomplishments,'' McCourty said. ''But it's been a heck of a journey. I'm enjoying every moment of it.''

He's also still contributing in a big way, entering the week tied with Harrison Smith for the most interceptions among all active NFL players with 33.

The Patriots are 26-4 when McCourty has an INT in a regular-season game.

Player Notes
Travis Kelce Jan 30 8:50am ET
Travis Kelce

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (back) was a game-time decision for Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but he suited up and ended up leading the team in receptions, catching seven passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. Kelce has been quarterback Patrick Mahomes' top weapon all season long, so it's not a shock to see him continue to look Kelce's way, even with Kelce banged up a little bit. Kelce will be an elite DFS option against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl.

From RotoBaller

Patrick Mahomes Jan 30 8:30am ET
Patrick Mahomes

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes looked impacted at times by the ankle sprain he suffered last week against the Jaguars, but he still managed to go 29-for-43 for 326 yards with a pair of touchdowns while also adding eight rushing yards, including a five-yard scamper that helped set up the game-winning field goal as the Chiefs took down the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game. Mahomes will have another two weeks now to rest up before the Super Bowl meeting with the Eagles, so expect to see him look much closer to 100% for that contest.

From RotoBaller

Isiah Pacheco Jan 30 8:30am ET
Isiah Pacheco

Kansas City Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco saw a lot of usage in Sunday's AFC Championship Game win over the Bengals, with 10 carries and five receptions. He didn't produce a ton on the ground as he finished with just 26 rushing yards, but that was enough to lead the team, as the rest of the Chiefs combined for 10 carries and 16 yards. The passing game was there Pacheco made a real impact, as he turned his five catches into 59 yards. He likely won't get quite as much usage against the Eagles in the Super Bowl, but it's an encouraging sign to see how much more usage he had than the team's other running backs.

From RotoBaller

Evan McPherson Jan 30 12:30am ET
Evan McPherson

Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson made both of his field goal attempts during the AFC Championship loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night. The 23-year-old remained perfect in the postseason, extending his streak to 19 successful field goal attempts. While McPherson took a step back this season to a degree, he'll draw plenty of attention from fantasy managers heading into the 2023-24 campaign.

From RotoBaller

Hayden Hurst Jan 30 12:20am ET
Hayden Hurst

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst finished with four catches for 37 yards during the AFC Championship loss to the Chiefs. The 29-year-old scored a touchdown against the Bills in the divisional round. While he came close to another one on Sunday night, he ultimately fell short. Hurst finished the regular season with 52 receptions for 414 yards and two touchdowns. Although he failed to live up to expectations in some ways, he may have done enough to earn himself another deal with the Bengals heading into the 2023-24 campaign. However, Hurst's fantasy stock will be limited until he proves he can be a consistent contributor.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Boyd Jan 30 12:10am ET
Tyler Boyd

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (thigh) finished with two catches for 40 yards in Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The veteran looked good early in this one. However, he suffered a left thigh injury in the second quarter, so he was a non-factor for the remainder of the night. The 29-year-old finished the regular season with 58 receptions for 762 yards and five touchdowns. While the duo of Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase will continue to limit Boyd's ceiling as long as he stays in Cincinnati, he'll remain a flex option in deep fantasy setups heading into the 2023-24 campaign, barring a severe injury to his leg.

From RotoBaller

Ja'Marr Chase Jan 29 11:50pm ET
Ja'Marr Chase

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase finished with six receptions for 75 yards during the AFC Championship loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The former LSU Tiger found the end zone in five of his previous six games entering this one. However, he played second fiddle to Tee Higgins, who led the Bengals in receiving on the night. Chase missed time throughout the year because of a hip injury. Yet, he still had 1,046 yards and nine touchdowns off a career-high 87 catches. Although Justin Jefferson is the consensus overall top fantasy wideout, Chase may surpass him for that spot by the end of the 2023-24 campaign, especially with Joe Burrow as his quarterback.

From RotoBaller

Tee Higgins Jan 29 11:40pm ET
Tee Higgins

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins finished with six catches for a team-high 83 yards during the loss to the Chiefs in the AFC Championship. He also scored a touchdown, pulling in a 27-yard pass from Joe Burrow in the third quarter. After struggling throughout the first two games of the postseason, Higgins finally got it together. However, it wasn't enough, as the Bengals fell short of their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Overall, the 24-year-old had a fantastic season, amassing 74 receptions for a career-high 1,029 yards and seven touchdowns. Although Ja'Marr Chase will continue to take away targets from Higgins moving forward, he'll still be a highly coveted option in every fantasy draft heading into the 2023-24 campaign.

From RotoBaller

Samaje Perine Jan 29 11:10pm ET
Samaje Perine

Cincinnati Bengals running back Samaje Perine finished with five carries for 22 yards in Sunday's loss to the Chiefs. He also scored a touchdown, finding the end zone early in the fourth quarter, and had three catches for four yards. The 27-year-old looked better than Joe Mixon, who had eight attempts for a measly 19 yards. Perine arguably had the best season of his career, amassing 394 rushing yards and a career-high 38 catches for 287 yards for six total scores. At this rate, he's done enough to earn a more prominent role regardless of where he lands next season. However, if he remains in Cincinnati, he could see enough touches throughout the year to severely jeopardize Mixon's fantasy potential.

From RotoBaller

Joe Mixon Jan 29 11:00pm ET
Joe Mixon

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon was a non-factor in Sunday's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The former sooner carried the ball only eight times, three more than Samaje Perine, and totaled just 19 yards while adding three catches for 15 yards. Mixon looked fantastic in the win over the Buffalo Bills in the divisional round. However, he didn't get anything going in the AFC Championship, ceding carries and a touchdown to Perine. Mixon finished the regular season with 210 carries for 814 yards. He also combined for nine touchdowns, seven less than the 2021-22 campaign. As a result, the 26-year-old will be hard to trust heading into next season, especially if Perine remains on the team. But even if Perine doesn't stay in Cincy, Mixon's fantasy stock may plummet throughout the offseason.

From RotoBaller

Joe Burrow Jan 29 10:40pm ET
Joe Burrow

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow couldn't lift his team to a second consecutive Super Bowl appearance. The signal-caller threw 270 yards in the narrow AFC Championship loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, tossing one touchdown along with two interceptions. Burrow had trouble getting anything going early, as the Bengals offensive line couldn't stop the Chiefs defense from getting to their quarterback. However, even after the group got it together, the former LSU Tiger still fell short of his second AFC title. Burrow had a fantastic 2022-23 campaign, finishing the regular season with 4,475 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 12 picks while completing 68.3% of his throws. Fortunately, barring a trade, he'll have Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon back at his disposal. As a result, Burrow will be one of the first fantasy quarterbacks off draft boards heading into the new year.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Boyd Jan 29 8:43pm ET
Tyler Boyd

Updating a previous report, Cincinnati Bengals WR Tyler Boyd (thigh) is questionable to return to the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs after exiting the game in the first half due to a thigh injury.

From TheHuddle

Arik Armstead Jan 29 8:30pm ET
Arik Armstead

The San Francisco 49ers defensive unit allowed 31 points to the Philadelphia Eagles in a blowout 7-31 NFC Championship Game loss. Dre Greenlaw led the 49ers with nine combined tackles, including two tackles for losses. Fred Warner added eight tackles and one tackle for a loss. Only Arik Armstead was able to come up with a sack, and no Niner forced a fumble or made an interception. As a result, the 49ers DST scored 0 points in the NFL.com standard scoring system.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Boyd Jan 29 8:13pm ET
Tyler Boyd

Cincinnati Bengals WR Tyler Boyd (ankle) left the AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs in the first half due to an injury, and he has been back on the field for just one play since suffering the ailment.

From TheHuddle

Robbie Gould Jan 29 7:50pm ET
Robbie Gould

San Francisco 49ers kicker Robbie Gould made the only extra point he attempted and did not try any field goals in the Niners' 7-31 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. After two-straight games making four field goals, this was an extremely disappointing game for Gould starters. The 49ers offense was already in for a tough game, but the going got tougher when quarterback Brock Purdy left the game in the first quarter with an elbow injury. No. 4 quarterback Josh Johnson was then taken out and put in concussion protocol. Purdy returned but was severely hampered. Ultimately, the 49ers only gained 164 yards all game and never got into the red zone.

From RotoBaller

George Kittle Jan 29 7:30pm ET
George Kittle

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle caught three passes for 32 yards in the Niners' 7-31 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. The 29-year-old also took one carry for four yards. The Niners' passing game was impacted by injuries to both quarterbacks Brock Purdy (elbow) and Josh Johnson (concussion protocol). San Francisco only threw the ball 18 times all game, and Purdy only made two passes in the second half after Johnson left the game in the third quarter. Kittle will be one of the top tight ends taken in 2023 fantasy drafts.

From RotoBaller

Kadarius Toney Jan 29 7:30pm ET
Kadarius Toney

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney (ankle) is questionable to return to the AFC Championship matchup with Cincinnati. Toney entered this contest with five catches for 36 yards, the most on the team this postseason. However, if he doesn't make it back on Sunday, he'll finish with one catch for nine yards. Of course, the Chiefs have plenty of options on the offensive end, so Patrick Mahomes won't be impacted.

From RotoBaller

Brandon Aiyuk Jan 29 7:10pm ET
Brandon Aiyuk

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk caught just one pass for 10 yards on his only target of the NFC Championship Game, a 7-31 San Francisco loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. As the 49ers' primary deep threat, Aiyuk was hurt by the loss of quarterbacks Brock Purdy (elbow) and Josh Johnson (concussion protocol) to injuries. Purdy would come back in the third quarter, but he was unable to throw well and only attempted two passes, both for only a couple of yards. Aiyuk had his first 1,000-yard season of his career, so he could enter the 2023 fantasy season with momentum.

From RotoBaller

Deebo Samuel Jan 29 7:00pm ET
Deebo Samuel

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel caught three passes for 33 yards in the Niners' 7-31 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. The 27-year-old also lost nine yards on six carries. The 49ers were desperately trying to get anything going after both their quarterbacks got injured. Samuel was used on more rushes than he has in any playoff game this year, but the Eagles were expecting runs. Only three of Samuel's runs went for gains. He also took a fourth quarter kickoff out of the end zone for a 37-yard return, his only kickoff return of the season.

From RotoBaller

Dallas Goedert Jan 29 6:53pm ET
Dallas Goedert

Philadelphia Eagles TE Dallas Goedert caught five passes for 23 yards against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. He was targeted six times during the game.

From TheHuddle