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Carucci Take2: Bills (and especially Josh Allen) must keep emotions in check, take care of business

WGRZ Bills/NFL Insider Vic Carucci says Buffalo cannot allow emotion to take over in Saturday's AFC wild card game against New England. This game is all business.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Let’s make this clear from the start.

Saturday night should not be viewed as the be-all, end-all for the Buffalo Bills.

I understand these are the hated New England Patriots coming to town for a wild-card playoff game. I understand the years of heartache/humiliation the franchise, their coach and their former quarterback brought to the Bills and their fans. I understand the to-the-moon-and-back excitement and pent-up joy that will drive thousands of people to brave sub-zero temperatures and fill frozen seats at Highmark Stadium.

None of that should factor into what actually happens in the game.

At home, the Bills – and especially Josh Allen – have a nasty habit of getting overly hyped when they allow their emotions to plug into the energy emanating from the stands. They can’t allow that to happen this time.

“It’s the Patriots at home, in division, that’s something that you dream about, and it’s an opportunity that doesn’t come around too often,” Allen told reporters.

The last time the Bills and Patriots squared off in the postseason was in 1963. That was when they were in the American Football League, when there wasn’t anything approaching the level of Patriot mystique or the sort of stranglehold that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady had around the Bills’ collective neck for so long.

“Energy is going to be high, and the juice will be high,” Allen said. “And we’ve got to be ready for that moment.”

I suspect they will.

This is the third encounter between the teams. The first was that disaster in the wind on Monday night football. The second was a dominant Bills win at Foxborough, Mass. Emotion played a significant part in both games.

Back then, the Bills were all about righting a regular-season ship that had gone off course. Now they’re on the first leg of a journey to accomplish what they fell one game short of accomplishing a year ago.

This is no longer about the six losses that ended up costing them home-field advantage through the playoffs. Or about the inconsistency of Allen and the offense that set the NFL on fire in 2020. Or about the defense occasionally let opposing running backs to run over it.

It’s about taking care of the business at hand. Nothing more. Nothing less.

There’s every reason to expect the Bills to take care of business Saturday night. Not merely because they handled the Pats when the teams last met, but because they have the more talented team and the one with the quarterback making his fifth postseason starts since his rookie season in 2018.

Mac Jones, New England’s QB, is starting his first NFL playoff game Saturday night. Being void of postseason experience does not bode well against a Bills defense that led the league in the fewest points and yards allowed (and also is the best against the pass).

In the Super Bowl era, rookie starting quarterbacks are 0-3 in the postseason against defenses with such a distinction. A rookie QB has never won a Super Bowl.

That matters. So, too, does the fact Belichick took the ball out of Jones’ hands the first time the teams met in the regular season and the fact the Bills’ defense eliminated him as a factor the second time.

Belichick will concoct some sort of elaborate defensive scheme for Allen, something that will try to minimize the running dynamic that makes his passing that much more dangerous. He knows it assures the Patriots of nothing, because there’s only so much an X-and-O plan (even one from the designer of a Super Bowl-winning masterpiece against the Bills that’s displayed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame) can do to prevent Allen’s considerable talent from shining through.

“Josh is one of the best players in the league,” Belichick told reporters. “Dynamic player. The ball is in his hands a lot. He can do a lot of things with it, make all the throws at all levels of the field, obviously run with the ball, scramble, extend plays, and throw it.

“It’s always a challenge to play against him. He’s a tough guy to stop.”

In the end, Saturday night’s game, as with pretty much every one involving the Bills and Allen, will mainly come down to whether/how well the Patriots do that.