BUFFALO, N.Y. — Here are five things that you need to know heading into Saturday's Bills-Patriots wildcard matchup.
Highmark Stadium should be electric.
If there is an actual 12th man or home-field advantage, the Bills should have it on Saturday.
This is the first home playoff game in front of a full crowd since 1996. The Bills hosted the Jaguars that year in front of a packed crowd. After only allowing just north of 6,000 fans into their two home playoff games last season, I would expect fans to be loud and hungry for some Bills playoff football.
Veteran defensive end Jerry Hughes will get his first home playoff game in front of a full crowd as well.
“It will be a lot of fun. I tell a lot of people we did it last year without fan support, our stadium is another place with the Mafia in it, our stadium will be electric come Saturday night,” Hughes said.
The Bills are at full health.
With the exception of Tre'Davious White and Ike Boettger, who were both placed on IR earlier this season, the Bills head into the wildcard round completely healthy and with zero players on the COVID list. To have such significant health at this point of the season is a major advantage heading into the postseason.
Bills tight end Dawson Knox commented on the team's health status.
"Having almost a fully healthy team at this point of the season is rare. It's good to have our guys back on the field and thankful they’ll be able to do their jobs,” Knox said.
Josh Allen should have all of his weapons on Saturday, as well as veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who has returned to practice and is expected to be ready to go on Saturday.
Weather impacting the game.
The temperature is expected to be in the single digits at kickoff, which could significantly impact the game plan on Saturday. We saw it in their first matchup just a few weeks ago on Monday Night Football, when the Patriots ran the ball for over 200 yards while passing the ball just three times in 40-mph winds at Highmark Stadium.
While it's not expected to be as windy, it is expected to be extremely cold, which could impact player performance and the actual football itself. In fact, Bills coach Sean McDermott said during Thursday's practice the coaching staff froze footballs to imitate what the players may experience during the game.
McDermott said: "As you know growing up, playing in the backyard, it's cold playing touch or tackle football. That ball gets slick and firm, just trying to make our guys adapt to that as much as possible."
Devin Singletary continued success.
Something the Bills haven't had a majority of the season is the ability to play two-dimensional football. Buffalo has relied heavily on the passing game and Josh Allen to move the chains with his legs but over the past few weeks, the team has become two-dimensional with the emergence of Devin Singletary.
Singletary has six touchdowns during the past four weeks, and shockingly, just two in Buffalo’s first 13 games. Sometimes all that matters is getting hot at the right time, and Singletary is really heating up for this Buffalo offense.
With the elements on Saturday making it that much tougher to air the ball out, I would expect the Bills to get Singletary involved early and often.
Can Josh Allen be the superstar we know him to be?
It's no secret, Allen has had moments in his career where he has put the team on his back and reminded Buffalo he's the franchise QB, earlier in his career in the postseason that wasn't the case.
We've seen Allen throw three interceptions vs. a bad Falcons defense, and we've seen him single handedly lead a comeback vs. the defending champions in Tampa Bay. What performance Allen is able to muster up on Saturday will dictate a lot on if the Bills head to the divisional round.
He's built for these difficult type of Buffalo elements, he's big, tough, and can move the football with his legs, add in he has near full health on the offense, there is no excuse for Allen to not come out and play the game of his life for Buffalo.