The Patriots and those who follow them are in unfamiliar territory Monday night: For the first time since 2000, the Patriots will take the field having already been eliminated from the playoffs.
A loss to the Dolphins in Week 15 left the Patriots at 6-8 and with no mathematical chance of making the playoffs despite an expanded playoff field in both conferences this season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
New England’s opponent, the Buffalo Bills, are 11-3 and have won the AFC East title to punch their ticket to the playoffs. There’s not much for the Bills to play for either, since the Chiefs have locked up the top seed in the AFC playoffs and the only first-round playoff bye.
But there are intriguing story lines nonetheless, including: who plays quarterback for the Patriots (Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham?), who defends Buffalo’s electrifying receiver Stefon Diggs with top cornerback Stephon Gilmore out with a leg injury, and which other players might get extra playing time to see what they can do?
It’s also still a big divisional rivalry game, and it will be the 122nd time the two teams have faced off. New England leads the all-time series, 76-44-1. The Patriots lost the first meeting of the teams, 24-21, on Nov. 1 when Newton fumbled to end the Patriots’ final drive in the red zone with 37 seconds left.
We’ll provide updates and commentary throughout the game.
Inactives – 6:45 p.m.
Patriots: LB Ja’Whaun Bentley; DT Lawrence Guy; C Marcus Martin; QB Brian Hoyer; RB Damien Harris; LB Shilique Calhoun
Bills: QB Davis Webb; QB Jake Fromm; TE Reggie Gilliam; DE Trent Murphy.
Pregame scenes – 6:32 p.m.
From Jim McBride at Gillette Stadium:
Pregame roster moves – 6:18 p.m.
From Jim McBride at Gillette Stadium: The Patriots have activated LB Cassh Maluia (standard elevation) and DL Nick Thurman (COVID-19 replacement to the 53-man roster from the practice squad. In addition, they signed center Marcus Martin to the 53. Starting C David Andrews (calf) was limited in practice all week.
From the Bills on Twitter: We’ve activated WR John Brown from IR but have placed Brown, S Josh Thomas and RB Christian Wade on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Per NFL protocols, those players have been defined to have been in close contact with RB T.J. Yeldon, who was placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 yesterday.
By the numbers – 4:50 p.m.
|Total offense||330.8 (24)||386.7 (6)|
|Total defense||345.4 (11)||356.1 (16)|
|Points per game||20.6 (27)||29.1 (5)|
|Points allowed||21.9 (7)||24.3 (16)|
SOURCE: Patriots media relations