National Football League
Preview
Buffalo at New England
When: 4:25 PM ET, Sunday, December 29, 2013
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts

The New England Patriots can clinch a first-round bye and possibly the top overall seed if they can get past the visiting Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The Patriots own the tiebreaker for the top spot over the Denver Broncos, who are one game ahead in the standings and finish their regular season at Oakland. New England can drop as low as fourth with a loss based on its loss to Cincinnati earlier in the season and a lower conference record than the Indianapolis Colts.

The Bills are in a position to help the Patriots for a second straight week after their win over the Miami Dolphins in Week 16 ensured New England the AFC East crown. The Patriots answered a lot of questions about the effectiveness of the offense without tight end Rob Gronkowski with last week’s 41-7 drubbing at the Baltimore Ravens and are averaging 38.2 points in their last five wins. The Bills are coming off a shutout of the Dolphins and took New England down to the wire in Week 1 before a field goal in the final seconds gave the Patriots a 23-21 victory.

TV: 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Patriots -8. O/U: 47.

ABOUT THE BILLS (6-9): Buffalo dominated on the ground with 203 yards in last week’s 19-0 win over Miami and is second in the NFL in rushing offense (142.5) - an area it can exploit against the Patriots, who are 29th against the run (131.7). The Bills can lean on that rushing attack with the situation under center a little less clear, as starter EJ Manuel (knee) is still not 100 percent after sitting out last week. “Both quarterbacks participated in practice,” coach Doug Marrone said. “…EJ looked improved (Thursday) and we’re still in the process of making a decision on how we’re going to move forward.” If Manuel can’t go, Thad Lewis will get the nod.

ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (11-4):
New England is trying to wrap up an undefeated home slate and ensure a game or two in its own building during the playoffs after posting a strong effort on both sides of the ball in Baltimore. Injuries to nose tackle Vince Wilfork and middle linebacker Jerod Mayo earlier in the season significantly impacted the run defense but the Patriots made several plays in pass coverage against the Ravens and won the turnover battle 4-0. The Patriots are now turning their attention toward the best possible outcomes. “A lot of teams are still in position to get into the playoffs, so we’re one of those teams that our whole season’s ahead of us,” quarterback Tom Brady told reporters.

EXTRA POINTS

1. Patriots S Devin McCourty (concussion) has been absent from practice this week and is questionable.

2. Buffalo’s defense leads the NFL with 56 sacks.

3. New England has taken four straight and 19 of the past 20 meetings.

PREDICTION: Patriots 35, Bills 24
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf OT Div Conf
Buffalo 6-9 W2 21.3 23.6 4-4 2-5 2-3 4-6 0-2 3-2 5-6
New England 11-4 W1 27.3 21.2 7-0 4-4 1-2 10-2 1-1 3-2 8-3
Last Meeting
Buffalo New England
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
9/8/13 NE 23 BUF 21 286 136 150 431 158 273
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Buffalo E. Manuel 66.7 150 2 0
New England T. Brady 55.8 288 2 1
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Buffalo F. Jackson 13 67 5.2 0
New England S. Vereen 14 101 7.2 0
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Buffalo F. Jackson 4 41 10.2 0
New England D. Amendola 10 104 10.4 0
Touchdowns Player TD
Buffalo S. Johnson 1
New England J. Edelman 2
Season
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Buffalo E. Manuel 58.8 1972 11 9
New England T. Brady 60.6 4221 24 10
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Buffalo F. Jackson 193 836 4.3 8
New England S. Ridley 166 699 4.2 7
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Buffalo S. Chandler 50 600 12.0 2
New England J. Edelman 96 991 10.3 6
Touchdowns Player TD
Buffalo F. Jackson 9
New England S. Ridley 7