NFL announces date, time, TV channel for Patriots vs. Bills Week 16 game

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NFL announces date, time, TV channel for Patriots vs. Bills Week 16 game

The date and time for the New England Patriots' Week 16 matchup against the Buffalo Bills is now set in stone.

When the 2019 NFL regular season schedule was released, this game at Gillette Stadium was labeled as a TBD in regards to if it would be played on a Saturday or Sunday. 

The league announced Tuesday the Patriots will host the Bills on Saturday, Dec. 21 at 4:30 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on NFL Network as part of a triple-header.

This will be the second meeting of the season between these AFC East rivals. The Patriots left Buffalo with a slim 16-10 victory over the Bills in Week 4.

Both teams could have a lot to play for in this Week 16 matchup. The Patriots are in a tight race for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff race, while the Bills are currently one of the two wild card teams with a 6-3 record.

Tom E. Curran's latest AFC Power Rankings>>>

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Do Patriots have football's best cornerback duo? reveals its ranking

Do Patriots have football's best cornerback duo? reveals its ranking

The New England Patriots weren't able to defend their Super Bowl crown last season, but it wasn't the fault of the team's defense.

The Patriots defense was spectacular for most of the year, and it only gave up 14 offensive points in the team's season-ending AFC Wild Card playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium. 

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Perhaps the biggest strength of this unit was its pass defense. The Patriots allowed the second-fewest passing yards and the second-fewest passing yards per attempt. They also led the league in opponents' completion percentage, opponents' QB rating and interceptions, while giving up the fewest passing touchdowns.

One player who played a major role in this success was cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was named the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award winner. He wasn't alone, though. Cornerbacks Jason McCourty and J.C. Jackson also had strong seasons.

Do the Patriots have the best cornerback duo in football? recently ranked its top five CB tandems, and the Patriots came in at No. 2. Here's analyst Bucky Brooks' explanation:

2) Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty, New England Patriots: Gilmore, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, teams with McCourty to give the Patriots a formidable tandem. The duo excels at snuffing out WR1s in the Patriots' man-heavy scheme without having to deviate from their straightforward approach. Gilmore routinely takes on the challenge of shadowing the opponent's most dangerous threat, while McCourty blankets the sidekick on the opposite side of the field. Each guy has thrived in his respective role, which is why the Patriots' stifling pass defense was the talk of the town for much of last season.

The only tandem to rank ahead of the Patriots was the talented Baltimore Ravens duo of Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters. These two veteran cornerbacks were an essential part of a Ravens defense that helped Baltimore finish the regular season with an AFC-best 14-2 record before losing to the Titans in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

The Patriots are likely to bring back almost their entire secondary from last year, which is good news ahead of the 2020 season. The only key player from that group who's departed this offseason is safety Duron Harmon. He was traded to the Detroit Lions last month.

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Todd McShay insists Jarrett Stidham is 'not ready' to lead Patriots in 2020

Todd McShay insists Jarrett Stidham is 'not ready' to lead Patriots in 2020

Jarrett Stidham could develop into the New England Patriots' quarterback of the future.

But can he help them win games in the present?

ESPN draft expert Todd McShay has his doubts that the 23-year-old QB can succeed right away as the Patriots' starting QB following Tom Brady's free-agent departure.

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"From everyone I talked to in the organization, they're excited about his development," McShay said Monday on ESPN's "Get Up!" "He has so much potential. He is gifted. He's been through a lot in his life. He's got some character and grittiness and toughness to him.

"But he's not ready yet. That's the bottom line. He is not ready to lead the New England Patriots, in my opinion."

McShay cited New England's Week 3 game against the New York Jets last season in which Stidham entered the game in garbage time and threw an interception, prompting an angry Bill Belichick to sub Brady back in.

Our Tom E. Curran has reported the Patriots are content entering the season with Stidham and backup Brian Hoyer as their QB duo, but McShay suggested the team still may look elsewhere for a signal-caller via free agency or the 2020 NFL Draft.

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"They are going to have to make a decision on what to do," McShay said. "Is it bringing in a veteran like Andy Dalton to kind of stem the tide between now and when Stidham is ready, or is it drafting another quarterback that they think can bring competition and potentially outplay Stidham at that No. 1 position?"

The Patriots have options at QB in the NFL Draft, from high-profile names like Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Jordan Love to second-tier arms like Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm.

Whether those options -- or an NFL arm like Dalton, Jameis Winston and Cam Newton -- are worth pursuing appears up for debate. But reporters at least can agree on this: Belichick won't jump the gun for a QB.

"The one thing I know from talking to people inside the organization: It's all about patience and waiting to see how the market plays out," McShay added.