The New England Patriots will have a very low bar to clear when they face the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night.
The Patriots have lost their last two games against their AFC East rivals by a combined score of 80-38 and forced exactly zero Bills punts in those two contests. Buffalo went a perfect seven-for-seven on touchdown drives in the 2021 AFC Wild Card game, a 47-17 drubbing that safety Adrian Phillips described as "(getting) our face kicked in."
But is there reason to believe Thursday will be different?
Tyler Dunne of GoLongTD.com joined Tom E. Curran's Patriots Talk podcast on Tuesday to explain why the Patriots could have a better shot at containing the Bills and quarterback Josh Allen, who has been battling a right elbow injury over the past three weeks.
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"I think we all have the memories of Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs and Devin Singletary just doing whatever they wanted to against the Patriots defense. But I think this is a different Bills team," Dunne told Curran.
"I think (the Patriots) might be catching the Bills at a good time. They've got a lot of illnesses, they've got a lot of injuries, and nothing bigger than the elbow for Josh Allen."
Five Bills players didn't practice Monday due to illness, which is concerning for Buffalo. But the bigger concern lies with Allen, who has four touchdown passes and five interceptions over his past four games.
"He's finding a way to win; they just won two games in five days ... so that takes a level of resiliency. But this isn't the same Josh Allen," Dunne said. "The way that he was able to just snap the ball and kind of sidearm it and make any throw from any angle that he's wanted to that we saw in those two blowout wins -- it's not that quarterback.
"They can still win with the way Josh Allen is playing. His legs are dangerous, he's finding a way to make the plays late. He was able to labor that big throw to Diggs against the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. But I do think they're kind of in a funk offensively. They miss (former offensive coordinator) Brian Daboll. If you're New England, I know you have your own issues, but you're catching the Bills at a pretty good time."
The Patriots still are considerable underdogs entering Thursday after allowing 33 points to the Minnesota Vikings on Thanksgiving. But Buffalo has lost two of its last four games since starting the season 6-1, so at the very least, New England should be thankful this matchup is happening now as opposed to September or October.
For more on how the Patriots can slow down the Bills, subscribe to the Patriots Talk podcast or watch on YouTube below.