The New England Patriots didn't end the 2021 NFL regular season particularly well, but as a whole, it was a successful 17-game campaign.
For starters, the team reached the playoffs as the No. 6 seed in the AFC after missing the postseason in 2020. Mac Jones struggled over the last four games, but he was by far the best rookie quarterback in the league, especially among the five who were selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
One area where the Patriots showed tremendous improvement from 2020 was scoring differential.
ESPN's Mike Clay tweeted the numbers Monday morning:
The Patriots ranked No. 3 in the league with a plus-159 scoring differential this season -- one point higher than Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
One of the biggest factors in New England's point differential turnaround was its defense. The Pats gave up the second-fewest points at 17.8 per game. They were one of only four teams to allow fewer than 20 points per game.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, their opponent in the AFC Wild Card Round is the rival Buffalo Bills, who ranked No. 1 in scoring differential (plus-194) and No. 1 in points allowed (17 per game).
The Bills and Patriots split their two regular season meetings, with each team winning on the road. Buffalo has opened as 4.5-point betting favorites over New England, which makes sense when you look at the Patriots losing three of their last four games.