7 non-Josh Allen Bills players to watch as they take on the Patriots in Week 18

7 non-Josh Allen Bills players to watch as they take on the Patriots in Week 18

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Buffalo has multiple playmakers on both sides of the ball.

Stefon Diggs has set fire to the Patriots since joining the Bills in 2020. AP Photo/Steven Senne

Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game will go ahead as planned following Monday’s traumatic event when Bill’s safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest during their game against the Bengals.

The news over the past few days certainly looks better than Monday night as Hamlin’s health has improved over the past few days. On Friday, his breathing tube was removed and he was able to FaceTime with his Bills teammates.

Both teams seem ready to play a football game now and Sunday is important. They’re almost in a must-win situation for the Patriots as a win puts them in the playoffs, while if they can’t beat the Bills they’d have to lose a few other teams. For the Bills, they play to at least hold the AFC Championship game at a neutral venue if they make it there and for seeding purposes.

Buffalo won the first matchup between the two teams this season 24-10 and has the number New England has had since Tom Brady left in 2020, going 5-1 and a 176-92 win over the Patriots in those six matchups.

Here are seven non-Josh Allen players to watch as the Bills take on the Patriots on Sunday.

Stefan Diggs

The All-Pro receiver has had the Patriots number since arriving in Buffalo in 2020.

In the 2020 New England Week 16 matchup, Diggs had arguably the best game of his career, catching nine passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Bills to a 38-9 win over the Patriots.

Diggs hasn’t had such a dominant performance since, although that type of game is also difficult to replicate. In six matchups against the Patriots with the Bills, Diggs has caught 36 passes for 525 yards and five touchdowns (if you’re curious, he had four receptions for 51 yards in the infamous 2021 wind game).

Perhaps Diggs’ second-best performance against the Patriots since joining the Bills came in the Week 13 matchup earlier this season. He had seven receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown that game, made three three-down receptions in the second half of that game, keeping the Patriots’ offense on the touchline as they were several points behind.

It will be interesting to see who gets Diggs duty for the Patriots on Sunday. Jonathan Jones and Jack Jones alternately covered him in the December 1 matchup and had little success. Diggs caught five receptions on six targets for 64 yards and a touchdown with Jonathan Jones on him in Week 13 while Jack Jones is out for the game with injury (and now he’s suspended).

However, New England has a few other options if they don’t trust Jonathan Jones to cover Diggs again. Jalen Mills missed the first matchup and it’s doubtful he’ll play on Sunday, but it’s arguably the most physical corner that could lead him to some success against Diggs. The other option is Marcus Jones, who has taken on tougher duties in recent weeks with varying degrees of success and is likely the fastest member of the Patriots’ secondary.

Devin Singletary and James Cook

The common hit against the Bills since becoming a title contender has been their lack of strong running play outside of Allen. However, you could start correcting this.

Both Singletary and Cook have managed the ball efficiently since Thanksgiving. Singletary rushed for 396 yards on 78 carries, good for 5.1 yards per carry with three touchdowns in his last six games. Cook hit a good second shot and rushed for 293 yards on 47 carries, good for a 6.2 yards per carry with a touchdown over the same stretch.

In the Week 13 matchup against the Patriots, Singletary didn’t run the ball as efficiently. He had 51 yards on 13 carries, good for 3.9 yards per carry, but he found the end zone on a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line early in the fourth quarter.

In seven career matchups against the Patriots, Singletary rushed for 375 yards for 4.2 yards per carry and four touchdowns. So New England didn’t really run the ball too efficiently for Singletary, even though it gave up 81 yards to Singletary with 16 carries and two touchdowns in last year’s playoff demolition.

The Patriots’ run defense was one of the best in football this season, ranking sixth in yards per game (106.4) and fifth in yards allowed per carry (4.1). So we’ll see if the hot streak can continue on Bill’s running backs or not.

Gregory Rousseau

The sophomore edge rusher has made the loss of Von Miller an easier pill to swallow for the Bills, though it hasn’t necessarily made up for lost production either.

Rousseau has seven sacks in 12 games this season but just two in his last six games, both of which came in the Bills’ Week 14 win over the Jets. He’s given them a steady hand to create pressure but hasn’t excelled either, registering either three or four pressures in each of the last four games. He’s also only recorded more than four pressings in a game once this season.

Rousseau is likely to face Conor McDermott on Sunday. He recorded three pressure attempts against him in the final matchup between the two teams but didn’t come home for a sack.

Matt Milan

There aren’t many – if any – more versatile linebackers in the league than the BC product.

Milano is a strong tackler with 72 combined tackles and 44 stops this season while also proving viable at pass coverage. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 44 of 61 passes for just 366 yards without touchdowns while targeting Milano this season as he recorded two interceptions, giving opposing quarterbacks a 73.5 passer rating when targeting him this season.

Milano can get a bit stuck in pass coverage with receivers, although considering he’s a linebacker, he ends up covering mostly tight ends and running backs. He’s the main reason this Buffalo finishes second in the DVOA against tight ends and seventh in the passing game in the DVOA against running backs. So Rhamondre Stevenson and Hunter Henry have a tough task ahead if the Patriots plan to use those two a lot on Sunday.

Tre’Davious White

The two-time All-Pro was out through Thanksgiving this season after torn his cruciate ligament on Thanksgiving a year earlier.

While White hasn’t played at the All-Pro level he played at before the injury, not many players can be used as cleats in their immediate action after a cruciate ligament rupture. But White was solid. In five games this season, White allowed 13 receptions on 25 goals for 166 yards and a touchdown, giving opposing quarterbacks an 86.4 passing rating when targeting him this season.

The first Patriots-Bills matchup this season was only White’s second game back, and New England didn’t really put him to the test in that game (as evidenced by Mac Jones’ touchline breakout). White was tackled just four times, allowing Nelson Agholor two receptions.

With the Patriots receiving corps appearing to be in full health and Tyquan Thornton and Kendrick Bourne showing up in recent weeks, will New England be beaming it more towards the white on Sunday? And if so, will White be able to play like before the cruciate ligament injury? The answer to these questions could determine who wins the Week 18 matchup.

Jordan Poyer

Perhaps the most underrated part of the Bills is that their defense has starting talent in any defensive group – and Poyer could be the most important player in the unit.

The 10-year safety veteran is in the middle of his first Pro Bowl season a year after being named a first-team All-Pro. Poyer recorded four receptions this season and perhaps should have had a fifth in the Bills’ win over the Patriots when he made a catch that was initially ruled an interception but was knocked over because it was decided he had not survived the floor .

Poyer made a rare mistake in the Bills’ Week 15 win over the Dolphins. Early in the second half, Jaylen Waddle broke loose because Poyer was on the wrong end due to a miscommunication, allowing the Dolphins receiver to score a 68-yard touchdown. The Patriots don’t have as dynamic a receiver as Waddle, but Thornton and Bourne’s speed could potentially come in handy if they’re looking to hit a home run ball over the 31-year-old safety.

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