Buffalo has several playmakers on both sides of the ball.

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

Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game is set to go on as scheduled following Monday’s traumatic event when Bills safety Damar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest during their game against the Bengals.

The news in recent days certainly seems better than it did on Monday night as Hamlin’s health progressed in recent days. On Friday, he had his breathing tube removed and was able to speak with his Bills teammates over FaceTime.

Both teams seem ready to play a football game now, and Sunday’s one is important. For the Patriots, they’re in a near must-win situation as a win gets them into the playoffs while they’d need a few other teams to lose if they fail to beat the Bills. For the Bills, they’re playing to at least have the AFC Championship Game held at a neutral site if they make it there and for seeding purposes.

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

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

Stefon Diggs

The All-Pro receiver has had the Patriots’ number ever since he got to Buffalo in 2020.

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

Diggs hasn’t had as dominant of a performance since then, though it’s also hard to replicate that kind of game. 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’s 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 in that game, making three three-down receptions in the second half of that game that kept the Patriots’ offense on the sideline as they trailed by multiple scores.

It’ll be interesting to see who gets Diggs duty for the Patriots on Sunday. Jonathan Jones and Jack Jones took turns covering him in the Dec. 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 this game due to injury (and now he’s suspended).

New England does have a pair of other options though if it doesn’t trust Jonathan Jones to cover Diggs again. It didn’t have Jalen Mills in the first matchup and he’s questionable to play on Sunday, but he’s arguably its most physical corner which could lead him to have some success against Diggs. The other option is Marcus Jones, who’s had various degrees of success as he’s taken on tougher assignments in recent weeks and is probably the fastest member of the Patriots’ secondary.

Devin Singletary and James Cook

The common knock against the Bills ever since they’ve become a title contender is their lack of a strong running game outside of Allen. They might be beginning to rectify that, though.

Both Singletary and Cook have run the ball efficiently since around Thanksgiving. Singletary’s rushed for 396 yards on 78 carries, good for 5.1 yards per carry with three touchdowns over the last six games. Cook has brought a good second punch, rushing for 293 yards on 47 carries, good for 6.2 yards per carry with a touchdown over that 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 at the start of the fourth quarter.

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

The Patriots’ run defense has been one of the best in football this season, ranking sixth in yards against per game (106.4) and fifth in yards per carry allowed (4.1), so we’ll see if the hot streak can continue for the Bills’ running backs or not.

Gregory Rousseau

The second-year edge rusher has made the Bills’ loss of Von Miller a bit of an easier pill to swallow, though he hasn’t necessarily made up for the lost production, either.

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

Rousseau will likely line up opposite Patriots right tackle Conor McDermott on Sunday. He recorded three pressures against him in the last matchup between the two teams but didn’t get home for a sack.

Matt Milano

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

Milano’s a strong tackler, recording 72 combined tackles and 44 stops this season, while also proving to be viable in pass coverage. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 44-of-61 passes for just 366 yards with zero touchdowns when targeting Milano this season as he’s recorded two interceptions, giving opposing quarterbacks a 73.5 passer rating when targeting him this season.

Milano can hang with receivers a bit in pass coverage, though considering he’s a linebacker, he mostly ends up covering tight ends and running backs. He’s the big reason why that Buffalo ranks second in DVOA against tight ends and seventh in DVOA against running backs in the passing game. So, Rhamondre Stevenson and Hunter Henry have a tough task in front of them if the Patriots plan to utilize those two a lot on Sunday.

Tre’Davious White

The two-time All-Pro was out until Thanksgiving this season after tearing his ACL on Thanksgiving a year prior.

While White hasn’t played at the All-Pro level he was playing at prior to the injury, not many players can be studs in their immediate action following a torn ACL. But White’s been solid. In five games this season, White’s allowed 13 receptions on 25 targets for 166 yards and a touchdown, giving opposing quarterbacks an 86.4 passer rating when targeting him this season.

The first Patriots-Bills matchup this season was just White’s second game back and New England didn’t really test him much in that game (as evidenced by Mac Jones’s sideline outburst). White was just targeted four times, allowing a pair of receptions to Nelson Agholor.

With the Patriots’ receiving corps looking to be at full health plus the emergence of Tyquan Thornton and Kendrick Bourne in recent weeks, will New England air it out more toward White’s way on Sunday? And if so, will White be able to play like the way he did prior to the ACL injury? The answer to those questions could determine who wins the Week 18 matchup.

Jordan Poyer

Maybe the most underrated part of the Bills is that their defense has star talent at each defensive group – and Poyer might be the most important player on the unit.

The 10-year veteran safety is in the midst of his first Pro Bowl season a year after being named first-team All-Pro. Poyer’s recorded four receptions this season and maybe should’ve had a fifth in the Bills’ win over the Patriots when he made a catch that was initially ruled an interception but overturned because it was ruled he didn’t survive the ground.

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


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