New York State In-depth

5 things to watch out for during the week 18 game

Injuries played a role in both games between these teams this season.

The injury to defensive defender Damar Hamlin also left a void for Buffalo to fill, who also started the last time these clubs met Xavier Rhodes on the corner opposite Tre White. This week the Bills cut Rhodes, a healthy scratch in recent weeks, to sign security and former Bills Drill Squad member Jared Mayden from Jets Drill Squad to fill the gap. First-round rookie Kaiir Elam was inactive in his first game against New England, and with corner kicks like him and Dane Jackson and Taron Johnson (concussion) working his way back from injury, the corner kick squad needs to keep playing well.

DE Shaq Lawson and the pass rush group played well in their last meeting and strengthened during OLB Von Miller’s injury break and they must continue to do so. The veteran’s leadership sets a good example for the younger players.

While the rest of Bills’ injury report indicates they may be resting players by downgrading them from full to limited or DNP, the Patriots have a battered receiver group going into Sunday, with TE Jonnu Smith and WR Davante Parker both on Concussions are working and WR Jakobi Meyers (shoulder) looks healthy.

Also, the Pats have a battered secondary with the aforementioned injuries to CBs Jones (chest) and Mills (groin), but DB Marcus Jones, who was outstanding in the first matchup, also struggled with a concussion. All of those players on both sides of the ball were restricted in practice for New England this week as their gameday status was still unknown.

In their first meeting, the Bills were without left tackle Dion Dawkins, and his replacement, David Quessenberry, struggled a bit and injured his ankle early in the game. The offensive line kept one of the NFL sack leaders, linebacker Matthew Judon, at bay but allowed fellow LB Josh Uche to record six tackles and two sacks. There’s always room for improvement and while it’s important to fend off Judon, it’s also important to protect QB Josh Allen from all sides.

Something to watch for will be the Bills recovering and playing inspired and effective in all three phases of Sunday’s game with a goal of ending their regular season with a win in front of a likely enthusiastic home crowd.

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