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How Mac Jones and the Patriots offense can pull off an upset against the Bills

The Patriots offense looked better than it has in some time against the Vikings in a losing effort on Thanksgiving.

Mac Jones threw for nearly 400 yards with two touchdown passes, but still came up short.

Against the Bills, the unit as a whole will have to be better, especially on third down, but more importantly, in the red zone where they’re currently 31st out of 32 teams in red zone percentage. It won’t get any easier Thursday night.

According to most metrics, the Bills defense ranks among the NFL’s best.

“They’re the best defense in the league,” Jones said. “So we have to be ready for that. It really starts with us, just playing the best football we can. It’s a great team that we’re going against.”

Since head coach Sean McDermott took over in 2017, the Pats have averaged fewer than 20 offensive points per game against Buffalo’s defense.

That won’t cut it Thursday night. They’re going to need more to keep pace.

Here’s how Jones and the offense can help pull off an upset of the Bills.

1. Finish drives

The Patriots have only scored 12 touchdowns on 31 trips to the red zone. That translates into a paltry 38.71 touchdown percentage.

Against the Bills, they can’t be settling for field goals. They need to cross the goal line and finish drives with touchdowns.

Whether it’s improving on play-calling, execution, or quarterback play, the Pats need to step up in the money area to have a chance against the Bills.

“Things are harder (down there), so our attention to detail has to go up,” said receiver Jakobi Meyers. “It’s definitely a combination of all those things, honestly. Less space, but you have to be ready right now for the ball, and get to exactly where you need to be. There’s less margin for error.”

Especially against the Bills.

2. Let Rhamondre roll

The Bills’ pass defense is ranked 28th by DVOA in covering backs out of the backfield. That basically means a green light for the Patriots to feed the ball to Rhamondre Stevenson.

He ranks among the league leaders in every major receiving category at his position. Stevenson just has to break free coming out of the backfield, then deal with Bills linebackers Matt Milano and Tremaine Edwards.

It should also be noted through 11 games, the Bills rank as the NFL’s fifth-worst tackling team, per Pro Football Focus grades. As for Stevenson, he’s forced 43 missed tackles, according to PFF, including 17 as a receiver, the fourth-most in the league.

How Stevenson fares is one of the biggest keys for the Patriots.

3. Don’t help Josh Allen

The Bills are tied for second in the league in takeaways with 20. They’ve picked off 13 passes, and recovered seven fumbles.

The last thing the Patriots want to do is turn the ball over to Josh Allen, and give him extra chances to score.

Of late, Jones has cleaned up his act. He hasn’t turned the ball over during the past three games. His receivers have also done a better job of holding onto the football.

The Patriots know they have to eliminate the mistakes in general, but in this game in particular. One ill-timed pick or fumble could be the difference. During the past two meetings against the Bills, Jones threw four interceptions.

“They’re a good team. Whatever extra it takes, that’s what we have to do,” said Meyers, who is expected to play after suffering a shoulder injury against the Vikings. “I think the whole team has bought in on trying to do that to make sure we do whatever we gotta do to win this game.

“We want to win them all, but we definitely want this one,” he said. “That’s a good team. It makes you feel good when you beat good teams.”

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