NFL Week 13 storylines: Patriots, Bills meet for AFC East supremacy

Sam Acho joins Sportsnet Central to discuss who is the best team in the AFC and much more news around the NFL.

You know the stakes are sky high in Monday’s anticipated Patriots-Bills matchup when New England head coach Bill Belichick gives out electric quotes like this one from earlier in the week: “From top to bottom, just a good football team that does everything well. Good, solid team. Good as anyone we've played. We know it'll take a good effort from us Monday night.”

Goosebumps.

OK, fine, what the GOAT coach lacks in poetic soundbites he more than makes up for in career achievements and unmatched weekly preparation.

Buffalo swept New England in 2020 in the inaugural post-Brady season in a departure from normality. Historically speaking, Belichick has owned the Bills with a 35-7 record overall and his Patriots enter Week 13 atop the AFC East after taking the division lead in November – an unlikely scenario based on how the first quarter of the season unfolded.

Buffalo, despite alternating wins and losses since mid-October, still ranks second in the NFL by scoring 29.6 points per game. Combine that with the fact New England has averaged more than 35 points per game on their current six-game winning streak and that means we’re in for a high-scoring barnburner, right? Don’t hold your breath.

These teams have two of the NFL’s top defensive units and the total for this game has dropped from 45 to 42.5 indicating oddsmakers are expecting a defensive grind. The Bills losing Tre'Davious White to a knee injury on U.S. Thanksgiving is a brutal blow to on that side of the ball and his absence is something to monitor – and something Belichick could look to exploit.

How will Kyler Murray fare for Cardinals in return?

The Arizona Cardinals have held onto first place in the NFC even though offensive stars Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins have both missed the past three games. The team is being cautious but both are back Sunday when they visit Andy Dalton and the Chicago Bears.

Murray’s name was mentioned in MVP conversations prior to his injury. In his return, will we see a more precise version of the 2019 first-overall pick?

“I think when you're back there playing quarterback there's a lot of moving parts, things are moving faster than they may seem,” Murray told reporters this week. “And then watching it from the sideline, everything slows down, and you see it for what it is. I definitely think I took something away from it.”

Arizona is 6-0 on the road this season and it suffices to say the Bears don’t pose much of a threat to a full Cardinals roster, on paper, but with a Week 14 division game against the Rams Arizona coach Cliff Kingsbury may not want his stars to sit any longer.

Keep in mind, a potentially wet Solider Field could be treacherous for any player, let alone those returning from lower-body injuries.

Clinching scenarios and pending draft order

With the regular season winding down we’ll soon start seeing teams in positions to clinch a playoff berth but Week 13 is not one of those weeks.

A few of the NFL’s bottom feeders could be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention this week. The 0-10-1 Lions will be officially out if they lose to the Vikings, while the 2-9 Texans and 2-9 Jaguars could also be eliminated with losses to the Colts and Rams, respectively, but their fates also depend on various results from other games.

That the Lions, Texans and Jags are soon to be eliminated is a mere formality. The real intrigue is when the focus shifts to 2022 NFL Draft pending order. In that regard, Jets fans can begin to shift their disappointment in 2021's results to excitement around the next draft class. That’s because they hold Seattle’s 2022 first-round selection and the Seahawks find themselves a bottom-five team heading into a game against the 49ers. That 2020 Jamal Adams trade keeps looking better and better for the Jets.

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