Dec 26, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA;  Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) during the second half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Within reach of playoffs, Bills host Falcons

The Buffalo Bills can punch their ticket to the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons Sunday when they host the Atlanta Falcons.

The Bills (9-6) can secure a berth in the postseason with a win over the Falcons (7-8) and either a loss or tie by the Baltimore Ravens or a combination of setbacks involving the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders.

Josh Allen is likely to play a significant role should Buffalo take care of matters on the field Sunday.

Allen threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns and added 64 rushing yards in the Bills’ 33-21 victory over the New England Patriots last Sunday. The win pulled Buffalo even with New England (9-6) in terms of record, with the Bills holding the tiebreaker due to their better record in division games.

Allen could have two key cogs back on Sunday with wideouts Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list.

“We’ve taken about as many precautions as you can take,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said. “So other than that, as I said last week, I’m not sure what else you can do. Really, the guys are only in for the most part for practice time other than treatments, for those needed.”

Tight end Dawson Knox has found the end zone four times in the last five weeks to boost his career-high touchdown total to nine this season. That matches top honors on the team with Stefon Diggs, who has found the end zone in back-to-back weeks.

Diggs was complimentary of Atlanta’s jack-of-all-trades Cordarrelle Patterson. The two were teammates in Minnesota for two seasons before Patterson ventured to the then-Oakland Raiders in free agency prior to the 2017 campaign.

“He’s probably the most talented person I’ve ever seen with the ball in his hand besides Adrian Peterson,” Diggs said of Patterson, who has career-high totals in rushing yards (579), receiving yards (523) and touchdowns from scrimmage (six rushing, five receiving).

“He’s up there — in my opinion because I played with him — with guys like Dalvin Cook and even those running backs. He’s like 6-2, 225 but he looks a little stronger than that. Our old coach, George Stewart, our receivers coach, used to say he’s too strong, too fast and too big. He’s one of those guys that’s extremely talented, can play all around the field and really just a generational talent.”

Patterson scored last Sunday as the Falcons collected their third win in five games with a 20-16 victory over the Detroit Lions. He has scored four touchdowns in those three victories.

Rookie Kyle Pitts had six receptions for 102 yards for the Falcons against the Lions, and fellow tight end Hayden Hurst reeled in the go-ahead 12-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter. The veteran Ryan is one touchdown pass shy of becoming the fifth quarterback with at least 20 TD passes in 13 straight seasons.

Hurst, however, joined defensive end Jonathan Bullard, safety Jaylinn Hawkins and offensive lineman Willie Beavers in being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday. Although Atlanta has 12 players on that list, coach Arthur Smith expressed optimism that some could return in time for Sunday’s game.

“Certainly you’re way more optimistic than you were,” Smith said. “It’s kind of ironic that we’re playing Buffalo. It was a different experience last year when we were with Tennessee playing Buffalo. The world was a different place.”

Falcons starting cornerback Fabian Moreau did not participate in Wednesday’s practice as he nurses an injury to his ribs.

Buffalo defensive tackle Vernon Butler and safety Jaquan Johnson did not participate in a walk-through practice on Wednesday due to illness. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was limited due to a knee injury.

–Field Level Media

Nov 25, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) on the sidelines in the second half of their game against the New Orleans Saints at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Bills activate WR Cole Beasley, 3 others from COVID list

The Buffalo Bills activated wide receiver Cole Beasley and three other players from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday.

Beasley, fellow wideout Gabriel Davis, left guard Jon Feliciano and defensive end AJ Epenesa cleared health and safety protocols in time for Sunday’s game between the Bills (9-6) and visiting Atlanta Falcons (7-8).

All four players missed the 33-21 victory against the host New England Patriots in Week 16.

Beasley, who has been outspoken against the NFL’s vaccine mandate, tested positive on Dec. 21. He has reportedly racked up more than $100,000 in fines this season for violating the league’s COVID-19 protocols.

Beasley, 32, has 76 catches for 640 yards and one touchdown in 14 games this season.

Davis, 22, has 29 receptions for 470 yards and six touchdowns in 14 games.

Feliciano, 29, has started six of his seven games this season.

Epenesa, 23, has appeared in 12 games and registered 11 tackles and eight quarterback hits.

–Field Level Media

Dec 6, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) and New England Patriots outside linebacker Matt Judon (9) in the third quarter at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

AFC East lead on line when Patriots, Bills meet

Quarterback Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills will be looking to avenge their Week 13 loss and retake control of the AFC East when they visit the rival New England Patriots in a crucial divisional matchup Sunday at Foxborough, Mass.

Buffalo (8-6) came up short in a 14-10 loss to New England on a snowy and windy night on Dec. 6 at Orchard Park, N.Y. But following the Bills’ 31-14 win over Carolina, and New England’s 27-17 loss at Indianapolis last weekend, the division is back in play this Sunday.

A win over the Patriots would return the Bills to the top of the AFC East standings entering the final two weeks of the regular season. A victory would give Buffalo a superior division record over New England.

“We know what’s at stake,” Allen said. “We’re not trying to make it the biggest game, but it is because it is the next (one). … Every game from here on out is a playoff game. The type of (playoff) atmosphere (is) gonna be there.”

Buffalo will be without prominent wide receiver Cole Beasley, who was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier this week. Beasley wrote in an Instagram post on Tuesday that he was “feeling fine with mild symptoms.”

“Just to be clear Covid is not keeping me out of this game,” wrote Beasley, who has been an outspoken critic of COVID-19 vaccines. “The rules are.”

Said Allen: “He’s one of our best players. Whether he was vaccinated or not and caught it, he’d still be out, so that’s kind of my stance on that.”

Buffalo added tight end Quintin Morris on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday, raising the team’s current total to eight players, with three of those from the practice squad.

Wideout Emmanuel Sanders is a question mark for Sunday as he was limited at Wednesday’s practice with a knee injury. Running back Taiwan Jones (knee) did not practice while safety Micah Hyde (back) and defensive end Jerry Hughes (neck) were limited.

New England (9-5) will look to bounce back from its first loss in over two months after a setback against the Colts ended the team’s seven-game winning streak. The post-bye week loss dropped the Patriots to the No. 2 seed in the AFC, behind the Kansas City Chiefs.

Even after emerging with a hard-fought win three weeks ago at Buffalo, the Patriots know they can’t take the Bills lightly.

“One thing that’s evident is that the Bills are really good at a lot of things, and they don’t have a lot of weaknesses,” rookie quarterback Mac Jones said. “It will be a great battle for us on Sunday.”

Jones attempted a franchise-low three passes — completing two for 19 yards — in the Patriots’ win over the Bills. Against Indianapolis, the rookie went 26 of 45 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions.

Meanwhile, the Patriots are preparing to face a confident Allen after he turned in one of his best games as a pro during last season’s trip to New England. Allen torched the Patriots’ defense for 320 yards and four TDs on 27-of-36 passing in Buffalo’s 38-9 rout last Dec. 28.

“He’s really hard to stop. He does a good job at everything,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “He’s the guy that makes them go and he’s become one of the top quarterbacks in the league.”

New England could be down a couple of key offensive players as wide receiver Nelson Agholor (concussion) and rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson (illness) both missed Wednesday’s practice.

No. 1 running back Damien Harris (hamstring), center David Andrews (shoulder) and safety Adrian Phillips (knee) were among nine Patriots players listed as limited.

–Field Level Media

Oct 10, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Dion Dawkins (73) gets ready to block for quarterback Josh Allen (17) during the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Bills QB Josh Allen to start; LT Dion Dawkins tests positive

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen’s sprained left foot won’t keep him from starting Sunday’s game against the visiting Carolina Panthers.

However, Allen might be without starting left tackle Dion Dawkins, who has tested positive for COVID-19 again.

Bills coach Sean McDermott announced both developments during his weekly radio show Friday on WGR 550.

Allen was in a walking boot after being sacked three times in last Sunday’s 33-27 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday but was expected to be a full participant Friday, McDermott said.

Allen, 25, has passed for 3,524 yards, 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 13 starts this season. He has rushed for another 531 yards and four scores.

Dawkins, 27, endured a lengthy bout with the coronavirus during training camp. He has started all 13 games this season and has yet to miss a game since Buffalo selected him in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Dawkins’ streak of 77 consecutive games played (72 starts) is in jeopardy as the Bills (7-6) host the Panthers (5-8), but he has not been ruled out.

Under the revised protocols implemented by the NFL on Thursday, fully vaccinated players or staff can “test out” of the protocols under one of three complex testing scenarios and with the provision they are asymptomatic for at least 24 hours.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills outside linebacker A.J. Klein (54) against the Indianapolis Colts during the second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Bills LB A.J. Klein placed on reserve/COVID-19 list

Buffalo Bills linebacker A.J. Klein was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday, forcing him to miss his team’s prime-time matchup against the New England Patriots.

Klein has registered 30 tackles and three pass break-ups in 11 games (three starts) this season. His production is down from 2020, when he tallied 75 tackles to go along with five sacks, four pass break-ups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 16 games (11 starts).

The 30-year-old Klein is in his second season with the Bills. He spent his first four seasons with the Carolina Panthers and his next three seasons with the New Orleans Saints.

To help fill Klein’s void, the Bills promoted linebacker Joe Giles-Harris from the practice squad before Monday’s game. Giles-Harris appeared in 14 games with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2019 to 2020.

–Field Level Media

Bills Taron Johnson  catching balls during individual drills.

Jg 081721 Bills Johnson

Bills sign CB Taron Johnson to 3-year extension

The Buffalo Bills announced a three-year contract extension for big-play cornerback Taron Johnson on Saturday.

Financial terms were not disclosed for the deal, but NFL Network reports it is worth $24 million, with approximately $14 million guaranteed. The deal keeps the 25-year-old in Buffalo through the 2024 season.

Johnson missed last Sunday’s 40-0 victory at Houston with a groin injury but has been a full participant in practice for Buffalo (3-1) ahead of Sunday night’s game at Kansas City (2-2).

A fourth-round pick in 2018, Johnson has 15 tackles, one forced fumble and one sack in three starts this season. He has 201 tackles, four sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions in 42 career games (23 starts).

Last season, Johnson returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown in a 26-15 win against Pittsburgh in Week 14. In the AFC divisional playoffs, he returned an interception 101 yards for a score in Buffalo’s 17-3 victory against Baltimore.

–Field Level Media