The New England Patriots (9-5) have a chance to clinch the AFC East for the third straight week, this time against their division rival, the Buffalo Bills (5-9).
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has a chance to burnish his sparkling career record against the Bills if he takes care of business today. Amazingly, a New England victory would bring Brady his 30th win against Buffalo, raising his lifetime mark against them to 30-3.
Two of those three losses came in upstate New York, and the only other defeat was in a meaningless 2014 game where Brady didn’t play the full four quarters. So as it stands, Brady is undefeated at home against the Bills when he plays from start to finish.
Those are all impressive stats and figures, but they won’t mean anything if New England does another face-plant today.
Belichick’s squad must be hoping the third time’s the charm.
Buffalo’s season record is the exact inverse of New England’s, and they have already been eliminated from postseason contention. But that’s not to say the young Bills don’t have anything to play for. If nothing else, several players are relishing the opportunity to play spoiler, and will try to delay New England’s division championship celebration at least another week.
"“They’ve been the standard of our division for the last 15 years. For us to go up there and beat them would be huge obviously for the city, for our team and organization, because they are a team that has really had our number since I have been here,” Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander told Patriots.com. “It would show a lot of growth for a young football team to be able to go into their place and find a way to win.”"
In order to pull off the upset, the Bills will need to lean on their ninth-ranked rushing offense. LeSean McCoy is returning from injury just in time for fantasy football championship week. If he can find some running lanes against a middling New England line that just allowed Steelers rookie Jaylen Samuels to rush for 7.5 yards a carry, he’ll delight both his fantasy owners and Bills fans everywhere.
Establishing the run is also crucial for any team wishing to keep Tom Brady and the Patriots offense on the sideline.
New England’s ‘O’ has been a bit of a sleeping giant for weeks now after exploding around the midpoint of the season. Sooner or later, it’s safe to assume coordinator Josh McDaniels and Brady will figure things out and start putting up 30+ points again as they head into January.
If the Bills don’t want that to begin this week, they’ll need to show everyone why their defense is currently ranked second in the league in yards allowed. Besides being stout against the run, they are absolutely lights-out against the pass, which could spell trouble for an aerial attack now missing its best weapon in Josh Gordon.
Look for the Patriots to turn to multitalented James White once again as the catalyst for their offense. If Brady can find White in space, along with Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski just beyond the line of scrimmage, the Patriots have a real chance to get their offense rolling again in time for the playoffs.