9. Buffalo Bills (HOME – Week 16)
The Buffalo Bills came to Gillette Stadium four days before Christmas last year for a rare Saturday Night Football game in New England.
Probably still smarting from a narrow 16-10 home loss back at New Era Field in Week 4, Josh Allen’s team game the Patriots everything they could handle and more in the rematch. Buffalo grabbed the lead early, and while New England answered, the score was 10-10 at the half.
The Patriots actually went into the fourth quarter of a Week 16 home game against the Bills trailing — albeit by just a point. Thankfully, Tom Brady had arguably his best game of the second half of last season (26 of 33 for 271 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions), and it was enough for the Pats to beat the Bills 24-17 at the final whistle.
Thanks to the win, New England captured their 11th straight division crown.
Defending that crown in 2020 will presumably be a much more difficult task to achieve … particularly because of these same Bills.
While the Cardinals made one of the splashiest offseason wide receiver acquisitions in trading for DeAndre Hopkins, the Bills are right there with them via a trade of their own for Stefon Diggs. The ex-Viking now joins John Brown and Cole Beasley atop the Buffalo depth chart.
If you’re looking at the top receiving duos in the league this coming season, the Bills (Diggs & Brown) probably aren’t quite at the same level as teams like the Buccaneers (Mike Evans & Chris Godwin), Falcons (Julio Jones & Calvin Ridley), or Browns (Odell Beckham Jr. & Jarvis Landry).
But if you’re looking at the top receiving trios in the league, Buffalo probably takes the cake. Beasley is a terrific option in the slot (New England tried in vain to sign him last offseason), Brown had over 1,000 yards last season, and Diggs — well, he’s one of the best receivers in the entire NFL today.
Add in a steadily-improving Allen at quarterback, a rushing offense that was top-10 last season, and a defense that was top-5 last year in both yards and points allowed, and it’s easy to understand why the Bills are a trendy pick this year to finally bring an end to the Patriots’ reign of terror atop the AFC East.
Will they? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
I do think that New England stands a better chance of splitting the season series with Buffalo though than either sweeping the Bills again or getting swept by them in 2020 — and by that logic, it makes more sense to consider this a win and probably chalk up their road game as a loss (more on that in a bit).