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HISTORY ISN'T ON BILLS' SIDE WHEN PLAYING CHAMPIONS

This isn't a super weekend to stock a fantasy lineup with Buffalo Bills.

True, the Bills have won three of their last four, powered by some good individual performances. Rookie running back Willis McGahee has three touchdowns and 403 yards rushing the last four weeks; quarterback Drew Bledsoe hasn't thrown an interception in three of the last four games and hasn't been sacked in the last two; and receiver Eric Moulds has ranked among the league leaders in receptions and yardage all season.

But if history is the teacher, expect a long night Sunday when the Bills face the New England Patriots in Gillette Stadium. This will be Buffalo's 13th road game against a defending Super Bowl champion and the first dozen have been mostly horrid.

There was one big exception, a 30-21 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 28, 1975, in Three Rivers Stadium. O.J. Simpson slashed the Steel Curtain defense by rushing 28 times for 227 yards, including an 88-yard touchdown. A 13-10 win at Dallas on Sept. 12, 1993, was nice payback for the 52-17 loss to the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVII, but that sweet feeling didn't last long as Dallas again beat Buffalo, 30-13, on Jan. 30, 1994, in Super Bowl XXVIII.

From a fantasy standpoint, there wasn't much to cheer about in the regular-season win over Dallas in '93, but what else is new? The Bills are 2-10 on the road against defending Super Bowl champions and have been outscored, 301-161. They've been shut out twice, scored 10 or fewer points five times, gone without an offensive touchdown four times and been held to fewer than 100 yards rushing as a team eight times. The Bills have scored just 16 offensive TDs in those games, never more than three in any game.

There have been some ugly performances:

In a 27-6 loss at Miami on Oct. 21, 1973, the Bills had 1 net yard passing and 76 total yards, figures that rank third-worst in the franchise's 45-year history for a single game. In a 24-0 loss at Baltimore against the Colts on Dec. 5, 1971, Simpson led the Bills in rushing with 26 yards and QB Dennis Shaw went 14 of 29 for just 101 yards with four interceptions.

On Dec. 17, 1989, in a 21-10 loss at San Francisco, Larry Kinnebrew churned out a team-high 29 of the Bills' 46 rushing yards. Thurman Thomas led the Bills in rushing with 28 yards - the rest of the team managed just 23 - in a 31-21 loss at Green Bay on Dec. 20, 1997.

The Bills' leading rusher in those 12 games has averaged 62.4 yards and the team's top ground gainer has been held to fewer than 30 yards four times. Take away The Juice's superhuman effort against the Steelers, Buffalo's only 100-plus rushing effort at a defending Super Bowl champion, and that figure drops to a paltry 47.4.

Just one Buffalo quarterback has a 300-yard passing game at a Super Bowl champ: Bledsoe went 32 of 51 for 328 yards with two TDs and four INTs at New England on Dec. 8, 2002. But the Bills trailed, 20-0, at halftime and passed plenty in the second half.

Considering that the Bills have trailed so often during these 12 games, it's astounding that no Buffalo QB has ever thrown more than two TD passes at a Super Bowl champion. Buffalo has just 10 TD passes and 23 INTs. Seven times, the Bills QB was held to less than 200 passing yards and six times the Bills went without a scoring pass.

Receivers have fared slightly better, though Buffalo's top pass catcher has averaged just 79 yards at Super Bowl champions. There have been five efforts of 100 yards-plus, including Peerless Price's nine catches for 105 yards two years ago in Foxboro, Mass. In their history, the Bills have averaged 12.7 points in the games at Super Bowl champions and 19.9 in their other regular-season games. Add to that the fact the Patriots have yielded an average of just over 12 points in winning their last 15 home games, including playoffs. During that streak, the Pats have allowed just two 100-yard rushers, two 100-yard receivers and three 300-yard passers while registering three shutouts, holding seven foes to 10 or fewer points and winning by an average margin of 10 points.

Add it all up and it makes this a very good week to explore fantasy options other than Bills.

START HIM:

**Detroit Lions wide receiver Az-Zahir Hakim has 11 catches for 210 yards the last two games and faces a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that has yielded 908 passing yards in its last three games.

**The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has allowed 28 rushing yards on 15 carries the last two games -- 14 yards per game and 1.9 yards per rush -- against opponents (New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles) that came into the games with a cumulative 13-0 record. No individual has rushed for more than 17 yards during that stretch.

**Arizona Cardinals rookie wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has TD catches in three of the last four games.

BENCH HIM:

**Although Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Michael Pittman has carried for 237 yards and four TDs the last two games, he faces an Atlanta Falcons defense that has allowed 287 rushing yards in its four home games, not allowing an individual more than 65 yards inside the Georgia Dome.

**Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson has just one TD catch in his last five road games and this week's opponent, the Washington Redskins, has yielded just three scoring passes in four home games.

**San Francisco 49ers tight end Eric Johnson has just 10 catches for 87 yards and no scores the last three games after having 41 receptions for 460 yards and two TDs in the first five games. Plus, he's playing against a Carolina Panthers defense that has yielded just one TD pass in its last four games, an NFL-low four for the season, and none to a tight end.
e-mail: tborrelli@buffnews.com