Here are five things to know about the New England Patriots (9-2, first in AFC East), who face the Bills at New Era Field next weekend.
1. Last game. The Patriots beat the Dolphins 35-17, but apparently didn't look good doing it. "Never has an 18-point win at home felt so unsettling," the Boston Globe wrote. The Patriots gave up a defensive touchdown on a snap miscommunication, committed two turnovers and had seven penalties. The second and third points seem fairly normal, but when you're the Patriots, maybe those games are the exceptions. They outgained the Dolphins 417-221 and held them to 2 of 11 on third down. Tom Brady only had to throw for 227 yards while the Patriots rushing attack gained 5.2 yards per carry. The win gave them nine on the season, ensuring they'll finish with a winning record, which they have done in all 17 seasons since Brady became their primary quarterback.
2. Former Bills. The Patriots have a few notable former Bills, but they aren't contributing much lately. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore missed four weeks with a concussion but returned to the lineup in mid-November and logged his second interception Sunday against the Dolphins. Buffalo Twitter loves when he gets beat, but Pro Football Focus gives him an 80.8 grade, which is an above-average rating. Wide receiver Chris Hogan is one of Brady's trusted targets, but he has been out all month with a shoulder injury. Running back Mike Gillislee lost his role as the team's featured back and has been a healthy scratch lately, ceding carries to Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead.
3. Tom Brady: Still good. Not only is Brady quite good, but age has not slowed him down. In 87 games since turning 35, Tom Brady has a 68-19 record and a passer rating of 100.3 to go along with 24,977 yards, 182 touchdowns, 40 interceptions and a completion percentage of 64.2. Scaled to a 16-game season, that's 12.5 wins, 4,593 yards, 33.4 touchdowns and 7.4 interceptions. Those are basically the best numbers Jim Kelly ever posted in any season. Kelly's bests were 13 wins (1991), 33 touchdowns (1991), 9 interceptions (1990, 14 games), a 101.2 passer rating (1990) and a 64.1 completion percentage (1991).
4. That defense... One point that shouldn't be overlooked in Brady's MVP case is how good the Patriots are despite how bad their defense is. The three best teams in the NFL this season have been the Eagles, Patriots and Steelers; the Vikings and Saints are next, then maybe the Rams and Panthers. The Panthers entered Sunday ranked second in the NFL in yards allowed per game. The Steelers were fourth, the Vikings were fifth, the Eagles were seventh, the Saints were 13th and the Rams placed 15th. The outlier? That's the Patriots, whose defense entered Sunday ranked dead last in yards allowed per game, at 401.9. That will go down to about 385 after limiting the Dolphins to 221 yards Sunday, but that's still bad. Since 2000, only three of the 26 teams to allow 385 yards per game have finished with winning records. The Patriots certainly have a weakness, and it's their defense.
5. Does Buffalo ever beat Brady? The Bills are 5-29 against the Patriots over the playoff drought, but they have really only beaten Brady twice, in 2011 and 2003. Brady didn't play in the Bills' 2000 or 2016 wins, and he sat down at halftime of their Week 17 loss in 2014. Brady has more wins and more touchdowns against the Bills than any other team, although both of his losses to them did come on the road.