When it comes to Patriots vs. Bills or pretty much anyone, for that matter, the inclination is to allow the past to dictate the present. It is to look at the names, Brady and Belichick, and all those trophies and rings and assume the only outcome will be a Pats victory. I'm not going to let that be my guide this time. I'm going to focus on the present. And even though it shows that New England has an 11-3 record and an excellent defense, it also shows that Brady and the offense aren't functioning anywhere close to the level that they did to produce most of that hardware. It shows, too, that the Bills played well enough to beat the Patriots in September before suffering yet another loss to them and are a far better team now. Finally, the tables turn. Bills, 23-14.
The over/under is set at 36.5, so a defensive struggle is expected. Usually, that’s good news for the Bills. In this case, though, the Patriots will gladly take a low-scoring game. The Bills prevailed last week because their defense kept taking the ball away from Duck Hodges. Tom Brady isn’t Duck Hodges. The Patriots’ offense is struggling, but Brady isn’t going to give the game away like Hodges did. In the first meeting between these teams, a blocked punt returned for a touchdown provided the winning points. That was an example of the Bills beating themselves. New England doesn’t do that, especially at Gillette Stadium. Patriots, 20-17.
It’s hard to foresee anything but a defensive struggle, barring a flurry of turnovers. I have no faith in the New England offense. The expectation is the Pats will try to make anyone other than John Brown and Devin Singletary beat them. Can the Bills find enough plays from everyone else? It’s iffy. I don’t think this Pats' offense should be giving 6.5 points to any good team. If I actually was gambling I'd be more inclined to bet the under (36.5) than either side. The easy thing to do is to pick the Pats to win close again. But since I’m picking the Bills to cover I might as well go all in and call for an upset. Bills, 19-16.
The hallmark of the Bills' win last week at Pittsburgh was the defense. The question mark for the Bills, this late in the season, is the offense. Specifically its running game. Devin Singletary has to hold onto the ball, while Frank Gore has to return to being productive, after finishing with a paltry 15 yards rushing on 10 carries against the Steelers. Beating the shorthanded Steelers was one thing. Contending with a dynasty – albeit one that's shown its cracks in recent weeks – is different. The Patriots have lost two of their last three games and need to beat the Bills to win the AFC East for the 17th time since 2001. While the Bills held their ground against the Patriots in September, the Patriots are still the standard of the AFC East. Patriots, 23-14.