In the Buffalo Bills first and only primetime appearance of the season, they’ll face off against their arch-nemesis, the New England Patriots under the lights at New Era field. Just like everyone pictured it at the beginning of the year, recently unemployed journeyman quarterback, Derek Anderson will lead the 2-5 Bills as they try to defeat the AFC East juggernauts for just the third time since 2012.
Winners of four straight, the Patriots currently sit atop the division at 5-2. While the season didn’t begin the way the defending AFC champions expected, they’ve rebounded in a big way (shocking), and with a win tonight, they’ll hold a two-game lead on the 4-4 Miami Dolphins.
The odds are stacked heavily against the Bills in this matchup. You know it, I know it, and the national media certainly knows it. Fortunately, none of that matters, because the players in the locker room certainly don’t feel that way. With a little luck (okay, maybe a LOT of luck), perhaps the Bills can put on a solid display on the big stage and stop the Pats in their tracks.
Let’s take a look at a few keys to the game.
Gronk Versus Edmunds (and other matchups)
After missing last week’s contest due to injury, Buffalo native, Rob Gronkowski is expected to suit up for the Patriots. “Gronk” posted an impressive 14 receptions for 214 yards and a TD in two games against the Bills last season. Sean McDermott will need to change his strategy in trying to suppress the Patriots most dominant weapon over the last eight years.
Enter rookie middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.
The fast and athletic 20-year-old has flashed elite closing speed this season, and given his 6-foot-5, 249-pound frame, he’s the perfect counter to one of the best tight ends in league history. With a little help from the secondary, shutting down Gronk shouldn’t be overly difficult. At 29 years old, he’s slowed down considerably. He seems to be perpetually injured, and his performance so far this season hasn’t exactly struck fear into opposing defenses.
Sadly, the Patriots have a ton of offensive weapons. The “good” Bills defense will need to show up tonight if they want to have any chance of shutting down the likes of Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, James White and former Bill, Chris Hogan. If the same squad from last week’s loss shows up again, it’s going to be a very long night for McDermott and the gang.
Derek Anderson, Take Two
Everyone knows how bad Anderson’s debut at the Bills starter went, so we won’t get into too much detail on that debacle. After just 11 days of preparation time, his performance against Indianapolis went about how you’d expect. At this point, fans are just thankful that it wasn’t bad enough for McDermott to march Nathan Peterman back out there.
Historically, Anderson doesn’t have much experience against New England. He’s only gone toe-to-toe with Belichick once, and that was back in 2007 where he and the Cleveland Browns were doubled-up, 34-17 at Foxboro.
Obviously, expectations are pretty low. After inexplicably convincing themselves that the offense would improve with Anderson at the helm, fans have crashed back down to Earth, watching the offense implode against a previously 1-5 Colts squad. Hopefully, some of that Brian Daboll creativity we heard so much about in the offseason will finally be on display.
On the bright side, I guess there isn’t much tape on him for the New England coaching staff to refer to? So that’s…. something.
Bills Mafia’s Big Night!
Alright, let’s put aside all of the negativity swirling around this team and appreciate the fact that primetime football is being played in Western New York tonight. This game was circled on the calendar of every Bills fan from the moment the schedule came out. At 2-5, it’s our Super Bowl.
The enthusiasm and raucousness of the Buffalo faithful has the potential to be a deciding factor in any given game, and a matchup with the Patriots is no exception. Tom Brady made the mistake of calling us out this week. The fine folks in attendance at New Era will no doubt have a little extra chutzpah as a result.
So, jump through a table, cheer for Thurman Thomas’ big day, and make life miserable for the New England offense. Even though the Bills will likely miss out on the postseason this year, kicking the Pats in the shins on our way out the door would sure help ease the pain, at least a little.
Oh, what the hell, Bills shine under the lights and pull off an upset for the entire nation to see. Hauschka nails a last-second field goal from 55 yards out to seal the deal.
Bills 21, Patriots 20
Editor’s babble: Wow. That’s the spirit, screw them all, the Bills will shock the world! OK, maybe not. But a good game and not getting blown out is as far as I can go with this game. Besides, I’m saving my good “juju” for UB vs Miami (OH) on Tuesday night. Thanks, as always, to Anthony Sciandra for his contributions to our blog. You can (and should!) find Anthony on Twitter @SciandraSports.