It’s everyone’s favorite game of the year! That special time that comes once every season where your Buffalo Bills have the privilege of traveling to Foxboro, Massachusetts to square-off with their division rivals, the New England Patriots. I mean, with a record of 2-15 on those hallowed grounds since the year 2000, how could you not enjoy this festive and joyous occasion?
All joking aside, this game might actually be the best chance the Bills have had to secure a win at Gillette Stadium (with a healthy Tom Brady on the field) in some time. Yes, Brady and Belichick still exist which means that there is no such thing as an easy win against our perennial AFC East bullies, but times are changing.
At 9-5, Father Time appears to be finally catching up to the Patriots (no, for real this time). They’ve lost three of their last five games and they could end up playing on Wild Card Weekend for the first time in years. Wouldn’t it be nice to welcome in the Josh Allen supremacy era with an unceremonious beat-down in New England to finally inspire old Tommy boy to hang up his cleats? Hey, you never know.
Tom Versus Time
At 41 years old, it appears that age is catching up to the seemingly immortal Mr. Brady. With only 24 touchdown passes this season, he’s on pace to post his lowest mark in 12 years, and should the Patriots record continue at its current trajectory, they’ll finish with fewer than 11 wins for the first time since 2009.
Now, this isn’t to say that Brady is suddenly “bad”, because he’s still far from it. His mark of 3,979 passing yards is still good for sixth in the NFL, and his quarterback rating of 97.2 is good for 10th among players with at least 450 attempts this season.
The biggest factor in play here is the fact that the Patriots are still undefeated at home this season with a record of 6-0. In fact, their 13.8 point average margin of victory is a pretty clear indication of just how well they’ve been able to vanquish their foes at Gillette.
Allen and the gang will have a very difficult test in front of them this afternoon. As he continues to grow and develop over these last two weeks of the season, a victory on the road against a notoriously dominant home team would do wonders for his confidence moving forward.
Bulletin Board Material
Everyone is pretty well aware at this point that as a team, the Bills were completely snubbed from Pro Bowl voting last week. On what could be argued as the top defensive front in the NFL, not a single player was chosen to make the trip this season.
While the Pro Bowl holds very little meaning for the diminishing spectator base, it sure means a lot to the players involved. An invite signifies a strong individual campaign, and certainly couldn’t hurt when contract negotiations roll around.
You can bet that a player like Tre White (one of, if not the best shutdown cornerback in the AFC), is pretty unhappy with the fact that someone like Jalen Ramsay made the cut ahead of him. Same goes for elder statesman, Lorenzo Alexander, who according to Pro Football Focus, was one of the league’s top-10 edge-rushers this season with a grade of 86.3.
Whether or not this form of disrespect lights a fire in their collective bellies ahead of a game, the result of which could hold significant playoff implications for a divisional foe, remains to be seen. Either way, as has been the case all season, you can bet that Sean McDermott will have his squad prepared as if this were a playoff contest.
This is a team full of ultra-competitive gamers. They won’t go quietly into the Massachusetts night.
It’s so hard to predict a victory on the road against a team that has only relented there in Week 17 against a Kyle Orton led team that was already eliminated from contention, and once while fielding their third-string signal-caller.
Still, something about this season seems different for the Patriots. I expect them to win, but it will be closer than you might think.
Final Score: Bills 21, Patriots 26
Editor’s babble: This might be the best set up for the Bills to give the Patriots a reality check about the future than we’ve seen in 20 years. Still suspicious the Patriots find a way to cheat at home so it could be the same old story :( However, if Josh Allen does nothing else but make Tom Brady feel old watching him play, it will be a great day. If the Bills could somehow find a way to win? What a Christmas Miracle that would be :)