Sunday, December 31st at 1 p.m ET… YES; One O’Clock in the AFTERNOON ET!
Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park, NY.
Weather: Low 30s, dry, light winds, UV Index of 1 (all of December in WNY).
Latest line: Bills-14, over/under 40.
2023 seemed like at least a thousand days, and was a difficult year for Buffalo sports fans. Plenty of heartbreak, tempered by the everyday presence of Damar Hamlin. The dream lives on as we enter 2024, provided the Bills and the Mafia take care of business Sunday.
Let’s Break It Down:
At the moment I put Christian McCaffrey and Tyreek Hill ahead of Josh and Lamar in the MVP race, but I believe it’s there for the taking in the final two weeks. Looks like the weather will cooperate both games. Time to start a six game streak of turnover free football! The Bills have lost to Zack Wilson and Mac Jones, and barely escaped Tyrod Taylor and Easton Stick. Respect Bailey Zappe, but the Patriots will have a rookie QB under center next time we cross paths. Huge advantage, Bills.
Running Game Weapons:
Zeke Elliot is outperforming modest expectations this season. Stevenson is out. James Cook is a stud RB reaching his prime. I’m interested in whether Leonard Fournette carves out a role in the offense before the playoffs. Advantage Bills.
Passing Game Weapons:
It’s getting late to see consistency and rhythm from the Bills WRs, but it’s not unreasonable to think it will arrive at the 11th hour. Expectations remain high for Diggs and Kincaid; meeting those expectations could have us in Lafayette Square in February. The Patriots rival the Panthers at the bottom of the NFL in this category. Advantage Bills.
The Bills OL is playing at a level we haven’t seen since the 90s. Let’s hope the BS holding calls on Morse last week were spotlighted by those who oversee NFL Officiating… the equivalent of a speeding ticket for being 5 miles over the speed limit while other traffic flies by at 85 mph. The Pats have a major rebuilding project here to protect their next QB. Huge advantage, Bills.
Run Defense: The Bills weathered the absence of DaQuan Jones pretty well; if he’s anywhere near 100% the Bills defense could reach RJ status, i.e. “scary good”. The Patriots run defense ranks #2 in yards allowed, but have a lot of injury designations for key players. Call it even.
One unit has a much bigger challenge than the other Sunday, On the season, the Bills rank #8 in passing yards allowed while the Pats sit #14. Advantage Bills.
There is still time to change the narrative, but through 15/17 games it’s hard to go beyond “average” in describing the ST 2023 season. McDermott will be the first to say that is not acceptable for this Bills team. Attention to details is less an issue in New England than lack of talent. No advantage.
A lot of attention this season for both coaches, and generally the kind you prefer to avoid. There’s way too much to unpack for the purposes of one game with a 14 point spread. No advantage.
The tangibles and home field better be enough for the Bills. The Pats have endured a long season and battled for their dignity valiantly, but it’s time for a rebuild. Advantage Bills.
A number of factors contributed to last week’s narrow escape vs the Chargers, no such excuses this week. Who wants to end 2023 full of hope?
Bills 30 Patriots 9
… and GO RAVENS!
The Pregame Plan:
Haven’t figured out the New Year’s Eve food plan yet, but a Buffalo Chicken tender sub covers Sunday’s lunch.
For those of us us old enough to remember “New Coke”, it was gutsy for Sam Adams to tinker with their flagship Boston Lager. The results are subtle but positive.
Long overdue for a block from our Ontario neighbors Rush:
- Tom Sawyer…..part of the excellent soundtrack of “Iron Claw”.
- Limelight…..QB #17 has the Bills there for the foreseeable future.
- Working Man….the heart of Bills Mafia.
- Closer to the Heart….good resolution for 2024.
Survive and advance. Wishing all good health and happiness in 2024!
Editor’s babble: Happy New Year! Let’s hope this one turns out special for the Bills. Many thanks to Joe Reagan for keeping us in proper food, drink and music no matter how the Bills play. You can also find Joe on Xwitter @joer869.