Buffalo Bills Ends Poor Season In New England Against Patriots
Saturday, December 31, 2011
by Aengus Moorehead
A win for the New England Patriots and they are the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Currently a game ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, the Patriots control their own destiny. The big news out of New England this week has focused on quarterback Tom Brady, who reportedly is dealing with an injured left (non-throwing) shoulder.
Brady, who was voted the AFC Pro Bowl starter at quarterback, needs 103 passing yards to reach 5,000 and 188 to become the second person in the last week to surpass Dan Marino’s 27-year-old record of 5,084.
He’ll attempt to hit that mark when the Patriots host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The last time the Bills played New England, in Week 3, they were the surprise team of the NFL and took over the AFC East lead with a 34-31 victory. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 369 yards. Things have not gone quite as well since, as Buffalo fell way off the pace with a seven-game losing streak and is now playing the spoiler role.
Though the New England Patriots have more important matters at hand when they take the field at Gillette Stadium for Sunday's regular- season finale with the visiting Buffalo Bills, they probably wouldn't mind getting a little payback in the process.
The Patriots have bounced back strongly from that stinging setback, winning 10 of their 12 games afterward and entering Sunday's clash having ripped off seven consecutive victories to earn the AFC's top record at the moment.
New England is guaranteed an opening-round bye by virtue of its hard-fought 27-24 comeback triumph over a game Miami team last Saturday in Foxborough, but would be seeded second if it loses this week and either Baltimore or Pittsburgh comes out on top in their Week 17 bouts.
The Bills, on the other hand, have gone in an entirely opposite direction since that breakthrough result back in September, which halted a string of 15 straight losses to the Pats. Buffalo was 3-0 and had high hopes of making a playoff run following that outing, but a disastrous seven-game losing streak marred by several devastating injuries from Nov. 6-Dec. 18 ensured that the annual also-rans would miss out on a postseason trip for a 13th year in a row.
Buffalo finally stopped that slide in a big way this past Saturday, however, pasting AFC West hopeful Denver by a 40-14 count at Ralph Wilson Stadium. A usually troublesome defense set the tone for the rout by inducing four costly turnovers out of Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, two of which were returned for touchdowns within an 18-second span in the fourth quarter to put the contest out of reach.
Buffalo's defense also rose to the occasion in the first matchup with the Patriots, recording four interceptions of Pro Bowl quarterback Tom Brady that were converted into 24 points.
New England has been far more careful with the football in recent weeks, however. The Patriots have just two giveaways during their seven-game tear, in which Brady has amassed a stellar 16-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and thrown for over 300 yards five times.
Also working in New England's favor is its sustained success at Gillette Stadium, where the team has prevailed in 23 of its last 24 bouts in regular- season play. The Bills are 0-9 all-time at the venue and have dropped 10 straight overall to the Patriots on the road.
The Patriots own a 60-41-1 advantage over the Bills in a series that dates back to 1960 and as previously stated, had bested Buffalo 15 straight times prior to their narrow loss at Ralph Wilson Stadium in September. New England extended its home winning streak over the Bills with a 38-30 decision last season, with Buffalo not having topped the Patriots as the visitor since a 16-13 overtime result at Foxboro Stadium on Nov. 5, 2000. The Bills also haven't swept a home-and-home set from New England since 1999.
These longtime AFC East rivals have faced one another just once in the postseason, a 26-8 Patriots' verdict on the road in a 1963 AFL Division Playoff.
New England head coach Bill Belichick sports a 20-4 career record against the Bills, including a stellar 20-3 mark during his 11-year tenure with the Pats. Buffalo's Chan Gailey is 1-3 lifetime versus New England, with the first defeat a 13-6 setback while then the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in 1999, and is 1-2 in head-to-head bouts with Belichick.
Time & Venue:
- 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, January 1, 2012. Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
NFL Football Odds: Patriots -11, O/U 50.
- Buffalo Bills : Eliminated (week 14)
- New England Patriots: The Patriots have clinched the AFC East and a first-round bye. They can clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a win or losses by both Baltimore and Pittsburgh. COMMENT: With the division and a first-round bye wrapped up, the Patriots now turn their attention to the No. 1 seed. A Week 17 victory over Buffalo will do it.
Fitzpatrick’s performance against the Patriots in Week 3 helped earn him a big contract extension. But the Harvard product has had trouble matching the promise of that game, hitting 300 yards just one since.
Brady put up 387 yards and four touchdowns but also threw four picks in the Week 3 meeting. He has thrown six picks in the 12 games since and led New England back from a 17-0 deficit last Saturday for a 27-24 win over the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots still have plenty of holes on defense, ranking 32nd in the league in yards allowed. They are especially susceptible to the pass, surrendering just under 300 yards weekly to opposing quarterbacks.
The Bills were in danger of being blown out of the first game with New England after falling behind 21-0 midway through the second quarter, but completely turned the tide because of the defense's success at inducing mistakes out of the normally-steady Brady. How Buffalo fares in the turnover battle usually determines its overall result, as the Bills have a plus-13 takeaway-to-giveaway ratio in their six wins and are minus-nine that department over their nine losses.
Fitzpatrick will have to be sharp once again for his team to keep up with the AFC's highest scoring team and the Bills can't count on Brady repeating his miscues from the last meeting. Fourteen of Fitzpatrick's 19 interceptions on the season have come in Buffalo defeats.
The Bills need to keep New England's high-powered offense off the field as much as possible by controlling the clock, and the best way of doing so would be by C.J. Spiller maintaining his strong recent form. It's also a proven formula for success, as Buffalo is 5-1 this season when rushing for 138 yards or more.
The Bills are 0-9 all-time at Gillete Stadium.
Brady needs three TD passes to tie John Elway (300) for fifth in NFL history.
New England is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against Buffalo
New England is 2-4 ATS in its last 6 games when playing at home against Buffalo
New England is 1-3-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing Buffalo
Buffalo is 3-6-1 ATS in its last 10 games when playing New England
Buffalo is 1-4-1 ATS in its last 6 games on the road
Buffalo is 2-6 ATS in its last 8 games
Though the Bills gave New England all it could handle and more back in September, don't expect a duplication of that outcome this week. A rash of injuries have rendered Buffalo a shell of its early-season self, and the Patriots don't lose at home against non-contenders in situations that mean something. And with a chance to stay in their own backyard throughout the playoffs, this game does carry a great deal of importance for the Patriots.
Buffalo's defense will be hard pressed to prevent Brady and his cast of weapons from doing considerable damage, and it's hard to imagine the Bills' erratic offense matching New England on the scoreboard. Since there's the threat of Belichick pulling some regulars in the event the Pats build a comfortable lead, Buffalo may have the opportunity to make the outcome respectable. But a team that's managed just one win since October going on the road against one of the league's elite and coming away with a victory just doesn't seem very plausible.
NFL Football Pick: Take points and Bills.
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