The Buffalo Bills gave their flagging playoff hopes a huge boost with a major upset on the road against a division leader and will try to do the same against one of their oldest rivals and a bitter nemesis. Buffalo will be looking to derail one of the league’s hottest clubs when it hosts the AFC East-leading New England Patriots on Sunday.
The Patriots have ripped off seven consecutive victories to tie Pittsburgh for the best record in the AFC and have dominated the series with the Bills, winning 26 of the past 30 meetings. “I think this is a dynamite football team,” Buffalo coach Sean McDermott said of New England, which holds a three-game lead over the Bills in the division. “They do a good job of identifying strengths and trying to make other teams beat them in other ways. I think that’s a big part of what they do and how they prepare.” Playing away from home has not fazed the Patriots, who have won 13 straight games on the road and 12 of their last 13 visits to Buffalo. The Bills moved back over .500 with an impressive 16-10 win at Kansas City last weekend after surrendering a staggering 135 points during a ghastly three-game slide.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Patriots -9. O/U: 48
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (9-2): Quarterback Tom Brady, who leads the league in passer rating (111.7) and yards (3,374) is 26-3 against Buffalo and can set the all-time record for wins against one opponent with a victory Sunday. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has torched the Bills during his career with 11 touchdowns in 11 games, caught a pair of scoring passes in last week’s 35-17 win over Miami, while speedster Brandin Cooks has six receptions in each of the last three games while scoring in two straight. Dion Lewis has double-digit carries in six straight games and Rex Burkhead scored twice last week while posting season highs of 13 rushes for 50 yards. New England’s defense has not allowed more than 17 points during the winning streak.
ABOUT THE BILLS (6-5): McDermott wisely went back to Tyrod Taylor at quarterback in Kansas City after the ill-fated decision to bench him for rookie Nathan Peterman, who threw five first-half interceptions in a 54-24 mauling at the Los Angeles Chargers. Buffalo needs a big game from running back LeSean McCoy, who has piled up at least 100 yards from scrimmage in three straight versus New England but was limited to 49 yards rushing or fewer in three of the past four games overall. The Bills’ passing game ranks 30th in the league at 182.5 yards per game, but tight end Charles Clay had four catches for 60 yards last week — his best game since injuring his knee on Oct. 1. Buffalo must find a way to generate pressure on Brady, ranking 31st in sacks (17).
1. Brady was named AFC Offensive Player of the Month in November after throwing for 833 yards with 10 touchdowns and one interception in three games.
2. Bills rookie WR Zay Jones had a scoring pass in two of the past three games.
3. Gronkowski, who grew up in western New York, has 35 catches for 583 yards and seven TDs in six games at Buffalo.
PREDICTION: Patriots 27, Bills 16