Let's flash back briefly to an article we published leading into the Buffalo Bills' Week 4 matchup with the New England Patriots. In that post, we outlined Buffalo's struggles protecting the football against New England, noting that in their previous four games against their AFC East rivals, the Bills had turned the ball over a whopping 15 times.
"Protect the football," we said. "Seriously, just don't turn the freaking football over," we pleaded.
Buffalo turned the ball over six times in a resounding 52-28 loss to New England in Week 4. Six (6) times!
For the mathematically challenged, that gives the Bills 21 total turnovers in their last five games against the Patriots, for an average of 4.2 turnovers per game. Of those 21 turnovers, 17 can be directly attributed to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw another four interceptions (along with four touchdowns) in that loss six weeks ago. He now has 15 interceptions - an average of three per game - and two lost fumbles in his last five games against New England.
New England, meanwhile, has turned the ball over just seven times in that same time frame. Four of those came in last season's 34-31 Bills win, leaving just three turnovers for the other four games. Two of those three came in Week 4; for a time they were relevant miscues, at least until the Bills decided to reciprocate New England's generosity by a factor of three. The Patriots are adept at beating the Bills without winning the turnover battle, but the Bills have happily yielded that particular area of the game to Bill Belichick and company far too often.
Hoping that the turnovers stop this weekend may be a vain one; the Bills seem intent on running star tailbacks C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson only against perfect looks, and relying on the passing game everywhere else. That may be especially true against New England, who has one of the worst pass defenses in the league. Fitzpatrick has averaged 305 passing yards per game against the Patriots under Chan Gailey, and has three straight 300-yard performances in the series. Don't expect Buffalo to stop passing this week; it may therefore be another turnover-happy week for the Bills.
There's a lot that the Bills need to get right on Sunday if they're going to pull off a monumental upset on the road against a team that they've struggled to compete with for a decade. Finally (and mercifully) stemming the turnover flow would be a great start.