The New England Patriots play host to our Buffalo Bills this afternoon in a Week 16 matchup that follows a fairly standard script from the last 18 years. The Patriots are preparing for yet another playoff berth, as they continue to jockey for positioning in the postseason. Buffalo, on the other hand, is already eliminated from contention. All the Bills have left to play for is pride.
However, some of the elements of the script seem a bit different, even if the setup is close to the same. The Patriots have lost two games in a row, they just lost their leading receiver, Josh Gordon, to an indefinite suspension, and some of their key players (Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski) are showing enough signs of wear and tear to remind us that they are actually mortals. The Bills have a young quarterback, Josh Allen, who is progressing each week, and his growth has given Bills fans more confidence than they’ve had in years. Combine Allen with the league’s number one defense, and the future looks bright in Orchard Park,
While fan confidence might feel nice, it is not a good predictor of on-field results. New England trounced Buffalo earlier in the year, winning 25-6 on Monday Night Football in a game started by Derek Anderson. The Patriots have won 31 of the last 35 games between the two teams, and in two of those games, Brady either did not play (2016) or did not finish the game (2014). Buffalo has not won a game at New England where the Patriots’ starting quarterback played all four quarters since December 26, 1999.
In Josh Allen’s first crack at a Bill Belichick defense, he will look to become the first Bills quarterback to outduel Brady on the future Hall of Famer’s home turf. A Buffalo victory could prevent New England from securing a bye in the first round of the playoffs, and would be a tremendous stepping stone in Allen’s development. Maybe there is a bit more to play for than pride, after all.
Your first half open thread is here, ladies and gentlemen. May this afternoon’s contest be a great kickoff to a safe, happy holiday week for you all and your families!