If the Buffalo Bills are going to three-peat as AFC East champions this season, they’ll need to go on a tear through their remaining divisional schedule, starting this week when they travel to take on the New England Patriots on Thursday Night Football.
Buffalo’s first three divisional games were all road affairs this season—thanks for that, NFL schedule makers—and the Bills have already dropped the first two of those, a 21-19 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 3, and a 20-17 defeat at the hands of the New York Jets in Week 9. Sitting at 0-2 in the division with all four teams in contention for the crown, Buffalo’s margin for error is razor-thin.
They’ll be going into Gillette Stadium short-handed. Buffalo lost safety Micah Hyde for the season back in Week 2, and star edge rusher Von Miller has already been ruled out following a knee injury sustained on Thanksgiving Day. Six more key contributors—left tackle Dion Dawkins, center Mitch Morse, defensive ends Greg Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa, middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, and rookie cornerback Christian Benford—all have pre-existing injuries of varying severity, and may or may not be available to play. And the team’s most important player, quarterback Josh Allen, is still nursing a sprained throwing elbow that is clearly affecting his consistency.
New England will also have an axe to grind. These two teams met three times last season, and while the Patriots were able to steal a 14-10 win in Orchard Park, NY in early December—a game in which then-rookie quarterback Mac Jones attempted just three passes on an incredibly windy evening—Buffalo exacted revenge in a big way, winning 33-21 at Gillette Stadium in Week 16 to re-take the division lead, then dominating the Patriots out of the playoffs in the form of a 47-17 thrashing at Highmark Stadium in the Wild Card round.
Buffalo has won their last two games against the Patriots in Foxborough, MA. They’ll need to make it three straight in order to avoid an 0-3 start in the division, to put more distance between their 8-3 record and the Patriots’ 6-5 mark, and to keep pace with the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets until they play those teams again. Bill Belichick and company will give them everything they can handle, as most teams do these days. Buffalo will need to be up to the task once again.
Despite the game being in Patriots’ country, the Bills are favored by 4 points according to DraftKings Sportsbook.