The New England Patriots certainly have far more meaningful hardware than the Buffalo Bills in each storied franchise’s rich histories, but for the current players involved in this long-time AFC East rivalry, it’s the Bills who presently, and unequivocally, have the bragging rights.
Not only have the Bills won back-to-back division titles and are currently gunning for a third, but they ran straight through Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA last year to achieve it. Entering their Week 16 matchup a year ago, the Bills were 8-6 and a game behind the 9-5 Patriots in the division. New England had already beaten Buffalo in Orchard Park, NY, and were looking to put themselves in prime position to steal back the division after Buffalo ended New England’s reign at the top in 2020.
Instead, the Bills opened up a 20-7 lead in the third quarter, responded to two subsequent New England touchdowns with scores of their own, and took a 33-21 victory to re-claim first place in the division. They’d then win their final two games of the regular season to seal the division crown, which made them host to those same Patriots back in Orchard Park in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. That game was not as competitive; quarterback Josh Allen engineered a perfect night offensively, completing 21-of-25 passes for 308 yards with five touchdowns, no turnovers, and another 66 yards rushing. Buffalo became the first team in NFL history to play an entire game with no punts, kicks, or turnovers in blowing the Pats out of the postseason, 47-17.
Fast forward to the 2022 regular season, and these two teams will play on Thursday Night Football this week, with a great deal yet again on the line in the AFC East. The Patriots sit at 6-5, winners of three out of their last four games and featuring a strong defense and running game and recently improved play from second-year quarterback Mac Jones. Buffalo, meanwhile, is 8-3 and winners of two straight as they emerge from a trying month of November.
New England undoubtedly believes they have a score to settle after how their last two games against the Bills ended a year ago. Buffalo is trying to get back to their dominant play from early in the season while working through injuries to several prominent players, with the added pressure of needing to avoid their third straight division loss to open the season. This is a huge matchup for both teams; a Patriots loss makes their climb to the postseason that much more difficult, while a Bills loss decreases their margin for error within the division to zero. Buffalo’s next three games are against division rivals, and they would like to kick off this ultra-important stretch of their schedule with a win.
This should be a fun latest chapter in a rivalry that has become a lot less one-sided in recent seasons.