Few could’ve envisioned the predicament the New England Patriots find themselves in.
The Patriots, fresh off a tough loss to the Baltimore Ravens, hope to avoid a third straight defeat in Week 4.
But a trip to Western New York might be just what the team needs.
New England (1-2), below .500 for the first time since 2003, look to extend its reign of dominance over the Buffalo Bills (2-1) Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. ET) when they travel to Ralph Wilson Stadium in a critical divisional battle.
The three-time Super Bowl champions have won 20 of 22 games against Buffalo, including a 15-game winning streak in the series that was snapped last year.
“It’s a great opportunity for us,” Bills coach Chan Gailey said to reporters on Wednesday. “They are going to be at an all-time focus level for this ball game just because of who they are.”
Buffalo currently sits tied atop the AFC East with the New York Jets and are coming off convincing wins over the Cleveland Browns and the Kansas City Chiefs.
The key to its recent success has been the impressive play of running back C.J. Spiller.
The 25-year-old has already piled up 422 yards combined yards.
Buffalo’s third-year rusher, who injured his left shoulder during Sunday’s win in Cleveland, hasn’t practised with the team this week but could return on Sunday.
“He’s not going to practise today,” Gailey said but we’re hoping we’ll get him a few reps maybe by the end of the week.
Running back Fred Jackson is still questionable but the Bills have a proven replacement in Tashard Choice, who recently ran for 91 yards on 20 carries against the Browns.
The revamped Bills have also been led by Ryan Fitzpatrick and his eight touchdown passes. The former Harvard Crimson scorched the Browns and Chiefs for five touchdowns and will look to exploit a shaky New England secondary that has allowed 786 passing yards.
History won’t be on Fitzpatrick’s side. The 29-year-old veteran has thrown 12 interceptions in five career meetings against New England. He has also failed to generate a QB rating over 100 during that stretch.
Both teams feature explosive offences with the Patriots averaging 391 total yards per game compared to the Bills’ 371. While the Bills have a stronger running game, the Patriots have the edge in terms of passing, featuring Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Brandon Lloyd. All will be targets of future Hall of Fame quarterback in Tom Brady. But look for the Patriots to establish a ground attack against a Buffalo squad which has been inconsistent defending the run.
The Patriots will also need to apply pressure against Fitzpatrick, who has only been sacked once in three games. If not pressured early, Fitzpatrick is capable of posting big numbers with the help of big-game receiver Stevie Johnson. Expect the Patriots to be aggressive with blitz packages to offset Fitzpatrick’s tempo.
Overall, this should be highly entertaining game. Considering the Patriots are on the brink of their first three-game losing skid in nearly a decade, the atmosphere will be electric at Ralph Wilson Stadium