By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
In New England, during football season, there are certain absolutes. In Bill we trust. The quarterback and the coach. Death, taxes … and beating the Buffalo Bills.
So here we are now, in Week 16 of what could be Tom Brady’s final season in New England, and the Patriots have one final hurdle to clear en route to what could be their 11th straight AFC East Division championship: the Bills. Buffalo might effectively sit between Brady and The End, between New England and a final Super Bowl run or the Patriots and an ominous appearance on wildcard weekend.
Pretty simple right?
If the Pats want to win another division … if the Pats want a bye … all they have to do is beat the Bills.
Under normal circumstances, know what we’d be doing right now. We’d be laughing. Uncontrollably. Over the past 19 seasons, meetings between the Patriots and Bills have been the NFL equivalent of Godzilla vs. Bambi – and that’s putting it kindly. New England is a whopping 33-4 against Buffalo during that span, and the truth is that even most of the losses are deceiving.
According to pro-football-reference.com, here are all the meetings between the Patriots and Bills since Bill Belichick took over as coach and Tom Brady took over at quarterback:
Now, here’s the really crazy part: the four losses? It’s an inflated total. And we’re not joking. That loss in 2003? That was Week 1, just days after the Patriots cut Lawyer Milloy, a roster decision that stunned the locker room. (Nonetheless, we’ll give you that one.) The 34-31 loss in 2011? Maybe the only truly “legitimate” loss on the list. The loss in 2014 came in Week 17, a meaningless game for the Patriots, who had already locked up the No. 1 seed. And in 2016, the Pats had Jacoby Brissett at quarterback because Brady was serving a four-game suspension and even backup Jimmy Garoppolo was injured.
Add it all up and here’s what you get: a 33-2 Patriots record that could be 36-1 depending on how you view the Lawyer Milloy game. With the Belichick-Brady tandem, New England has beaten Buffalo roughly 95 percent of the time over the last 19 years, which as close to a surefire lock as you can get anywhere in professional sports.
That makes this week’s game a layup, right?
Look, we all know what’s at stake here this week. The Patriots have played an awful lot of football in the last five years, advancing to four Super Bowls and five AFC Championship Games. Counting the divisional round, that’s an extra 14 games – against relatively real opponents, meaning no Bills – which is almost the equivalent of a full season. The Pats currently look worn. Brady, Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu, among others, look injured. The offensive line hasn’t jelled all year. The defense has looked less than historic against Baltimore, Houston and Kansas City, the three best AFC offenses the Pats have faced this year.
Now come the Bills, New England’s footrest, at home, with Brady at quarterback and Belichick on the sideline, in the perhaps the most meaningful late-season game played at Foxboro in a very, very long time.
If the Pats win, it will likely signal the beginning of another interesting run in January.
If the Pats lose, well, it might signal something altogether different.