Last September, the Bills made a miracle comeback and stunned the Patriots. When you've lost to a division opponent 15 straight times, it really doesn't matter how you finally get it done. But I left the Ralph that day thinking the Bills got very lucky and the win was a bit of a fluke. A couple of months later, when the once promising season ending with a monumental flop in Foxboro, those thoughts were confirmed. Tom Brady and company were on their way to another AFC Championship and the Bills were on their way to another high draft pick. But as the two teams get together at the Ralph this Sunday I feel like the margin between the two franchises has narrowed and Sunday will be a good barometer of that progress.
On "Overreaction Sunday", also known as week one, former Patriot Rodney Harrison opened his blatantly biased mouth and ripped Mario Williams for even signing with Buffalo. Once you get past the silliness of making such a sweeping statement one day into a four month season, you realize that he had one meaningful point. What separates the two franchises at the moment is that New England has a premier, Super Bowl winning franchise quarterback and the Bills do not. So when Harrison blabs about the Bills having no chance to ever supplant the Patriots (or even the Jets) he is putting an awful lot of that on Tom Brady. The Bills might still line up with a middle of the road guy like Ryan Fitzpatrick, but in nearly every other phase of the game Buffalo has gained on New England in the past year and that should be on display Sunday.
Bill Belichick is a great coach and will be in the Hall of Fame. But you can argue that over the past five years or so he has failed badly to make the Patriots a great or even playoff worthy defense. Like Harrison, he puts plenty of eggs in the Tom Brady basket. Switch quarterbacks with these teams now and Chan Gailey is the one preparing for playoff games in January. Right now the Bills have a better defense and that happened because of solid draft picks and smart money on the free agent market. The 2012 Bills defense has a chance to hold it's own with the Patriots powerful offense.
The Bills run the ball better and more consistently than the Patriots. Even with banged up backs in Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller, the Bills have as good a combination of backs as any team in the league outside of Houston. Plus I don't think there is an NFL expert around who would not say that the Bills have a superior offensive line. They were built through the draft and that group not only has talent it has cohesion and youth and it could be solid for a series of years
Now that I have given you all of the reasons why the Bills have closed the gap on the Patriots I will tell you why New England will win on Sunday. Tom Brady is both angry and embarrassed coming into the Ralph. His team is below .500 for the first time in a decade. They have a worse record than the Bills coming into a game for the first time since 2002. Brady and Belichick have been playing this game with Wes Welker so far but at 1-2 the fun and games end. Welker and Rob Gronkowski have been two players that crushed the Bills (and everyone else in the league last season) and are set up for big games Sunday. I think Brady will expose the one main weakness in the Bills defense and that is their inability to deal with the quick passing game. New England should be able to control the ball, avoid the 3rd down pressure from the Bills potent defensive line and maintain possession of the ball.
But it's not just x's and o's for me this week. This is just the kind of game the Patriots win. With all due respect to Chris Berman, no one circles the wagons like the Patriots. Belichick will tell his team that everyone is starting to write their death notice and that the Bills think they are ready to push them aside. The Patriots, who some geniuses predicted would go 16-0, know that this is the time to make a stand. I do not see the Bills making it easy for them as they have done in the past, but I see the Patriots having enough coaching, experience, desperation and Tom Brady to pull one out Sunday
Mike's season record 2-1