We seem to mercifully done with “What’s wrong with Wes Welker?” talk.
For the love of all that’s holy, we won’t be subjected to any more “Ref Debate.”
What’s next? If the Patriots fall to 1-3 on Sunday in Buffalo, we could have full-on panic from New Shoreham to Enosburg. “Has Belichick lost it? Is Tom Brady done? Omigodomigodomigod, Josh McDaniels is the next head coach?
The Patriots have played three games, and we have no clue about who they are. That’s sort of normal at this stage, but the characteristics have been somewhat vanilla-ed by a referee staff that was more fit for Benny Hill and an offensive scheme that still seems like it’s in the initial stages of discovering its weapons.
That will change. Probably not in time for the Bills game, which should be a nail-biter, but change it will.
Which way will it eventually go? Um….
This week's picks
Globe staff: Patriots across the board (New England by 4).
Buffalo News staff: Three staff members go with the Patriots, three go with the Bills.
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: Patriots 33, Bills 23. “"We're 1-2, and we've got to do something about it," said Tom Brady. This is what I think he'll do: take matters into his own hands. As long as his offensive front -- obviously shaky at times in the first three games -- gives him time, I see big weeks for Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker downfield and in intermediate areas Sunday in Orchard Park. By the way, like you, I was stunned to see Bills punter Brian Moorman get whacked this week in favor of rookie Shawn Powell by GM Buddy Nix. Then I looked at his net average: 32.7 yards.”
ESPN.com staff: Patriots across the board.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports.com: Patriots 29, Bills 21. “This is a huge game for the Bills. They can get to 3-1 with a victory and get a big lead on the Patriots. New England is playing consecutive road games, which is tough. And coming off the Ravens loss, they will be stewing. Tom Brady has a way of flourishing when his team is down. He does it again here.”
CBS Sports.com staff: Split between eight staff members.
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 27, Bills 20. “The Patriots have remixed their passing offense after losing Aaron Hernandez. With fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski needed more to block to keep the pressure off Brady, wide receivers Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker become the bigger factors against Buffalo. That pair can cause the bigger matchup issues for the Bills' back seven, inside and outside. New England has already lost two in a row, and it's hard to see Brady and coach Bill Belichick letting the team drop three straight.”
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 30, Bills 23. “The Bills have beaten the Pats only once since the last time the Pats had a losing record. Buffalo is moving in the right direction, but New England needs this one badly.”
Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk.com: Patriots 24, Bills 14. “This is a fascinating game in the AFC East race, one that could establish the Bills as the favorites to win the division. I’ve been saying all year that the Bills have made the right moves to become playoff contenders this season, but I just think the Patriots, with their backs against the wall, are going to come out focused and ready to play their best game of the season.”
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 31, Bills 23. “Here’s one of nine Sunday division games, so it might bear mulling that Pats have best division mark in NFL (.783) since 2002 realignment — buoyed by a 21-2 run against Buffalo — while Williams have lost 21 of past 25 to AFC East foes. I’m just sayin’. English won’t lose a third consecutive game. Bison likely missing RB C.J. Spiller makes me that much more sure. By the way, I’m taking up a collection to help Bill Belichick pay that 50K fine for grabbing a fake ref. Who’s in? [Awkward pause] Nobody!?”
USA Today staff: Patriots across the board.
Yahoo! sports staff: Three out of four pick the Pats.
Peter Schrager, Foxsports.com: Patriots 31, Bills 21. “I hope Bills fans enjoy the taste of a 2-1 record and the smell of being above .500 while it still lasts. After games against the Chiefs and Browns, the Bills have the Patriots on Sunday, and back-to-back road trips to San Francisco and Arizona. Buffalo beat the Patriots in a shootout up in Orchard Park last year. But this Patriots defense isn’t the one that got torched on that September afternoon. It’s better, it’s tougher, and following Sunday night’s loss — it’s more motivated. Brady may not be the Tom Brady of 2007, but he’ll get the job done in this one.”
It says here: Patriots 27, Bills 24. A 35-yard field goal by Gostkowski wins it as time expires. Chan Gailey’s plea for a review is ignored.