Those pesky Bills.
If it weren’t for the upstarts from Buffalo, New England fans would find themselves wearing new championship T-shirts before having to even wash that Red Sox World Series apparel.
With seven weeks to go in the NFL season, the Patriots hold a nine-game lead on the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East, eight on the New York Jets. But then, there’s 5-4 Buffalo, doing its best to throw a wrench into the Patriots’ plan of winning their division before Thanksgiving.
If it weren’t for the Bills, it would already officially be theirs.
But no, these Bills refuse to quit, and the nation is starting to notice. Why, NBC even switched around the schedule just to see how the Patriots could handle this band of plucky players from upstate. You don’t get any bigger than J.P. Losman under the lights in Buffalo. Even Dick Ebersol knows that.
Still, the Bills are a good story, or are at least a story in a division severely lacking any sort of competition. Sure, it might be more nail-biting were the Bills 8-1 and on the heels of the Pats, but we’ll have to take 5-4. An upset cuts the division lead to three games. Which would only mean Bill Belichick has to wait an extra week before his annual, “It’s good to be back in the playoffs, but we haven’t won anything yet,” speech.
I suppose we should thank the Bills for at least making all this somewhat interesting. So, thanks, Buffalo, for all you do. In a Patriots season teetering on the brink of boredom, it is you who have stepped up and spared us from early rewards.
Unless you really wanted another T-shirt.
Who they're picking
How folks from around the country see this weekend's Patriots-Bills game:
Mike Tanier, Football Outsiders: This week's Patriots capsule was written by noted conspiracy theorist Richard C. Roagland: "Last week, the league's effort to help the Colts beat the Patriots was thwarted when the former KGB operative who replaced the back judge and called offensive pass interference against Randy Moss was arrested and replaced with Scott Paoli's (sic) nephew just seconds before Wes Welker's go-ahead touchdown. Meanwhile, a former Majestic-12 spook swiped all of Bill Polain's (sic) influenza cultures so he couldn't infect Tom Brady. This week, the Patriots must contend with the satellite surveillance that Marv Levy installed over Orchard Park which allows him to read the opposing quarterback's lips. The Patriots will prevail because the league's ultimate plan is to have them lose to the Dolphins in Week 16 to both preserve the legacy of the 1972 Dolphins and create a pre-Christmas increase in throwback-jersey purchases that will advance the league's international trade agenda."
You think the Bills are angry about the whole Vince Wilfork-J.P. Losman business? Let’s not forget Buffalo is the first team to successfully pull out to a lead against the Patriots this season. That’s grounds for payback. There are a lot of folks who think this one will be close. Those people are wrong.