The Buffalo Bills.
After last weekend’s reminder about how thrilling the NFL can actually be — or was — on a weekly basis with the Patriots’ escape from Pittsburgh, we’re back to another pathetic AFC East showdown between New England and Buffalo with a…playoff spot on the line?
For the Bills?
The Buffalo Bills?
When’s the last time you could say that in late December?
This week’s picks
Marc Lawrence, Buffalo News: Patriots by six. “The bottom line is returning home after spending five of the last six weeks away, off a stunning late comeback win at Pittsburgh, leaves the Pats highly vulnerable, especially when they are laying the most points they have against the Bills since 2012.”
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Patriots 30, Bills 20. “Pats are sitting pretty but still after first-round bye and home-field throughout. Buffs hold No. 6 and last AFC playoff ticket to end 17-year postseason drought but cannot clinch here even by winning. A New England win would eliminate Miami from playoff contention. Sorry, Fins, but Bison have never won in Foxborough when Tom Brady played full game.”
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 31, Bills 21. “The Bills are playing for the playoffs, with the Patriots playing for seeding. There is more motivation for the Bills, but the Pats are the better team. Tom Brady and the offense have a big day.”
CBS sports staff: Five out of eight pick New England (-11.5 Patriots). Seven out of eight pick the Pats straight-up.
David Steele, Sporting News: Patriots 24, Bills 18. “As resourceful and resilient as the Patriots continue to prove themselves to be, let it not be forgotten that they needed the break of the year (the touchdown reversal at the end) to beat the Steelers. Being just as resourceful and resilient should be good enough against the Bills, who are not laughingstocks lately. They might not break a lot on defense, but Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy should be able to bend them a few times.”
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 30, Bills 14. “The Patriots haven’t been carried by Tom Brady in recent weeks. The running game and receiving corps have battled through some injury hits, and the defense has scraped to keep things in reach of victory. New England is more gritty than pretty now, which is perfect for this time of year. Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy are hot, but they’ll be cooled off in this rematch.”
SB Nation staff: Eight out of nine like New England.
Chris Simms, Bleacher Report: Patriots 31, Bills 20. “The Bills don’t do enough on the offensive side of the ball to scare the Patriots once they tighten up. Buffalo essentially has three weapons—Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy and Charles Clay—and the Patriots should be able to handle them. I like the Bills defense, but the Patriots offense is special. Don’t expect this one to be close in the end.”
Jimmy Kempski, Philly Voice: Patriots. “This is a rare Week 16 matchup of two teams with something to play for, as the Bills are still 8-6 and fighting for their playoff lives, while the Pats are trying to wrap up home-field advantage. So why is this spread as big as some of the others? Because the Pats are the Pats, and the Bills have a point differential of -42.”
Five Thirty Eight: New England with an 84 percent chance of winning.
Benjamin Hoffman, New York Times: Patriots. “Just a typical matchup between a pair of teams in line for playoff spots in the A.F.C. Sure, the Bills (8-6, 43 percent) have been outscored by 42 points this season and had a weird meltdown where they tried and failed to bench their starting quarterback, but at least for this week they are simply rubbing shoulders with their playoff-bound peers, the Patriots (11-3, clinched A.F.C. East). Two weeks ago, New England beat Buffalo 23-3, and that was in Buffalo. With home-field advantage in the playoffs still in doubt, and the Patriots gunning for a win in Foxborough, the Bills’ playoff hopes will be collateral damage.”
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 31, Bills 17. “The Pats are closing in on the No. 1 seed. And they learned the hard way two years ago the consequences of tripping over division rivals in the final weeks of the season.”
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 30, Bills 17. “The Patriots now control their destiny for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs, and they’ll take care of business against the Bills.”
ESPN staff: All Pats.
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Patriots 34, Bills 17. “The Bills need a rare win in New England to stay viable in the playoff race. Buffalo actually won big there last year, but that was with Jacoby Brissett starting for Bill Belichick. Tom Brady has only lost to the Bills at home once, in a meaningless Week 17 game three years ago. The Bills should run right at Matt Patricia’s defense, which has struggled to stop opposing ground attacks. That said, while New England is 29th in total yards allowed, they’re sixth in points yielded. Talk about bending without breaking. At some point, Tyrod Taylor must challenge the Patriots’ secondary down the field. Otherwise, Buffalo’s hopes rest on playing clock ball. Brady, by the way, has thrown at least one interception in each of the past four games. If he tosses another this weekend, that’ll make it five straight (math!), which he hasn’t done since 2002. Cool. His team is also 31-4 in December home games since 2001. So there’s that.”
It says here: Bills 27, Patriots 26. The Bills are fighting for their postseason lives, while the Patriots have been off for the last three games. I’m probably wrong, but something feels like its swelling toward a letdown and quickly needs an Alex Guerrero rub down.