Rack up the Bills!
The Patriots head into Week 13 in the middle of a five-out-of-six stretch of road games, unheard of in NFL scheduling. Just a coincidental glitch in the league’s formula, I’m sure. It’s concerning since any travel can wear on a team and make conditions ripe for players to get sick. Bill Belichick made the comment earlier this season how "a lot of times it's not even who you play; it's when you play them." My guess is teams would love to catch the Patriots when they’re worn down, and in addition to the injuries piling up. (Thanks, Dolphins!) Right now, the Bills will be facing an offense that is clicking, a defense steadily improving and Tom Brady, who has been ‘flat-out illegal in November.’ All this despite missing some key players that may have led to a bit of sloppiness last Sunday.
If New England doesn’t turn the ball over in Buffalo, this game is theirs for the taking. Patriots put up points early and win by 10.
Around the AFC East:
New England (9-2) at Buffalo (6-5)
NY Jets (4-7) vs. Kansas City (6-5)
Miami (4-7) vs. Denver (3-8)
Pittsburgh (9-2) at Cincinnati (5-6)
Tennessee (7-4) vs. Houston (4-7)
Jacksonville (7-4) vs. Indianapolis (3-8)
Baltimore (6-5) vs. Detroit (6-5)
LA Chargers (5-6) vs. Cleveland (0-11)
Oakland (5-6) vs. NY Giants (2-9)
1st - Chris Simms (Bleacher Report): The game against Miami wasn't the sharpest I've seen the Patriots play this year. At the same time, though, it's worth noting that New England can beat you in so many different ways—even with sheer determination in sloppy contests.
We know the Patriots offense is special and has a plethora of weapons. It's practically indefensible in the pass game, and New England can find a run game when the matchup presents itself. There is an assortment of backs the Patriots can use to attack opponents in a variety of ways.
The big thing now is how well the defense is playing. It was a disaster early in the season, but New England adjusted to a bend-but-don't-break style of play that worked well. Now, the defense is rarely even bending. It continues to play better each week and is beginning to shut down offenses altogether.
I still view New England as the best team in football, and I'm not backing off that assessment.
2nd - Elliot Harrison (NFL.com): The Belichicks stay atop the AFC, closely trailing the Eagles in the 2 spot. Maybe this is a good thing for New England, to not be the favorite. If ever there were a year in which the Patriots marched to a subtle drum beat, this is it. With Philadelphia dominating while surprise campaigns from the Vikings, Rams and Saints steal headlines for the NFC, no one seems to care about the other conference. The video game totals opponents racked up on the Patriots' defense early in the year also spawned a large sect of doubters. Somehow, said doubters seemingly failed to notice the greatest team of the Y2K era slip seven straight wins past their collective noses.
2nd - Kevin Dillon (MassLive): The Patriots have hit their stride, particularly on defense. New England only allowed 10 points to the Dolphins’ offense on Sunday, with early-season scapegoats like Stephon Gilmore proving themselves in key moments. Tom Brady is the clear MVP favorite at this point of the season.
2nd - Joshua Schrock (NESN): Make that seven in a row for the defending Super Bowl champions. The Patriots’ banged-up offensive line could become a worry as the season carries on, as Tom Brady took multiple punishing hits from the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
2nd - Mark Maske (Washington Post): Sunday’s win over the Dolphins was routine and the Patriots are in a very good groove now. They play their next three games on the road, traveling to Buffalo and Miami before Week 15’s highly anticipated clash with the Steelers that could determine the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
2nd - Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): The Patriots had their usual bit of trouble with Miami, including two Tom Brady turnovers, before turning it on and pulling away. They now have become the offensive and defensive machine we thought they would be earlier in the season.
This week: at Bills, a chance to put away the division.
2nd - Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk): Favored by 17. Still cover. Just another day at the office.
2nd - Frank Schwab (Yahoo! Sports): Since Chris Hogan injured his shoulder, the Patriots’ offense has scored 41, 33 and 35 points. And yes, New England’s offense is better with Hogan in the lineup. The Patriots won’t tell anyone when Hogan will be back, but it’ll be a nice boost when he returns.
2nd - Experts (ESPN): The defense has made a substantial turnaround since a slow start, but the Patriots' bread and butter is still an offense led by a guy whose diet doesn't allow much actual bread and butter. Tom Brady's offense has been the most efficient in the NFL this season, according to FPI, and has committed a league-low seven turnovers.
2nd - Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): It's almost getting boring watching them every week. They just keep on dominating a bad division.
2nd - Manish Mehta (NY Daily News): Four of the Evil Empire's remaining five games are against the AFC East, so chalk at least a 12-win season. Tom Brady should rip through the Bills and Dolphins in the next two weeks before traveling to Pittsburgh with the conference's top seed on the line.
2nd - Staff (SI).
2nd - Joe Giglio (NJ.com): Tom Brady has already surpassed the single-season record for touchdowns in an age-40 (or older) season. The best quarterback of all time refuses to age.
2nd - Adam Stites (SB Nation): With five weeks left to play in the regular season, the top two spots firmly belong to the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots, but all the teams in the top 10 — including the Saints — have reason to feel good about where they currently stand.
2nd - Staff (USA Today): They're also embarking on three-week business trip, culminating with that huge Week 15 game at Pittsburgh after visits to Buffalo and Miami.
2nd - Staff (AP Pro32).