Earlier this season, I thought I was going to be really pumped for the Patriots-Bills showdown in Week 13. I thought there might be some competition going on. New England went 2-2 to start the season, and Buffalo started 3-1. For a brief period, the Bills were in first place in the AFC East and the Pats weren’t. That was a different feeling. I was actually kind of excited about the possibility having a late-season divisional game that might have some stakes. After all, that’s what makes sports fun, right?
But since then, the Pats have reeled off seven straight victories, and the Bills had their three-game skid in the middle of the season, losing to the Jets, Saints and Chargers (the latter game forever known now as the Nathan Peterman game), and that really hurt them. Now, there’s not much significance for this Sunday’s matchup anymore. New England has a three-game lead in the division. The rest of the season is more or less a formality, with the exception of their Week 15 matchup in Pittsburgh (first place in the AFC could be on the line).
That’s two weeks away though. Before we get there, the Patriots have to play at Buffalo and at Miami – two divisional opponents they should beat handily. I’ll watch the games and I’ll have fun watching the Pats win. But I’m not going to lie, I kind of miss having a sense of urgency in regular season games. The Patriots have been so good over the last several years, and the rest of the AFC East has been so bad, that the regular season division matchups just don’t really mean anything anymore. These games are supposed to be exciting. Fans are supposed to spend the entire week building up the anticipation, discussing the possibilities of what could happen if one team wins, and what could also happen if the other team wins. For Patriots fans, that just doesn’t happen anymore. Everyone knows they are going to win most, if not all, of their divisional games. We usually don’t get our sense of urgency until the playoffs.
I shouldn’t be complaining that my favorite football team wins too much. Don’t get me wrong, I love the winning. There’s nothing much better than rooting for a Super Bowl contender every year. But winning all the time comes at a cost, especially when it’s been years since your division has fielded more than one decent team. (And yes, I know the Dolphins squeezed into the playoffs last year as the second wild card, but they were never even remotely a threat to the Patriots claiming the division title, and everyone knew they weren’t winning a playoff game.) You lose that excitement and urgency that comes with a competitive division, and that’s part of what makes the regular season so much fun and exhilarating.
We had that for a quick minute this year, when the 3-1 Bills were in first place and the 2-2 Patriots were in second. But then we quickly came back to the reality that is the AFC East, and now Sunday’s matchup between the 9-2 Patriots and the 6-5 Bills is no longer a must-see event. It’s just another soon-to-be W for New England. And you know what? I’m not even a little bit nervous.
The King’s pick: Patriots 30, Bills 18