The New England Patriots have a lot to feel good about coming off a 34-13 road win over the Cincinnati Bengals, but they will need to turn the page quickly. In just five days, after all, the reigning world champions will play their next game and it projects to be one of the biggest challenges they are set to face this regular season: the Buffalo Bills, who just locked up a playoff spot on Sunday and are still alive in the race for the AFC East title, will come to town.
Buffalo, of course, is looking like one of the best teams in the NFL right now and is a different caliber than the lowly Bengals. While they rank only 22nd in scoring, the Bills are the second stingiest team in the NFL when it comes to surrendering points: only the Patriots are giving up fewer points per game than their division rivals’ 15.9. Saturday’s game between the two clubs definitely has all the making of an intense rivalry matchup.
“We’re playing another good team this week,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during a media conference call on Monday morning. “Buffalo’s a very well-coached team, and they’ll look at that game and other games and try to find our weaknesses and attack them. So, if we don’t address them and don’t fix them, then I’m sure they’ll be a problem for us. So, we have to constantly go through that process [of learning from past mistakes].”
“You have to turn it off and move on as soon as possible,” added wide receiver Julian Edelman after Sunday’s victory in Cincinnati. “This Bills team is very good and playing very well. It’s the perfect storm. They have a good coaching staff, a really good quarterback and defense. It’s something we’ll have to have a good week of practice for. [...] It’s on to the next one. We have to be ready for the Buffalo Bills.”
Plenty will be on the line for both clubs this week. New England tries to win the AFC East for a record-extending 11th year in a row and stay ahead of its competition for a first-round playoff bye. Buffalo, meanwhile, needs a victory on Saturday to theoretically remain in the race for the division title — the Bills would need win out and also see the Patriots lose in Week 17 against the Miami Dolphins as well — and secure the fifth seed in the AFC.
Considering what is on the line, the quality of both teams and the rivalry aspect, the contest will therefore have a certain postseason feel to it. This fact is also not lost on New England’s locker room, as Matthew Slater pointed out on Sunday when asked whether or not the game will feel like a playoff matchup: “It is. It’s going to be a battle. They’re a great football team and will give us everything we can handle. It’s going to be a great challenge.”
“We get a chance to try and win our division,” added fellow team captain Devin McCourty. “We’re going to play on a short week, and we’re going against a team that’s going to come in here, and be ready to go. We played in Buffalo early in the season, and it came down to the last couple of plays. They’re a really good football team — they know us well, we know them well. It will be hard-nosed, blue-collar fighting — throwing heavyweight punches at one another.”
“We’ve got to be ready next week at home,” McCourty added. “But that’s why we play the game: for those type of games.”