Ahead of opening week, the New England Patriots’ and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan bases were both among the most confident in the NFL. According to SB Nation’s FanPulse survey, 96% of Patriots fans felt confident about their team heading into the regular season compared to 84% of Steelers followers. One week and a 33-3 blowout later, New England’s fan confidence remained at 96% while Pittsburgh’s plummeted down to 21%.
Fast forward to this week, and the Patriots’ upcoming matchup against the Buffalo Bills. While the team’s fans are considerably less confident than they were back in early September — that is what a struggling offense and back-to-back losses tend to do — and currently sitting at 67%, the Bills have reached new highs this week: 97% of FanPulse participants feel good about the direction of the franchise at this moment.
Buffalo reaching its highest approval rating since FanPulse first started tracking fan opinions in 2018 does not come as too big a surprise. After all, the team locked up both a playoff spot and its first 10-win season with a 17-10 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. Furthermore, the Bills are still alive in the race for the division title with Saturday’s game in New England a do-or-die moment for the club when it comes to capturing the AFC East.
Enter the Patriots, who can spoil the Bills’ attempts at divisional upheaval this week and also deal its rivals a significant blow heading into the postseason. While Buffalo will appear in the playoffs nevertheless, a defeat at the hands of New England would certainly resonate not just with the fans but also the team itself — something veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander essentially pointed out earlier this week when he said that the game will “define” the Bills.
The Patriots, meanwhile, have defined themselves time and again over the course of the last 20 years by continuously destroying opponents’ aspirations — ranging from championships to relevancy and contender status. Saturday therefore presents another opportunity for the club to return to the dream-crushing business from which it has been absent since arguably the aforementioned game against the Steelers.
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