Buffalo at New England
When: 1:00 PM ET, Sunday, October 2, 2016
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Massachusetts
Coming off what could have been a season-saving victory, Bills coach Rex Ryan prepares to match wits with his biggest rival when he leads the Buffalo Bills into a matchup against Bill Belichick and the host New England Patriots on Sunday. Despite the absence of quarterback Tom Brady due to a four-game suspension, the unbeaten Patriots are in a familiar perch atop the AFC East.
It’s unclear if Jimmy Garoppolo or rookie Jacoby Brissett — both dealing with injuries — will be under center for New England, which has not missed a beat and improved to 3-0 with a 27-0 demolition of Houston on Sept. 22. “The one thing I do know for sure is Tom Brady is not the quarterback and I feel good about that,” said Ryan, who playfully called into a media conference Wednesday and asked Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman if he’d be playing quarterback. Buffalo rebounded from a pair of six-point losses with a dominating 33-18 victory over Arizona on Sunday, six days after Ryan fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman. New England has won 23 of the past 25 meetings between the longtime division rivals, including a season sweep a year ago.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, CBS. LINE: Patriots -6. O/U: None
ABOUT THE BILLS (1-2): Although Ryan said a reason for firing Roman was his inability to get the team’s top playmakers more involved, the absence of star wideout Sammy Watkins forced Buffalo to rely on a ground game that produced 208 yards rushing versus Arizona. LeSean McCoy nearly matched his total from the first two weeks combined by rushing for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and he rushed for more than 80 yards in both matchups against New England last season. Watkins did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and is not expected to do so on Friday so McCoy could be in line for another heavy workload. Buffalo’s defense came alive last week by registering five sacks and four interceptions.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (3-0): Both Garoppolo (shoulder) and Brissett were limited in Thursday’s practice, and the prognosis of the offense was further muddled by the limited status of star tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring). Although he did not have a catch in his season debut against the Texans, Gronkowski told reporters on Wednesday that he was “feeling good and just progressing every day.” Running back LeGarrette Blount, who leads the NFL with 298 yards rushing and has scored four touchdowns, was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month on Thursday. New England’s defense is ranked in the middle of the pack, but it is allowing an average of 90.3 yards rushing and 15.0 points per game.
1. The Patriots have won 21 of their last 22 division home games.
2. Ryan’s teams are 4-18 following a win since 2012.
3. Patriots WR Danny Amendola had nine receptions for 117 yards in the last meeting against Buffalo.
PREDICTION: Patriots 23, Bills 20