Four days before the New England Patriots are back in action, it’s unknown who will start at quarterback. As Tom Brady serves the final game of his suspension, Jimmy Garoppolo is still recovering from a sprained AC Joint and Jacoby Brissett is less than a week removed from injuring his thumb.
But after the Patriots have gone 3-0 with both backups splitting time under center, it might not matter much who takes snaps for New England in Week 4. The Patriots host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon, and head coach Bill Belichick continues to prove that he can win with just about any starting quarterback.
In Week 3, Belichick improved his record to 13-5 in games that Brady has not started since 2001. Brissett led New England to their biggest win of the season when he made his first-ever start, throwing for 103 yards and rushing for 48 more in the team’s 27-0 victory over the Houston Texans. With Garoppolo at the helm, the Patriots won in Arizona (23-21) and at home against the Miami Dolphins (31-24).
Garoppolo gives New England their best chance to win, having posted a 119.0 passer rating before going down with a shoulder injury. The ailment appeared likely to sideline the quarterback for the final two games of Brady’s suspension, though he told the media he was unsure if he’d play on Sunday after he was able to make some throws in practice on Wednesday.
Brissett wasn’t asked to do much in his start, taking advantage of three Houston turnovers. Shortly after winning his first start, it was reported that Brissett suffered a right thumb injury that could sideline him for Week 4. He told reporters that he threw the ball fine in practice, but he doesn’t know if he’ll play on Sunday.
New England hasn’t signed another quarterback, and it’s looking more and more like one of their signal callers will be ready to go against Buffalo. The Bills’ chances of pulling off the upset would increase exponentially if Garoppolo and Brissett both can’t go, since it would likely mean wide receiver Julian Edelman would have to start under center.
Buffalo is just a few days removed from unexpectedly beating one of the top Super Bowl contenders. The Bills defeated the visiting Arizona Cardinals 33-18 in a game that wasn’t close. It was a much-needed win for Buffalo after starting the season with losses to the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets.
The Bills’ defense has played well in two of their three games, so they’ve got a chance to slow down whomever it is that plays at quarterback for the Patriots. Buffalo held the Baltimore Ravens to 13 points in the season opener, and they picked off Carson Palmer four times in Week 3.
Because of the uncertainty for New England at quarterback, most Las Vegas and online sportsbooks have yet to make a betting line for Sunday’s contest. Those that have made a point spread are giving the Patriots the edge, and New England is a six-point favorite at Sportsbook.ag.
The Patriots are the clear Super Bowl favorites with Tom Brady at quarterback, but they remain one of the NFL’s best teams with a backup under center. New England has made up for their best player’s absence with the league’s No.1 rushing attack and a top-five scoring defense.
Buffalo is just 1-14 in their last 15 games at Gillette Stadium, and their only win during that span came in a meaningless Week 17 victory in 2014. With a team that isn’t headed anywhere in 2016, it’s hard to believe that the Bills will break the trend on Sunday.
Prediction: New England over Buffalo, 21-14