The Buffalo Bills (5-4) and head coach Rex Ryan have beaten a path through the AFC East over their last two games, dropping the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets to climb back into the conference playoff race. But next up for Ryan and the Bills is the one squad that’s severely damaged both coach and team over the last decade.
The Bills head to Foxboro to face the unbeaten New England Patriots (9-0) on “Monday Night Football” at Gillette Stadium, with Ryan in particular hoping to improve his 5-9 all-time mark against the Pats.
Ryan, in his first year with the Bills after six seasons with the Jets, has had difficulty against quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick and his frustration boiled over with reporters last week and continued on Sunday.
Speaking to NFL Network, Ryan praised his young but efficient quarterback Tyrod Taylor while taking a shot at Boston media.
"Our team's going to give what they have. Certainly the disrespect [Patriots reporters] showed him and things like that through their questioning and things like that, we'll see,” Ryan said. “We'll get a good shot. The whole country will get to see this young man play. It'll be tough against a Bill Belichick defense. But our team is going to show up. Believe me, we're going to show up."
Those comments came days after Ryan blasted reporters and their coverage of his team and the long rivalry with New England.
But’s its clear Ryan is right about Taylor. Through seven starts the 26-year-old Taylor’s completed 70.5 percent of his passes for 1,436 yards and 11 touchdowns to four interceptions for a 106.2 passer rating, third-best in the NFL. It's a big step up from 2014, when neither Kyle Orton nor EJ Manuel finished in the top 20 in passer rating.
Taylor’s also rushed for 243 yards and two scores, but three of his interceptions came in Week 2’s 40-32 loss to New England and proved costly for Buffalo. But Taylor’s been under center for every Bills’ victory, including the 22-17 win at the Jets that put Buffalo in the AFC’s final wild card spot for the time being.
Ryan might be crediting Taylor so much because of his current contract situation. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, during Monday's game Taylor will at some point have played 50 percent of Buffalo’s plays this year and that will void the final year of his contract.
Taylor’s deal would hence be over after next season, and Ryan might be hinting to Bills brass not only how important the quarterback’s become to the offense but to the team’s success going forward.
Running backs LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams have complemented Taylor perfectly over the last few games and together post the NFL’s No. 2 rushing attack with 142.3 yards per game.
The Patriots and Belichick are coming off an emotional last-second victory over the New York Giants, who claimed three straight including two Super Bowls over New England, with Stephen Gostkowski’s 54-yard field goal with one second remaining clinching the game.
New England remains the only undefeated squad in the conference and its riding the best start in franchise history since 2007, the same year they nearly posted the only perfect season in history since the NFL expanded the game schedule.
The Patriots are favored to beat Buffalo by a touchdown, due to their success against Ryan but also Brady’s accomplishments versus the Bills. In 27 career starts has a 24-3 record for 6,724 yards, 61 touchdowns to 19 interceptions, and a 101.5 passer rating.
But Brady will miss his No. 1 target Julian Edelman. The hard-nosed receiver ranks second on the team with 692 yards and seven touchdowns, but suffered a broken left foot in the first quarter against the Giants and will miss potentially the next six weeks.
New England’s likely to rely more on tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Danny Amendola, who pulled down 10 receptions for 79 yards against the Giants.
Betting Line: New England -7
Over/under: 48 points
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Online: Watch ESPN