The Buffalo Bills have made it no secret how much they dislike the AFC East rival New England Patriots and how confident they feel prior to Sunday afternoon’s crucial division matchup at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
On top of the recent comments made by defensive star Marcell Dareus, not to mention head coach Rex Ryan, the stadium’s official store reportedly moved ball pumps to the front of the shop for a not-so-veiled jab at New England’s offseason scandal “Deflategate.”
"Don't nobody likes the Patriots," Dareus said on Tuesday to ESPN. "Let's just be honest about it now. Put it out there."
Other than the clear cut indications of what a division victory would mean to Buffalo’s hopes of dethroning the Patriots for the first time since 2008, the Bills also stand to claim a second-straight win over one of the AFC’s dominant powers one week after pummeling Indianapolis 27-14.
Spurred on by quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s 195 yards passing and an overpowering defense that forced three turnovers and kept the high-scoring Colts out of the end zone until late in the third quarter, the Bills looked like one of the AFC’s most complete teams.
However, despite closing out last season with a 17-9 victory over the Patriots, Buffalo had lost the previous six meetings dating back to 2011 and Ryan is its third head coach in that same span.
It’s a kind of instability New England knows nothing about and one of the reasons they are favored by a point on the road. That and quarterback Tom Brady’s 58 touchdowns and 23-3 career record against the Bills.
But Ryan still carries his signature swagger into the matchup, and as the Boston Globe points out he’s had more success against Brady and the Patriots than most other coaches and teams in the league. Between his times as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator starting in 2005 until his run with the New York Jets ended last season, Ryan’s teams own a 4-10 mark against New England.
Buffalo also isn’t sure what kind of play they can expect from top running back LeSean McCoy. The former Eagle gained 41 yards on 17 attempts against Indianapolis, looking nothing like the rusher who gained more than 1,300 yards three times during his six years in Philadelphia.
A nagging hamstring injury left McCoy’s status for the season opener in question, and the fact that he left Thursday’s practice early doesn’t bode well for Buffalo’s hopes. Ryan told reporters his No. 1 rusher “just felt sore” as the reason for pulling out of the session, and even his back-up and rookie Karlos Williams told reporters that he fully expects McCoy to play.
The Bills offense did show it could shine without McCoy. Williams wound up leading the team with 55 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Taylor fired off his longest pass of the day to receiver Percy Harvin for a 51-yard bomb in the first quarter.
But second-year receiver Sammy Watkins couldn’t corral one of his three targets on the day, and Buffalo will need to fire on all cylinders if it hopes to keep up with a Patriots offense that looked unstoppable at times against Pittsburgh.
Brady thumped the Steelers by going 25-for-32 for 288 yards and four touchdowns, three of which went to tight end Rob Gronkowski and New England received a burst of energy from running back Dion Lewis. Filling in for the suspended LeGarrette Blount, Lewis gained 69 yards on 15 rushes and caught another four balls for 51 yards.
Lewis may have played himself into a regular role in the offense, but Blount is expected to return and resume starting duties. At times an astounding between-the-tackles rusher, Blount racked up 148 of his 361 postseason yards in New England’s AFC title victory last season.
Kickoff Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Live Online: NFL Game Pass