It’s the final Monday Night Football game of the season but in a twist of fate, the level of excitement isn’t as high as one may have anticipated. That’s because the Buffalo Bills have emerged as a dominant force in the AFC while the New England Patriots languished from mediocre to bad without Tom Brady (8.15pm ET; TV: Live on ESPN).
Bills/Patriots has certainly been a one-sided rivalry at multiple occasions in the last several decades and it seems heading that way again. The seesaw, which spent the better part of the last two decades firmly on New England’s side, is teetering back toward Buffalo as the Bills are looking for their first sweep of the Patriots since 1999. Non-coincidentally, this would also be the first sweep of the team since Brady was drafted some 21 years ago. It has been the Bills this year, not their rivals, who have been nearly unstoppable. After a few questionable weeks early on, the team has put up huge scores as of late and have absolutely dismantled their opponents. Their success is undeniable and it led to Buffalo’s first division title win in exactly 25 years. The AFC East crown, much like their rivalry, had also been dominated by New England. But as the old Bob Dylan tune goes: “The times, they are a changin’.”
Buffalo clinched their first AFC East title since 1995, doing so last week. Their 11-3 record is also currently good enough for the team to earn the second seed in the AFC behind the Kansas City Chiefs, who secured the top seed following their win yesterday. Normally, this is where you’d tell me there was a typo and that I wrote Bills and not Patriots. For those who watched this year’s events develop, you’ll know that it was finally Buffalo, not New England, standing on top. By contrast, it is New England, not Buffalo, that enter week 16 eliminated from playoff contention and New England, not Buffalo, that are on pace to have just their second losing season in the 20-year Bill Belichick era.
It is hard to say where exactly things went wrong for the Patriots. After their earliest playoff exit in over a decade, Tom Brady moved on from the only team he’d spent his career with this offseason. Cam Newton came over from the Carolina Panthers but was nowhere near as effective as Brady had been. The offense sputtered, the defense was ineffectual and even Belichick’s own coaching could be described as questionable at times. There wasn’t really one thing New England did poorly this year. There were several.
The Bills excelled in just about every facet of the game. Clear winners in the Stefon Diggs trade, the new Bills receiver was a masterful addition and gave Josh Allen a bona fide weapon. The young QB had a breakthrough season as a result, passing for over 4,000 yards and continuing to improve his accuracy year after year. Allen’s career-best campaign landed him a first Pro Bowl nomination. The Bills biggest issue was their defense, which at times cost them after giving up huge numbers on the other side. But much like the rest of Buffalo’s roster, they are rounding into postseason form and not a moment too soon.
Foxborough in December has historically not been an easy task for the Bills but with this team, we should throw out all those past statistics and struggles. 2020 ushered in a new decade but it also welcomed in a new Bills team, one that is primed to be successful for many more years to come. That includes against the Patriots, who it now seems will be where Buffalo was not all that long ago. The tides have turned in the AFC East and tonight, the Bills will show a national audience once again that they are ready to be the top dog.
Time for a Jarrett Stidham Sighting?
Not that long ago, Tom Brady essentially ran backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo out of town. Brady saw the writing on the wall and didn’t like that New England was effectively grooming his replacement. He wasn’t going to let that happen and used his close relationship with owner Robert Kraft to get it done. This was one of several incidents that seemed to sour the relationship between Brady and Belichick. But the coach saw the day coming where Brady would retire and the Patriots would need a replacement. The team is now hoping, with a little bit of seasoning, that Jarrett Stidham can be that guy. While Newton wasn’t entirely a bad option in 2020, he was signed to a one year deal for a reason.
New England has nothing to lose at this point especially after the team has failed to score an offensive touchdown in the last two weeks. Don’t be surprised if Newton then, doesn’t last the whole game. It wouldn’t be the first time this year he’d have been benched either. The Patriots need to see what they have in Stidham, because unlike Garoppolo, he appears to be here to stay.
The Josh Allen Show
The biggest reason for Buffalo’s re-ascendance to the top of the AFC East ranks has been their quarterback. While Allen has had moments of mediocrity this year, including against the Patriots in the team’s first meeting, he has been largely brilliant the rest of the time. There is no reason to expect he’ll struggle again this week. After spending his early career losing to Brady, it is possible nerves just got the better of Allen in Buffalo’s November meeting hosting the Patriots. This week, he’ll enter the game as the AFC East’s unquestioned top quarterback. Not to mention, the top defensive weapon New England has, Stephon Gilmore, will be out. Gilmore was 2019’s Defensive Player of the Year and he gave Allen all kinds of trouble in the first meeting.
Without Gilmore, the path from Allen to Diggs gets that much easier. Should these two find a way to get their connection going like it has all year long, this could be a long night in Foxborough. Allen has led the Bills offense to incredible numbers (second best passing offense in the NFL) this year and has been a huge reason why Buffalo is having the year it is. Look for another big game out of the young star as he aims for a rare win over New England in his career and his first ever sweep of the team.
Our Preview’s Bills vs Patriots Predictions Conclusion with Betting Picks
Buffalo is riding high and enters this game with all the momentum, demonstrated by their status as significant road favorites. The sportsbooks have the Bills at -7pts on the spread and it’s hard to disagree with that analysis of both team’s current situations. So these are USA Betting‘s Buffalo Bills vs Patriots predictions for this preview:
- Take the Bills -7pts to cover the spread @ best odds of -105 with Intertops. It is -110 with Bovada and Bookmaker and -111 with BetOnline.
- Look for the over 46.5 total points @ -110 with BetOnline and Intertops as Buffalo completes its regular season sweep of New England.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.