Setting the scene: Patriots-Bills
|09.25.11 at 11:05 am ET|
The Patriots have beaten the Bills 15 straight times dating back to Sept. 7, 2003. This figures to be a far bigger test than the previous 15 encounters for a number of different reasons.
The Bills have proven to be a far more dynamic offense in the first two weeks, hanging up 41 and 38 points, respectively, in wins over the Chiefs (on the road) and the Raiders. They have the perfect tandem of speed, power and finesse in the backfield with NFL-leading Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
The Bills have home field advantage back. Ralph Wilson Stadium has not always been filled the last 10 years. It’s one of those sites in the NFL that has been hard-hit by the economy with 10,000 empty seats not unusual with a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in over a decade. It has gotten so bad that the Bills have had “home” games in Toronto, with rumblings that Bills ownership might be willing to move the team – even north of the border to get out of Western New York.
But that malaise won’t be the case today as Bills have sold out the 68,000-seat facility. It’s expected to be so loud that Patriots players have readily admitted this week they have to get off to a quick start to make sure it doesn’t become a factor. The Patriots even played loud music like “JUMP” inside Gillette Stadium on Friday morning to simulate the expected conditions today at Ralph Wilson.
“We know their crowd will be going early, so it’s important to get off to a good start this week,” said Wes Welker, who remarkably has never scored a touchdown in 14 previous career games against the Bills, both with the Patriots and the Dolphins.
Harvard product Ryan Fitzpatrick is in complete control of the passing game and has become a true leader. With the Bills trailing 21-3 at halftime in their home opener, Fitzpatrick threw three second-half touchdowns and completed 28-of-46 passes. He joined Jim Kelly in becoming the second QB in Bills history to throw seven touchdowns in the first two games of a season. Kelly had eight in 1991.
Fitzpatrick not only leads the NFL in TD passes but is 6th in the league in QB rating at 109.6, completing 45-of-71 passes for 472 yards.
Of course, the quarterback he’s facing did MORE than that in his opening game, as Tom Brady threw for 517 yards and four touchdowns in the win over the Dolphins on Sept. 12. Six days later, Brady became the first QB in history to follow up a 500-yard game with a game of 400 yards, throwing for 423 yards in a 35-21 win over the Chargers.
The Bills believe in Chan Gailey. The second-year coach in Buffalo has his players believing. They are 6-4 in their last 10 since starting the 2010 season 0-8. That included a crowning moment in Cincinnati. With the Bills getting blown out 28-7 at Paul Brown Stadium at halftime, Fitzpatrick and Gailey rallied the troops, outscoring the Bengals 42-3 in the second half in a 49-31 win.
The Patriots defense is not good right now. And it will be without Patrick Chung (out with a right thumb injury) and Albert Haynesworth (back). The Patriots D is ranked 31st in the league so far in yards allowed.