Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bills a Championship Game for Patriots + Week 16 Picks

A lot is at stake for the Patriots against the 4-10 but surging Bills

With this young Patriots team putting up uninspired performances against lowly opponents like the Cleveland Browns or Aaron Rodgers-less Packers, it's understandable for Boston fans to start worrying about the week 16 game against the 4-10 Buffalo Bills.

The Patriots have won 14 straight against the Bills. A streak that is the third longest over a single opponent in NFL history.

Despite New England's past dominance, a lack of focus on Sunday could snap the streak that was started over 7 years ago.

"[The Patriots] are a great team and a great franchise", said Bills linebacker, Paul Posluzny. "We've had our problems against them, but for us it's more about us. We want to continue to improve, play well against this team and see what we can do. What happened in the past is in the past. We've got to focus on beating this team and who they have now."

The Bills have definitely improved over the course of the season. Behind quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, they've played extremely well. Buffalo has won four of their last six games and they would have won five if it weren't for a dropped touchdown pass against Pittsburgh.

They've hung with the Patriots, Bears, Ravens, Chiefs and Steelers - all playoff teams. Three of which they took into overtime. The Bills are not your typical 4-10 team.

"They're playing good football right now and this is not a team that is just gonna lay down and let us win the game," said Patriots defensive captain, Jerod Mayo. "I think coach Belichick and his staff have done an excellent job just making sure the sense of urgency is there".

“They’re a much better team,” said tight end Alge Crumpler. “They gave us problems the first time we played them.”

The time Crumpler was referring to was a week 3 matchup in which Fitzpatrick and the Bills shockingly put up 30 points on the Pats in a close game that New England only won by 8. In fact, the Bills have given the Patriots plenty of fits recently.

Since last season, the Pats have only won by an average margin of 5.3 points over Buffalo and a mere 7.8 dating back to 2008. The Bills, it would seem, are within sniffing distance of snapping the streak.

"This team fights their butt off," praised Pats quarterback, Tom Brady. "They are a challenging team to face. They have very talented players. They're playing certainly very well this time of year. There are probably some teams that have thrown in the towel at this point because they're not really in it, but you would never say that about the Bills, the way these guys play".

Buffalo certainly isn't a cakewalk anymore but the Patriots do have plenty of motivation to secure a win. A division title, first round bye and home field throughout the playoffs is at stake.

"We know what this game would produce for us and sure that definitely is one of our goals," said coach, Bill Belichick, on the potential to clinch the division. "Now you can start talking about it, it's not hypothetical anymore. We know what the results are and we have a chance to achieve a goal Sunday and hopefully we can do it".

"We're looking at this as a championship game and that's what it is," said Jerod Mayo. "We win this game and we clinch the [AFC] East".

To win their first championship game of the season, the Patriots can't overlook the Bills. However, based on some of the words coming out of the New England locker room, that doesn't seem likely.

Still, it won't be easy. The Pats are going to be shorthanded against the Bills, downgrading six players on the injury report to out for the game. On the offensive side of the ball, tight end; Aaron Hernandez (hip), and offensive guard; Dan Connolly (concussion), won't make the trip to Buffalo. The defense will be even more depleted as Mike Wright (concussion), Myron Pryor (back), Brandon Deaderick (shoulder), and Jermaine Cunningham (calf) will all be out.

The Pats will have to overcome the adversity to emerge with a victory over a surging Bills team.

"I think everyone has to go out there and play a great game against a very tough team in a very tough environment", said Tom Brady. "But I'll tell you it's very exciting for us. There is no doubt about it. This is a championship game. It's pretty special any time you win a championship."

Pittsburgh over Carolina (28-7)
Dallas over Arizona (31-17)
New England over Buffalo (24-21)
Chicago over New York Jets (20-13)
Baltimore over Cleveland (24-17)
Jacksonville over Washington (23-10)
Tennessee over Kansas City (17-14)
Miami over Detroit (16-7)
San Francisco over St. Louis (27-21)
San Diego over Cincinnati (31-14)
Houston over Denver (27-14)
Indianapolis over Oakland (35-24)
Green Bay over New York Giants (23-20)
Seattle over Tampa Bay (14-10)
Philadelphia over Minnesota (34-10)
New Orleans over Atlanta (35-28)

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