Not since the pre-Tom Brady days have the Bills been such a factor in the AFC East. A victory Saturday at New England would lift Buffalo into a tie atop the division the Patriots have ruled for the last decade.
This is an opportunity for the Bills to stamp themselves as title contenders — not just division championship but Super Bowl threats. Gillette Stadium is about the most unkind place in the NFL for the Bills, and Brady has made a living beating them.
So, do things change when Buffalo (10-4) heads to New England (11-3)? Are the Bills ready for such a challenge?
“Before (coach) Sean (McDermott) got here, it was a culture of losing,” veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander says. “You have to intentionally and methodically change the concept of ‘Oh, here it goes again,’ or ‘We expect to lose.’ But it takes time.”
It also has taken some slippage by the Patriots, particularly on offense around the 42-year-old Brady. Then again, we’ve seen New England seem vulnerable enough times in recent years yet somehow come through.
Brady will need to do so against a staunch unit.
“This is the best defense that we play, and the challenge is incredible,’’ Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels says. “We’ve gotten to see them once this year, and now we have another opportunity to prepare and play an incredibly important game to our season this week.”
New England, ranked seventh in the AP Pro32, is a 6-point choice over No. 9 Buffalo. The Bills will make it close and could steal this one — and the division.
No. 24 (tie) Jacksonville (plus 7) at No. 19 (tie) Atlanta
Falcons are rallying to save Dan Quinn’s job. Jaguars are a mess.
BEST BET: FALCONS, 30-16
No. 32 Cincinnati (plus 1) at No. 28 Miami
Only because we need one every week ...
UPSET SPECIAL: BENGALS, 13-12
No. 13 Los Angeles Rams (plus 6) at No. 4 San Francisco, Saturday
Niners were last unbeaten team and now could wind up sixth playoff seed.
No. 10 Houston (minus 3) at No. 16 Tampa Bay, Saturday
Texans are as unpredictable as anyone in an unpredictable league.
No. 6 Green Bay (plus 5) at No. 8 Minnesota, Monday
Packers are better team with better QB, but venue makes huge difference.
No. 12 Dallas (minus 2 1/2 ) at No. 15 Philadelphia
Eagles struggling to beat bad teams. Now they face mediocre one for NFC East crown.
No. 5 Kansas City (minus 5) at No. 17 Chicago
Chiefs won’t get off easy against disappointing Bears.
No. 2 New Orleans (minus 3) at No. 11 Tennessee
Titans picked wrong opponent for a must-win game.
No. 14 Pittsburgh (minus 3) at No. 27 New York Jets
Steelers inch closer to a wild-card spot.
No. 31 Detroit (plus 6) at No. 22 Denver
Was almost ready to make Broncos the Best Bet. Not quite.
No. 21 Oakland (plus 6 1/2) at No. 23 Los Angeles Chargers
Raiders thinking more about Las Vegas than Carson, California.
No. 29 New York Giants (plus 3) at No. 30 Washington
Is Urban Meyer headed to DC to coach Dwayne Haskins?
No. 26 Carolina (plus 6 1/2) at No. 18 Indianapolis
Two teams that have crashed. Colts have enough to win this one.
No. 1 Baltimore (minus 8) at No. 19 (tie) Cleveland
Browns beat Ravens in last meeting. Baltimore hasn’t lost since — and remembers.
No. 24 (tie) Arizona (plus 9 1/2) at No. 3 Seattle
A lot of points to lay, but we have unending faith in Russell Wilson.
Last Week: 7-9 against spread, 10-6 straight up.
Season Totals: 117-102-4 against spread, 133-88-1 straight up.
Best Bet: 11-4 against spread, 12-3 straight up.
Upset special: 7-8 against spread, 7-8 straight up.