Originally posted on Extra Pine Tar  |  Last updated 11/9/12
Let’s be clear about something right off the bat – the Buffalo Bills are not going to win the AFC East. It’s not in play. If the Bills win the East, I’ll walk from Rhode Island to Buffalo and re-enact the movie “Into The Wild.” I can’t stress enough how much the Bills are not a contender for anything other then a top-5 pick. Their quarterback hasn’t adjusted from playing against Yale to playing against the Bears, Chain Gailey can’t figure out that the team’s best offensive player is C.J. Spiller (he’s averaging 7.82 yards an offensive touch as a running back, yet he still splits carries with Fred Jackson – who inexplicably also runs Buffalo’s wildcat offense despite being slower than Ed Hochuli) and their vaunted defensive line hasn’t lived up to expectations or its price tag. In short, the Bills aren’t any good. But this week’s Patriots-Bills game is huge, even if its a lopsided match-up on paper. The Pats should win, yet the NFL has become a league where overwhelming underdogs are capable of rising up on any day. Nearly anything is possible especially in a vacuum for one game. A win against the Pats isn’t exactly out of the question. Stranger things have happened. And a loss would be detrimental to the Patriots. Everyone in New England – and probably worldwide, actually – thinks the Patriots are going to cruise into the playoffs. Count me among them. They have the best offense on the planet, and they pretty much contend every single year. The AFC East is usually decided before the opening whistle of the season. This year may end up being the same. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that it probably will be the same. If the Pats don’t win the AFC East, my flabber would be gasted. But as of now, halfway through the year, it’s not a complete slam dunk. It may all hinge upon beating the Bills on Sunday. Traditionally, if somebody says, ‘Your season is going to come down to being able to beat the Bills,’ I’d feel pretty confident. After all, the Patriots have made a living beating the Bills over the last decade. Earlier this year, they dropped 52 points on them, 45 in the second half. The Bills have been the Pats’ whipping boy ever since that 31-0 game to start the 2003 season. This season is no different  I feel pretty confident that the Pats will beat the Bills. Just know that this game is the lynchpin. It’s the Ohio of the Pats’ election campaign in the AFC East. They can still win the division without it, but the path would be significantly tougher. Here’s the deal – the Patriots are the best team in the division, and the Jets aren’t good enough to make a push, but the Dolphins are suddenly a legitimate playoff contender. It’s a weak AFC, and the Dolphins could get to nine or 10 wins fairly easily. That isn’t to say that Miami is really on par with the Pats, but the best team in teh division doesn’t always win. 2002 and 2008 come to mind. Let’s start with Miami. The Dolphins are 4-4 right now. Although it’s not easy to predict games – as my bank account tells me most weekends – check out Miami’s schedule. It’s not exactly difficult. They’ve got Tennessee. Win. Then Buffalo. Win. Then Seattle (in Miami). Win. They also have Jacksonville and Buffalo again on the slate. If they win all those games, they’ll have nine wins. Then there’s two against New England and one against San Francisco. If they split with the Pats, they’ll get to 10. Even if they lose one of the Bills games and split with the Pats, they’ll still have nine wins. Now the Pats. If the lose to Buffalo, they’re 5-4. Then they play a suddenly resurgent, confident Colts team, a road game on Thursday night against the Jets, at Miami, Monday night against Houston, Sunday night against San Francisco, Jacksonville and they end the season at home against the Dolphins. They could lose to the Colts, lose two of three to the Jets/Texans/49ers (three straight prime time games can take a toll, I would think), and lose one against Miami like we said above. That would make them 8-8. Crazy, right? Now, if the beat the Bills, they’re off and running. They’d be 6-3, and with just one more win then in the scenario I said above they’d be a  10-win, first-place team again. See what I mean? All road go through Buffalo. As insignificant and easy a game as the ninth game of the season against the hapless Bills may seem, it could actually be the key to New England’s season. The Pats are 11-point favorites, and I expect them to cover the spread. They’re coming off a bye week and are playing at home. The only reason I’m even concerned about this game is because I know the consequences of losing it. I don’t think it’ll happen, and assuming the Pats win I’ll be happier than Paul Ryan watching “The Miracle of Life.” But if they lose, don’t be so sure that the East race is all over. No president has won the election without winning Ohio since 1960. At least, that’s what CNN kept telling me on Tuesday night.
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