There's only so many ways you can talk about a bully beating up the nerdy kid and stealing his lunch money before it gets boring.
I tried to come up with a new angle to discuss the Bills-Patriots "rivalry" for this week's predictions post, but ended up taking a different approach for my submission because it got too lengthy. Instead, I thought I'd turn my original angle into a full-fledged post. That angle, in a nutshell: doesn't it feel like the second Bills/Pats matchup of the year is the one in which the Bills are more likely to get crushed? Indeed, I couldn't escape the feeling that the Patriots seem to let the Bills hang around in the first game of the season (and sometimes, the Bills may even win! Gasp!), but in the second matchup the gloves are off and we're gonna get stomped.
To see if I was right, I looked up the scores of every Bills/Pats game since 2000.
2000: Game 1, Bills 16-13; Game 2, Pats 13-10
2001: Game 1: Pats 21-11; Game 2: Pats 12-9
2002: Game 1: Pats 38-7; Game 2: Pats 27-17
2003: Game 1: Bills 31-0; Game 2: Pats 31-0
2004: Game 1: Pats 31-17; Game 2: 29-6
2005: Game 1: Pats 21-16; Game 2: 35-7
2006: Game 1: Pats 19-17*; Game 2: Pats 28-6
2007: Game 1: Pats 38-7; Game 2: Pats 56-10
2008: Game 1: Pats 20-10; Game 2: Pats 13-0
2009: Game 1: Pats 25-24**; Game 2: Pats 17-10
2010: Game 1: Pats 38-30; Game 2: Pats 34-3
2011: Game 1: Bills 34-31; Game 2: Pats 49-21
(*You may remember this as the "JP Losman Sucks at Life" Game, in which Losman took a third-down snap from the Bills' 8-yard line with about nine minutes remaining and the score tied, then inexplicably made a beeline for his own end zone and allowed himself to be tackled for a safety, which turned out to be the winning points. God, I hate JP Losman. Enjoy your UFL championship, loser.)
(** The Monday Night "Leodis McKelvin Can't Stop Fumbling" Game. Pretty sure I don't need to describe this one any further. Wonder if he's scrubbed the spray-painted male genitalia out of his lawn yet.)
Sure enough, my feeling was correct: in every single season except for 2001 and 2002, the Patriots either reversed a loss or increased their margin of victory from the first meeting of the season to the second. Statistically speaking, it seems like the Bills are more likely to get beaten like a red-headed stepchild the second time they face the Patriots in a given season. If you've ever had a hard time understanding exactly why you hate the Patriots as much as you do, that might be a good place to start.
So what does this all mean? Am I only telling you this in an effort to increase sales of alcohol ahead of tomorrow's game? Well, maybe. I can't help but ponder, though, what is fueling such a remarkable trend. I have a couple theories:
Injuries mount over the course of the season. The Bills are notorious for mismanaging injuries - consider how many times they've put a player on IR who, as it turns out, could have played in November. Paul Posluszny in his rookie season, Troy Vincent (who was put on IR in 2006, released with an injury settlement and later played for Washington that season), and Angelo Crowell in 2008 come to mind. The Bills, whose depth usually rivals that of a kiddie pool, continue to get thinner and thinner over the course of the season, and at the end of it they're signing guys off the street whose qualifications consist of a heartbeat and a pulse. The Patriots, meanwhile, simply plug wide receivers into the secondary and keep on humming along.
The Patriots completely figure out the Bills' offense after the first matchup. Since 2000 (and excluding this season), the average score of the first meeting of the season (rounding up): Pats 27, Bills 19. The second meeting: Pats 29, Bills 8. The Patriots' offense stays largely the same, while the Bills score 11 points less. During this time, the Bills have scored 10 or less points in the second matchup in 10 of the 12 games and have only cracked 20 points once; they've also been shut out twice and held to only field goals on four other occasions. The Patriots have never had what I'd consider a dominant defense, yet they completely shut down the Bills in the second matchup even when the Bills' offense is actually good. It seems to me that Bill Belichick takes what he learns from the first game and applies those lessons to the second. Yeah, like it should shock you that the Hoodie makes better adjustments than any Bills coach ever has. Which segues me nicely into my final theory....
Bill Belichick is, quite simply, evil. Fun fact: Google "Bill Belichick is evil", and you get comparisons to Darth Vader as well as this list of seven movie villains who are less sinister than him. That speaks for itself. All kidding aside, would it surprise you if Belichick treats the Bills like they're dangling from a bridge and he keeps stepping on their fingers? Maybe it's part of his master plan to let the Bills think they have a chance to win before stepping on their throats, then pouring it on in the second game to prove how much better a coach he is? It's been proven that the guy will cheat to win. Nothing he does would surprise me.
The good news is that historical trends don't dictate what happens on any given Sunday. When 1pm tomorrow rolls around, it won't matter that the Bills have only beaten the Pats in three of the last 25 games. It won't matter that the Bills have never won in Gillette Stadium. What will matter is that if the Bills can design an offensive game plan that revolves around Spiller and Jackson and minimizes Fitz's weak-armed mistakes, all the while finding a way to slow down Brady and Co. just enough to outscore them, then they have a chance to....
Oh, who am I kidding. It's gonna be a bloodbath. If the trend continues, the Bills will lose by more than 24 points - and 52-28 will be considered the "close" game this season. Oy. Just do me a favor, Bills, and keep it close into the second half so I can get out of raking those leaves the wife keeps nagging me about.