The Buffalo Bills will retire the No. 34 of Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas on Monday night. Unfortunately for the Bills, the halftime ceremony will likely be the highlight of the evening.
With the Tom Brady and the New England Patriots coming to town, even Bills fans are bracing for the likely result of the game. Brady has won 28 of 31 starts against the Bills, and in one of those losses he was pulled from a meaningless Week 17 game at halftime. The last time the Pats were in Buffalo for a night game, they routed the Bills 56-10 on a Sunday night in 2007.
There’s little reason to think this game will be any different. New England (5-2) has scored at least 38 points in every game during its current four-game winning streak. With Buffalo (2-5) on its third starting quarterback this season and lacking the firepower to keep up with Brady, it could be a long night.
New England at Buffalo
Kickoff: Monday, Oct. 29 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Spread: Patriots -14
Three Things to Watch
1. James White and Rob Gronkowski
Since adding Josh Gordon and the return of Julian Edelman, the Pats finally have a full set of weapons on the outside. But White and Gronkowski are always a big part of the passing game, and they provide matchups that can be exploited. Rookie Bills middle linebacker Trumaine Edmunds has rare physical gifts and can cover just about anyone, but he is still a rookie who can be fooled by motion and play action. Opponents have picked on this all season, and you can expect the Patriots to do the same.
2. The myth of the Bills' running game
It’s easy to fall back on the cliche that the Bills are a team that tries to win with great defense and a strong running game. Fact is, that’s only half true. The defense has been great most of the season, but the running game has never been any good. Until some garbage-time draw plays in a blowout loss to the Colts last week, Buffalo’s best running play was rookie quarterback Josh Allen running for his life. Now Allen is hurt, and Derek Anderson lacks the ability to make plays with his feet. Oh yeah, and top running back LeSean McCoy may also miss the game with a concussion.
3. Second-half success
The Bills actually did a very good job frustrating Brady and the Pats during the first half of both meetings last season. But both times, whatever adjustments New England made blew the games wide open. In the first meeting, the Pats scored touchdowns on consecutive long drives to start the second half on their way to a 23-3 win. The Bills actually led the second game 16-13 before New England got the ball in the second half, only to watch the Pats score on four straight drives and win easily, 37-16. This one may be close when Thomas gives his halftime speech, but it likely won’t be at the end.
It’s possible the Bills are inspired by playing a rare home game at night on national television and give the Patriots a game. But even against lesser teams this season, Buffalo has needed huge performances from its defense forcing multiple big mistakes from opposing offenses just to have a chance. Brady rarely makes big mistakes.