NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 9: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots points to a blocking assignment against the Tennessee Titans during their season opener at LP Field on September 8, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
The Buffalo Bills might be 59-88 since 2003, but two of those memorable wins have come against the New England Patriots, one of the league's best teams this century. The Bills beat the Pats, 34-31, during Week 3 of the 2011 season and eight years before, they opened the '03 season by blanking New England 31-0. Of course, the Pats reeled off 15 wins in a row in the interim but that's the beauty of the NFL: any given Sunday.
So when New England travels to Ralph Wilson Stadium this weekend anything's possible. The Pats are coming off a controversial loss to the Ravens and the Bills, 3.5-point underdogs at home, suddenly look like the team everyone figured them for before the season. Of course, they laid an egg in the opener against what was thought to be a punchless Jets offense, but then rebounded nicely against against the Chiefs and Browns.
We have this theory that the Bills shrink in big moments, which explains their no-show performance against the Jets, but thrive under the radar. They will again be in the spotlight this week so we'll have a better gauge of just where this team is. The Patriots, meanwhile, could be at a crossroads in their season. If they drop to 1-3, they'll then have the Broncos, Seahawks, Jets and Rams to face before their bye week. It's inconceivable to think that New England could be hovering around .500 midway through the season but it could happen.
But nobody's feeling sorry for themselves.
“We have to dig ourselves out of a hole that we put ourselves into," quarterback Tom Brady said on Wednesday. "We’re sitting here at 1-2 and looking up at Buffalo and the Jets. It’s frustrating when you lose, it’s been two weeks in a row, and obviously nobody feels very good about it.”
The last time the Pats lost two in a row: Weeks 8 and 9 of the 2011 season to the Steelers and Giants, dropping them to 5-3. It signaled the annual "end is nigh for the dynasty!" talk. New England promptly won 10 in a row before losing to the Giants in the Super Bowl. But until the Pats get hot, Brady will face weekly questions about the team's shortcomings. Like, say, an inconsistent four-minute offense.
“This is about winning," he said. "When you win, you don’t get questions about the four-minute offense, or stuff like that. It’s not like we sit here in the locker room and say, ‘God, we’re terrible, we can’t make any plays, we’re not even in these games.’ We’re right in them. We just have to do a better job in certain areas. If we do that, we’ll start winning close games. If we don’t, we’ll have a miserable year. No one wants that around here.”
And that's the thing: the difference between winning and losing in the NFL often comes down to inches (just ask the Packers and Seahawks -- though Brady was uninterested in bashing the officials). New England could just as easily be 3-0. And maybe Sunday is the day the turnaround begins. If not then Brady and the Pats can expect more second-guessing from fans and media.