Last week was a statement game for the Buffalo Bills and they played like the reigning AFC East champions. Per NFL.com, Buffalo has scored 30+ points in 9 games this season(8-1). The Bills have 30+ points for the 18th time since 2020( 17 such games in precious 5 seasons). Josh Allen showed Foxboro what a top tier QB looks like, making plays with his legs as well as through the air. Allen now has 130 games where he has thrown and run for a touchdown. Only Dan Marino has more in the first four years of his NFL career. An aggressive game plan included going for it four times on fourth down, converting three times. In turn, Patriots defenders spent 35:09 on the field and especially in the second and third quarters, it wore on New England.
Offensively, there were some moments. Damien Harris was the lone bright spot with the first 3TD game since Sony Michel did it in 2019. Mac and Cheese looked a lot like leftover MacDonalds. And, when it mattered most Buffalo would convert clutch plays to keep the pressure on.
The box score may show that the Pats scored in the final three quarters, however the eye test says more. While Buffalo did not punt the entire game, scoring on three consecutive drives, New England went INT, Punt, Punt between scores in that stretch. In my opinion, the game was over then (20-7).
Ultimately, this Patriots team has seen good teams in the past two weeks and are able stack themselves against these results. Indianapolis has possibly the NFL MVP in Johnathon Taylor. A team that won 11 games last year and is well coached. Buffalo, the same. Allen at QB, Diggs at receiver. Tough defenses. Good to great offensively. Margin of error, which already is slim with an average to good offense like New England, is even less against playoff teams. We are capable of winning games that are a slog, classic smash mouth AFC football. First to 24 wins type games. However, as the conference starts to shift to where the top talent resides, can the Pats win in a shootout against playoff teams when called upon? The type of games where you might need 31? Not yet.
One last observation: winning streaks in the NFL.
So, remember how when the Pats were winning seven straight and we as fans thought that meant another parade in the Commons. Well, currently there are seven teams enjoying win streaks of three or more games. Five teams are sitting on four wins or more. Miami has won seven straight after losing seven straight in the same season(first time in NFL history). What does that mean for how to know when a team is good or not? Are you a team like Washington or Carolina who are currently mired in losing streaks after winning three or more earlier in the year? Or are Indianapolis, Kansas City, Green Bay who have hit strides after scuffling in Sept through December? This current climate doesn’t help with availability and for understandable reasons. However, it has left me less enthused about win streaks in terms of that being the barometer of marking a playoff team. The best teams usually have solid talent and coaching, and are battle tested. Been there done that. On to Jacksonville. (Did I do that right?)