Throughout the offseason, the talk around One Bills Drive in Orchard Park was the Buffalo Bills taking over the AFC East. But, in order to do that the Bills need to beat the reigning AFC East champion, the New England Patriots.
Buffalo’s first matchup with the Patriots, who have won the AFC East 15 of the past 16 years, is now here and they are treating it as just another division game, but an important game nonetheless.
“It’s the most important game because it’s the next one and that’s the same mindset every time we play,” Josh Allen said during a press media availability earlier this week. “We’re not trying to make it a bigger deal or a smaller deal than what it needs to be. Our goal is to win every game we play. We are not trying to lose.”
The Miami Dolphins were the last team to win the AFC East not named the New England Patriots. They won the division in 2008 before losing to the Ravens in the Wild Card playoffs.
The Bills haven’t won the AFC East since 1995 and during their stretch run of four straight Super Bowl appearances, the Bills won six division titles between 1988 and 1995 and they are hoping to start a new streak in 2020.
Is It More Than Just “The Next” Game?
For Buffalo Bills fans, the answer to that question is probably YES!! (notice the emphasis.)
But for the team, the answer is no.
Yes, it will be nice, and important, for the Bills to take down the Patriots on Sunday, but since the beginning of this season, the goal has been bigger than just beating the Patriots. The Bills have set their sights on a division title and securing home field advantage in the playoffs.
In order to do that, the Bills have to have a different type of mindset because it’s about more than just beating the Patriots. The Bills have to beat every division opponent they play, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the Patriots, the Jets, or the Dolphins and they’ve done that so far this season.
Cole Beasley put it best in his media availability on Thursday.
“I don’t really care (who we play), I just want to beat everybody,” Beasley said. “I don’t care what they’ve done in the past or whatever. Every year is a new year. You can never concern yourself with those types of things, we just have to focus on us and all I can try to do is be the best version of myself.”
In the past 10 years, the Patriots have been the team that has dominated the AFC East, and the NFL. Bill Belichick hasn’t lost to the Bills since 2016 and the Bills have only beat the Patriots three times in the past 10 years. So, how do the Bills block out the noise and focus on beating one of the best coaches in NFL history?
It Starts with a Clear Head
The history between the Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots is no secret. The Patriots have dominated the matchup in recent years and the Bills have an all-time win percentage of .366 against the Patriots.
So, even though the Patriots are in a down year, which is rare for a Bill Belichick team, Bills head coach Sean McDermott knows they have to stay ready and can’t get caught up in the emotions of the rivalry.
“We understand our community’s emotion around this game,” McDermott said. “But it’s important that we are in the right mental place to play our best football because we are going to need it to play the defending (division) champs here.”
That hasn’t been easy either. In the past 10 years, the Bills have won just three games against the Patriots and their most recent win happened on Oct. 2, 2016 when Dan Carpenter converted three field goals and LeSean McCoy caught a 7-yard pass from Tyrod Taylor. The Patriots played without Tom Brady and Jacoby Brissett threw for 205 yards.