Friday, September 23, 2011
Pats-Bills in early-season AFC East battle
The Buffalo Bills are hosting the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon in what has turned into an unlikely early-season battle for first place in the AFC East.
This will be the 103rd meeting between the Patriots and Bills, but according to the Elias Sports Bureau, it will be the first time both teams are unbeaten (excluding meetings in season openers).
The Patriots have dominated this divisional battle in recent years, with 15 consecutive wins since a Week 1 loss in 2003. That streak is tied for the fourth-longest win streak by one team over another in NFL history.
This game also features the two best quarterbacks in the NFL this season, according to ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating. Total QBR measures all plays made by a QB (passes, rushes, sacks, fumbles, penalties, etc.) and accounts for when those plays are made in a game.
Tom Brady already holds the NFL record for most combined passing yards in the first two games of the season (940), and needs 282 yards Sunday to set the record for most pass yards in the first three games of a season.
However, he’ll be without one of his favorite receivers, tight end Aaron Hernandez, who is expected to miss the game with a sprained knee. Since the start of last season, the Patriots have a league-leading 40 targets and 22 touchdowns to tight ends in the red zone.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is tied for the NFL lead with seven TD passes this season. The only Bills QB to throw more touchdown passes in the team’s first two games was Jim Kelly, who had eight in 1991.
But the Bills are more than just a pass-happy offense, as the team also has the top-ranked ground game. Fred Jackson leads the NFL with four carries of at least 20 yards, while the team’s 165 yards after contact is the second-highest total in the league.
A Bills win would give them their first 3-0 start since starting 4-0 in 2008. They failed to maintain their momentum that season, however, as they lost nine of their final 12 games and missed the playoffs.
The Patriots are looking for their first 3-0 start since 2007. That year New England won 18 straight games before their perfect season ended with a 17-14 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.