Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots Both Hit Turning Point in Week 4
The Bills were 2-1, the Patriots were 1-2. With 11:18 left in the third quarter, Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a short pass to wide receiver Donald Jones, who took it 68 yards to the house and gave Buffalo a 21-7 lead.
It looked like the entire AFC East had been turned upside down. The Bills had a chance to throw New England in the dark basement, lock the door and throw a chair in front of it. Then, the Patriots took a battering ram and blew the door off the hinges with 45 second-half points.
Why the dichotomy?
Heading into the first contest, the Bills had picked up wins over the Kansas City Chiefs (currently 1-7) and Cleveland Browns (2-7). The Patriots had dropped two to the then-surprising Arizona Cardinals (now 4-4) and the second-best team in the AFC, the Baltimore Ravens (6-2) with both losses by a combined three points.
Since then, the combined record of the teams the Bills have played is 20-13. The combined record of the Patriots opponents is 16-17.
It all just goes to show you that even when we think we know where these teams are and where they are headed, anything can change at the drop of a hat.
Of course, some of it is circumstantial based on competition, but both teams have controlled their own destiny to a degree.
The Bills might be better if their high-priced defense wasn't underachieving. The Patriots might be worse if their high-octane offense wasn't picking up the slack for the defense.
The Bills might be better if they gave the ball to running back C.J. Spiller more often. The Patriots might be worse if they gave the ball to running back Stevan Ridley any less.
And while the difference in these teams may seem as simple as the talent at quarterback, if the trajectory of these two teams is going to change, it will be about much more than just the quarterbacks.
If Buffalo's trajectory is to change, it will be because head coach Chan Gailey finally gets the idea that hey, maybe we should hand the ball to Spiller more than six times in a game. If New England's trajectory is to change, it will be because the Patriots offense is no longer being able to carry the burden for their burgeoning defense.
Who will win on Sunday?
And if the trajectory for these two teams is going to change anytime before the conclusion of the 2012 regular season, Week 10's showdown will have to mark that turning point. Neither team's remaining schedule is murderous, but the Patriots have proven much more likely to take advantage of that than the Bills have.
But as we all know, it doesn't take long for things to get turned on their head in the NFL. In what's been a crazy season thus far, perhaps no two teams could tell you that better than the Bills and the Patriots.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.
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