Thursday, December 17, 2009
It's a must-win. And it's unfortunate that a Week 15 game in Buffalo is so vital. Had the Patriots been able to beat the Dolphins last week, they'd have the division all-but clinched. In fact, a win last Sunday in Miami, and the Pats could've clinched the division this Sunday with a win.
Had the Pats beaten Miami, and been able to get into the end zone against the Jets in Week 2 to win that game, then the division would be mathematically sealed and delivered to Foxborough.
Back to present reality, the Patriots are 1 game ahead in the AFC East. However, a loss on Sunday, coupled with a Miami victory, and the AFC East isn't tied at the top. Miami would have the advantage, as they would have clinched a better divisional record, which would trump any ties the Patriots and Dolphins find themselves in.
A loss on Sunday would also cripple any hopes of a Wild Card berth. As the standings lay right now, Miami, Baltimore, Jacksonville, and the Jets are all tied at 7-6 for that 6th and final AFC playoff spot. A loss on Sunday would throw the Patriots into that gaggle of teams, and with a 5-5 conference record (tie-breaker after head-to-head).
Perhaps the cold weather has got me so dismal and pessimistic. But there are some frightening FACTS about the Bills and the Patriots.
#1: The Pats barely beat the Bills in Foxborough. If not for some token Buffalo chokedom, that game would've been lost.
#2: The Bills have nothing to lose. When they're playing for something tangible, they fuck it up. But freed of such pressures and they tend to play their best football.
#3: 0-5, that's the Patriots record when playing west of Worcester.
#4: The Pats' 20-10 victory over Carolina was far from inspiring football.
#5: The Bills beat Miami 31-14 just a few weeks ago.
Now it's time to look on the bright side of things. The Bills have no passing game. For a team that's frequently trailing in games 2,311 total passing yards is pretty weak. 13 passing TDs, 16 INTs. A team rating of 69.8. The major weaknesses of the Pats' defense are pass-rushing and pass-defending. Thanks to Ryan Fitzpatrick, that shouldn't be much of a worry.
And let's just say the Pats do lose to Buffalo. Miami and the Jets both have interesting schedules to negotiate. Miami is @ Tennessee Sunday, then hosts Houston, then Pittsburgh. The Jets have Atlanta at home Sunday, then @ Indy, then hosting the Bengals.
I think the Patriots will roll on Sunday. Unfortunately, it'll take Terrell Owens to get Randy Moss motivated. Even without Moss, the Pats' D will stifle Buffalo's running game enough to keep them off the board. Eventually, the Pats will score some touchdowns and win 31-10.
Mark Stuart suffered a broken sternum during Monday's game against the Flyers. He'll be out for 4 to 6 weeks with that injury, snapping a 196 consecutive game streak.
Dennis Wideman will also miss at least the first leg of the Bruins' three game road trip (Chicago-Toronto-Ottawa), with an undisclosed injury that is unrelated to his injuries from last week.
Without Stuart and Widemen, the Bruins lose about 38 minutes on the blue-line. Look for Chara and Derek Morris to get a few extra shifts per game. Matt Hunwick has been a healthy scratch lately, but he'll probably be back in the lineup on the 3rd defensive pairing.
The injuries just do not stop for the Bruins, or for the rest of the NHL either.