Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Why Week 1 Against the Bills Worries Me

Normally I look at Patriots/Bills games as an almost automatic 'W' for the Pats. The Pats are 18-1 in their last 19 meetings, and 23-2 in their last 25. But for some reason this Week 1 meeting has me worried.

I can't help but feel like the Bills are overdue for a win. I know past results don't have any impact on the likelihood of future results and the whole idea of being "overdue" is typically only psychological. Then again, the Bills will be extra motivated. This is their Super Bowl. They'll be even more pumped than Detroit was in the preseason. The Pats, on the other hand, need to avoid feeling too confident against an opponent they've owned for over a decade.

Another thing that worries me is the timing of the game. The Bills like to torture their fans, giving them hope with early season successes, then crushing their spirits by deteriorating as the season wears on. Every Bills season is a Shakespearean tragedy. It may seem cruel, as I think it effectively shortens the life-span of Bills fans. However that's a kind, humane thing to do to people who have to live in Western New York.

The early season is when Buffalo has had their limited success against the Pats. In 2003 Buffalo beat New England 31-0 in Week 1, the infamous Lawyer Milloy game. In 2011 the Bills beat the Pats 34-31 in Week 3. Both of Buffalo's wins since 2001 have been in September and in Buffalo. Two wins isn't much. Mathematically speaking, however, since 2001 the Bills have had infinitely more success against the Patriots in September than in any other month. Two wins is infinitely more than zero.

And even when Buffalo has lost, Week 1 games have been close between these two teams. In 2006 the Pats won 19-17. In 2009 they won 25-24 on Monday Night Football. That was the game that Leodis McKelvin fumbled a kickoff return with 2 minutes left in what should have been a Buffalo win.

Week 1 against Buffalo after major personnel changes has me worried most of all. That 2003 loss to Buffalo came after the Patriots dropped Lawyer Milloy. The defense was in disarray. Tom Brady was out of sorts. It was preseason Week 5 for the Pats, not regular season Week 1. And this year the Pats have had to make dramatic adjustments: losing Welker to Denver, losing Gronkowski to injury (for now), and losing Hernandez to the Bristol County House of Correction.

On the bright side, the Pats started that 2003 season 2-2, then won 21 straight games, 38 of 40, and 2 Super Bowls. So maybe Week 1 losses to Buffalo aren't the end of the world.

Jon Lester Acelike in Playofflike Victory

I haven't been this impressed with Jon Lester for a long, long time. He got the call to face the probable AL Cy Young winner, he had to pitch great to give his team a chance to win, and he answered the challenge. He was Acelike.

Seven innings, only 1 run allowed. He scattered 8 hits, he didn't walk anyone, he struck out 9. He worked his way out of trouble, including a bases loaded, 2 out situation in the 5th.

Will Middlebrooks made an error that helped create that jam, but he atoned for that miscue with a 2-run single in the bottom of the inning. That was the winning hit.

Lester had three 1-2-3 innings, including striking out the side in the 3rd and grounding out the side in the 4th. Miguel Cabrera, who had previously done very well against Lester, was held to an 0 for 4 night with a strikeout.

Then the bullpen did their thing, 4 pitchers combining for 2 scoreless innings. Koji Uehara only needed 9 pitches in the 9th, striking out 2.

To sum up, Lester outpitched the best pitcher in the AL. The Red Sox outscored the best offense in the AL. That's a pretty nice win right there.

Rubber game tonight as Ryan Dempster faces Rick Porcello. This game should be more high scoring as Porcello is very hittable (4.44 ERA this season and a 1.46 WHIP in August) and Dempster has been struggling (6.75 ERA in August).

Photo Credit:
Winslow Townson/Getty Images