By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots have been kings of the AFC East for two decades. From 2001-19, the Patriots won the division every year except for two. And in those two seasons they did not, they only lost out on the crown due to a tiebreaker. It’s been sheer dominance.
The Buffalo Bills, meanwhile? They haven’t exactly been dominant or even occasionally successful. They’ve been kind of bad. In that same span of time, they’ve finished in last place in the division eight times, and third place seven times. They’ve made the postseason just twice, losing both of their playoff games.
Things, however, may officially be shuffling atop the AFC East. The Bills own a 5-2 record as they prepare to host the 2-4 Patriots on Sunday afternoon. That record has the Bills in first place, and the Patriots in very unfamiliar territory, down in third place, better than only the dreadful Jets.
As a result of those positions, the Bills will enter Sunday’s game as betting favorites over the Patriots. And as ESPN’s Mike Reiss shared on Wednesday, that is something that hasn’t happened in quite a while.
From @ESPNStatsInfo: Patriots a 3.5-point underdog Sunday vs. the Bills. First time they have been a 'dog in an AFC East game since Week 2 of 2015 in Buffalo (1-point 'dog; 40-32 win). The 30-game streak as betting favorite in division games was easily the longest active streak.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) October 28, 2020
While the Patriots were technically underdogs for that Week 2 trip to Orchard Park to face Rex Ryan’s Bills, that one seems like more of an accounting error on the part of the oddsmakers than anything else. The Patriots were defending champs and were coming off an opening-week win over the Steelers; they weren’t really underdogs in the true sense of the word, even if the betting line said otherwise.
This time, though, the 3.5-point feels like a more significant indication that change is afoot in the AFC East. NFL Network’s Mike Giardi shared a tidbit that helped spotlight that shift:
This is the first Patriots-Bills game in which the Bills have at least 3 more wins than the Patriots entering the game since Week 16, 2000.
— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) October 28, 2020
If you were wondering, the Patriots won that game back in 2000, getting their fifth and final win of the season. That victory started an utterly absurd run of bullying the Buffalo Bills, as the Patriots have gone 35-4 against Buffalo since that December 2000 meeting. We’d try to give the combined score of those 39 contests, but NASA hasn’t yet created a calculator that can handle such figures.
Clearly, the folks in Buffalo are more than ready to see the Bills turn the tide in what has been an incredibly one-sided fight for far too long.
Things have indeed changed in the AFC East. The outcome of Sunday’s game could either be the official breaking point or the game when the Patriots find their footing and declare that they won’t be giving up that top spot quietly.
Tune in to Sunday’s Patriots-Bills matchup on WBZ-TV! Pregame coverage begins at 11:30 a.m. with Patriots GameDay, kickoff is set for 1 p.m., and after the game stay tuned for full reaction and analysis on Patriots 5th Quarter!