Imagine, if you would, being a Buffalo Bills fan for just a moment. You were tortured, tormented, and trounced for two decades by the New England Patriots. The main culprit of that was the quarterback, Tom Brady, For a while, his number one partner in crimes against the Mafia was the tight end, Rob Gronkowski. Then, Gronk retires. A year later, Brady says he’s leaving New England. There isn’t a table in the tri-state area that is safe from the Bills Mafia celebrations.
Fast forward two years and there they are again. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, just waiting to ruin your Sunday as the Buffalo Bills travel to Tampa to take on the defending Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers.
There’s just no escaping these guys, is there?
Brady has thrown for 8,669 yards, 70 touchdowns, and 25 interceptions in his 35 career games against the Bills. That’s his second most touchdowns against any single opponent (New York Jets - 72) and the most yards against any single opponent in Brady’s career. As for Gronk, he has 69 receptions for 1,070 yards and 12 touchdowns in his fifteen career games against Buffalo. That’s the most receptions, yards, and touchdowns Gronk has against any single opponent in his career.
The Bills (7-5) are coming off an ugly loss to those New England Patriots on Monday Night Football where their rookie quarterback Mac Jones attempted just three passes. That’s it. Three passes in the entire game. Now the Bills are clinging to the seven seed in the AFC and are 1.5 games behind the Pats within the AFC. The Bills can’t afford many more losses this season and are going to be on a mission to prove that they’re better than what people saw on Monday Night, especially with the Buccaneers favored to win by our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.
On the other side of the field are the Buccaneers (9-3) who are coming off back-to-back road wins and have won three straight games. The rising star for the Bucs over that stretch has been Leonard Fournette who has reached the end zone five times in the last two games while establishing himself as a go-to player within the offense whether it’s a run or a pass.
A lot will be made of Tom Brady’s 32-3 record against the Buffalo Bills in his career, but that number can be thrown out the window this week. The Bills are exactly where the Bucs were this time last year and will be looking to get a spark that will get the team moving in the right direction for the playoffs. Not to mention, the Bills were one of the most dysfunctional organizations in the league for much of Brady’s tenure in New England.
For Josh Allen, it’s been a roller coaster season. Fantasy football isn’t exactly a 1:1 comparison to real football, but it can tell a story. For Allen, the story is this - despite being the top quarterback in fantasy football this season, he has not put together back-to-back weeks with a top 12 finish except for one time all year. That easily correlates to the Bills alternating wins and losses over the last two months. They go as Allen goes and there’s been a whole lot of sputtering from the Bills’ quarterback.
Again, this lends itself to benefitting the Bills should these trends continue. The Bills lost last week, Allen finished outside the top 12, so they should be back on the upswing this week.
Then again, maybe not.
The Bills are 2-5 when facing starting quarterbacks this season but are 5-0 when a backup has come in to replace an injured starter. Buffalo also has just two wins against teams with a .500 record or better - Washington Football Team (6-6) and the Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) - with the Chiefs game coming on the road. And although four of their seven victories have been on the road, the only road game against teams .500 or better were the Chiefs and the Tennessee Titans.
The Bills are currently fifth in the NFL in scoring (28.0 points per game), eighth in the NFL in passing (259.3 yards per game), and thirteenth in rushing (116.7 yards per game). They will go head to head with a Bucs defense that is seventeenth in scoring (22.5 points per game allowed), twentieth in passing (248.4 yards per game allowed), and tied for first in rushing with the Baltimore Ravens (84.3 yards per game allowed).
On the flip side, the Buccaneers have the number one offense in the NFL, scoring 31.4 points per game (first - and the only team in the NFL over 30.0), with 311.1 passing yards per game (first - only team over 300) and 92.6 rushing yards per game (twenty-fifth) going against the Buffalo Bills defense that is allowing 16.3 points per game (second), 165.3 passing yards per game (first), and 107-1 rushing yards per game (twelfth).
For the Bills, it’s all about generating pressure and collapsing the pocket early in this game. The Bills and Bucs are the two best teams in the NFL at protecting their quarterbacks, so getting pressure on Brady early and forcing him to speed up his internal clock will be critical in avoiding big plays while allowing the defense to keep everything in front of them for minimal gains.
The Buccaneers, on the other hand, have to contain Allen’s ability to extend plays - and drives - with his legs. We’ve seen the Bucs struggle on third down most of the season but they really struggle on third down when facing a quarterback that can run in order to move the chains. Taylor Heinicke did it in the loss to the Washington Football Team and we watched Carson Wentz gain sixteen yards on a run that converted a 3rd-and-15 in the game against Indianapolis. If Allen is unable to escape pressure and run the ball, the Bills become a one-dimensional team given Zack Moss and Devin Singletary’s abilities to consistently run the ball.
DraftKings Sportsbook has the Bucs at -3.5 at home, a place where they haven’t lost all season, with an over/under of 53.5. In the last six games where the Bills are the underdog, the game has hit the over while the Bucs have covered in six of their last seven games as home favorites.
The Buccaneers lead the all-time series 7-4 having won three of the last five matchups between the two teams dating back to 2000. The Bills won the last meeting in Buffalo 30-27 but they haven’t won in Tampa since 1991.
The Buccaneers and Bills will kickoff inside Raymond James Stadium at 4:25 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on CBS with Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, and Tracy Wolfson on the call.