It’s December, Tom Brady is playing well and barrelling toward another division title.
Even though the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback is no longer ruling the AFC East, what Brady’s accomplishing after switching uniforms looks awfully familiar to the struggling Buffalo Bills.
To put it mildly, Brady absolutely had his way with the once downtrodden Bills during a two-decade stint with the New England Patriots, winning 32 of 35 games between the division rivals – setting the NFL record for most wins by a QB against one opponent and claiming 17 AFC East titles.
The reigning Super Bowl champion Bucs (9-3) can clinch their first NFC South crown since 2007 with a win over the Bills (7-5) and some outside help on Sunday, when Buffalo faces its old nemesis for the first time since Brady moved to Tampa Bay in 2020.
“They are a very tough team, a very resilient team. They challenge you in every way,” Brady said. “Last year, they were in the AFC championship game. They’ve obviously got a dynamic offence and the top defence in the league.”
That’s true to a certain extent.
The Bills have a top 10 offence and are averaging 28 points, which is tied for fifth in the NFL. The defence is No. 1 against the pass and ranks first overall, too, while limiting opponents to only 16.3 points per game.
The reality, though, is lately Buffalo has hardly resembled the team which, a year ago, won its most games since 1991, its first division title since 1995, and enjoyed its deepest playoff run in 27 years before losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC title game.
The Bills are 3-4 in their past seven games and are coming off a tough 14-10 home loss to New England in which the Patriots ran the ball 46 times for 222 yards and only attempted three passes.
The offence, at best, has been inconsistent after a strong start to the season. Josh Allen has thrown for nine touchdowns over the past five games, while also turning the ball over the same number of times with seven interceptions and two lost fumbles during the same stretch.
Allen is confident the Bills can pull out of the funk.
“There’s no panic in our locker-room. We’re extremely united right now with what we need to do,” the quarterback said. “We’re a hungry team and we want to go out there and prove what type of team we are, not to [the media] or anybody else, but to ourselves because we know the type of guys that we have in this locker-room and the team that we can be.”
The Bucs, meanwhile, seem to be rounding into form after a two-game skid wrapped around last month’s bye week.
Brady has guided the team to three straight wins and is leading the league with 3,771 yards passing and 34 TDs.
“From a film and opposition point of view, I would say I think he’s playing as good a football as I’ve seen him play and he’s played, as we know, really good football,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said of the 44-year-old quarterback. “So credit to him, credit to how they’re using him down there and where he is in his career. We have a lot of respect for that.”
Questions are being raised as to whether McDermott and offensive co-ordinator Brian Daboll are on the same page. Asked about Daboll’s offensive game plan after the loss Monday night, McDermott took issue with the Bills scoring 10 points on four trips inside the Patriots 20.
A day later, McDermott was a little more diplomatic, by saying: “Challenges are different every year, and those are the things we’re working through to get fixed and make sure we are all on the same page. I believe we are.”
FREE GABE DAVIS?
Bills receiver Gabriel Davis is making the case for more playing time after catching two of four passes thrown his way for 30 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown while playing only 16 offensive snaps on Monday night. Veteran off-season free-agent addition Emmanuel Sanders, meantime, caught three of six passes in his direction for 22 yards over 46 snaps.
Sanders hasn’t topped three catches for 30 yards in four straight outings, and not scored since a two-TD performance in a 38-20 win at Kansas City on Oct. 10. Davis has just 19 catches for 342 yards and three TDs in playing behind Sanders, a year after a rookie season in which he had 35 catches for 599 yards and seven TDs.
Brady has beaten the Bills nine straight times since a 17-9 loss to Buffalo in the 2014 season finale in which the QB played only the first half. Otherwise, he has lost just two games to the Bills in which he started and finished.
The seven-time Super Bowl champion has averaged 247.7 yards per game in his 35 career starts against Buffalo. He has also accounted for 72 touchdowns, including two rushing.
Former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who came out of retirement to join Brady in Tampa Bay, has had a lot of success against the Bills, too, with 69 receptions and 12 TD catches in 15 games.