PREVIEW: Patriots (7-5) @ Buffalo Bills (4-8)

The New England Patriots (7-5) travel to upstate New York to take on the Buffalo Bills (4-8). With a win today, and a loss by the Miami Dolphins, New England will clinch a playoff spot and win the AFC East division. Get inside for more player news, notes and a look at Sunday's game.

Week 14 games around the NFL


Chicago Bears (9-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)
Cleveland Browns (4-8) at Cincinnati Bengals (9-3)
Houston Texans (1-11) at Tennessee Titans (3-9)
Indianapolis Colts (12-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (9-3)
New England Patriots (7-5) at Buffalo Bills (4-8)
Oakland Raiders (4-8) at New York Jets (2-10)
St. Louis Rams (5-7) at Minnesota Vikings (7-5)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-4) at Carolina Panthers (9-3)
New York Giants (8-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)
San Francisco 49ers (2-10) at Seattle Seahawks (10-2)
Washington Redskins (6-6) at Arizona Cardinals (4-8)
Baltimore Ravens (4-8) at Denver Broncos (9-3)
Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) at Dallas Cowboys (7-5)
Miami Dolphins (5-7) at San Diego Chargers (8-4)
Detroit Lions (4-8) at Green Bay Packers (2-10)

New Orleans Saints (3-9) at Atlanta Falcons (7-5)

New England Patriots (7-5) at Buffalo Bills (4-8)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 12/11/05
SURFACE: AstroPlay
TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Randy Cross

SERIES: 92nd meeting. The Patriots lead the series 50-40-1, and they have won nine of the last 10 and 16 of the last 22. The Patriots are 23-21-1 all-time in Buffalo, including 16-15 in Ralph Wilson Stadium. Incredibly, the Patriots have held the Bills to 17 or fewer points in 15 of the last 17 meetings, including a 21-16 home win on Oct. 30. The exceptions were a 25-21 Pats home win in 1998 and a 31-0 Bills home win in the 2003 opener.

2005 RANKINGS: Patriots: offense 8th (27th rush, 3rd pass); defense 29th (17th rush, 31st pass). Bills: offense 29th (18th rush, 29th pass); defense 26th (31st rush, 12th pass)

PREDICTION: Patriots 30-20

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Bills outplayed the Patriots before blowing a 16-7 fourth-quarter lead at Foxborough on Oct. 30. They blew another big lead in Miami last Sunday and now must overcome internal strife that reared its ugly head during the week. On the field, the Bills want to use RB Willis McGahee plenty early on to set up shots downfield against the Patriots' woeful secondary. But executing on anything deep could prove difficult in cold conditions that could include snow showers. Patriots QB Tom Brady has plenty of experience in similar weather, and he also has a renewed ground game with RBs Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk healthy. The Bills are tied for worst in the league by allowing 4.7 yards per carry and will see a heavy dose of several Patriots running backs until they prove they can stop the ground game.

FAST FACTS: Patriots: Would clinch AFC East title with a win and a Miami loss Sunday. ... QB Tom Brady has thrown nine touchdowns and one interception in the past four meetings. ... Brady is 18-0 when the game-time temperature is below 40 degrees. Bills: QB J.P. Losman is 1-6 as a starter. ... DE Aaron Schobel needs one sack to join Bruce Smith as the only players in franchise history with two 10-plus sack seasons.



--LG Bennie Anderson is expected to make his second straight start Sunday against New England with Mike Williams nursing a chest muscle injury. Anderson has to watch out for Patriots LB Rosevelt Colvin, whose 37 1/2 career sacks rank seventh among active linebackers. In this year's first meeting, Anderson was part of a line breakdown that resulted in the game-turning sack/fumble.

--KR/CB Terrence McGee, who still leads the NFL with a 31.0-yards-per-kickoff return average, appears over his hamstring problems and is looking for a big final month. The Patriots, Sunday's opponent, did a good job in this season's first meeting against McGee, holding him to 22 yards on two returns.

--DE Aaron Schobel has come on with seven sacks in his last six games, giving him nine for the season. He has a chance to join Bruce Smith (who did it 12 times) as the only Bills in history with two 10-sack seasons.

--RB Chris Villarrial, who injured his hamstring in last week's loss at Miami, was able to practice on Thursday, increasing his chances of playing this weekend against New England.

--TE Mark Campbell, who has missed two games with a hamstring injury, practiced suring the week and will play Sunday against New England.


--RB Kevin Faulk (foot) was absent from the early portion of Friday's practice that was open to the media. Faulk was a key contributor in the passing game last week in his return after missing eight games with a broken foot. He remains questionable on the injury report.

--RB Patrick Pass (hamstring) practiced Thursday. He has missed three of the past five games, including last week's win over the Jets. Pass would fill Kevin Faulk's third-down role if Faulk (foot) can't play against the Bills.

--QB Tom Brady continues to lead the league in passing yards with 3,301. Last week he failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time since a Week 3 victory at Pittsburgh.

--DE Richard Seymour was credited with only one tackle in the coaching staff's review of the game film. He had zero tackles in the press box stats.

--RG Stephen Neal and rookie LG Logan Mankins are the only offensive linemen to start every game this season.

--WR Deion Branch has had exactly five catches in each of the past five games. His 65 receptions are a career high, and with 800 yards, he is 3 yards shy of his 2003 career best in that category.

--CB Ellis Hobbs' interception last week was just the fourth by a Patriots defensive back this season.



The Bills 21-16 loss in Foxborough on Oct. 30 was the team's best chance to upset the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Patriots in years, but Buffalo could not hang onto to a 16-7 lead in the fourth quarter. Now New England is healthier and on the doorstep of clinching its fourth AFC East division title in five years. Buffalo has lost three straight and five of six and is looking at a major housecleaning when the season is finished. But a win over the Patriots would be a way to get the rebuilding started ahead of schedule. It won't be easy coming off last week's emotional earthquake in Miami but Buffalo's four wins are at home. The keys are the same as always when the Bills face New England, which has won nine of 10 in the series: Contain QB Tom Brady, stop RB Corey Dillon, play physical with the receivers, run the ball on the Patriots' 29th-ranked defense. And pray.

Bills secondary, which gave up 387 yards passing to the Dolphins, vs. Patriots QB Tom Brady, who is 8-1 all-time against the Bills with 15 TDs, 7 interceptions and a 91.4 rating.
Bills LB London Fletcher, who is second in the AFC in tackles, vs. Patriots RB Corey Dillon, who has at least one TD or one 150-plus yard game against the Bills in four of five career games.
Bills LT Mike Gandy and LG Bennie Anderson vs. Patriots OLB Roosevelt Colvin, who leads NE in sacks with 4.5 and who beat them for the game-turning sack/forced fumble in the last meeting.
Bills RB Willis McGahee, who rushed 31 times for 136 yards in his first meeting this year against NE, vs. Patriots quick LB corps, led by Tedi Bruschi.

The Bills could be without starting RG Chris Villarrial, who is nursing a hamstring injury and did not practice Wednesday. He would be replaced by rookie Duke Preston, who struggled in Miami and would be tested by the Patriots strong defensive line.
TE Mark Campbell (hamstring) didn't practice Wednesday but hopes to be back after missing the past two games. The Bills have virtually no presence in their passing game at tight end but Campbell is their best threat.


The Patriots no doubt will be emphasizing third-down offense and defense this week in practice. In the first meeting with the Bills, the Patriots were only 1-for-7 on third down. The Bills were 7-for-14 and controlled the clock for 39:20 -- a season high against New England. That third-down domination was out of character for the Bills, who rank 22nd in third-down offense and last in third-down defense. The Bills also rank 31st against the run, meaning a steady dose of Corey Dillon, Kevin Faulk and whichever other running backs are healthy might be the way to go, especially given the likelihood of bad weather.

--Patriots CBs Asante Samuel and Ellis Hobbs vs. Bills WR Lee Evans. With WR Eric Moulds potentially suspended for this game, Evans becomes the Bills' best weapon in the passing game, although it's unclear against whom he would be lined up. He had three touchdowns in the first quarter in Miami last week before Buffalo collapsed in a 24-23 loss. Samuel has been up and down this season, although he blanketed Justin McCareins of the Jets last week. Hobbs is a promising rookie.
--Patriots LT Nick Kaczur vs. Bills RDE Aaron Schobel. The Patriots rookie gave up two sacks to Schobel in the teams' first meeting, including a strip sack in the fourth quarter that the Bills converted into a field goal and a 16-7 lead. Kaczur generally has played well since filling in for an injured Matt Light, but he will need to step it up in the rematch with Schobel.

Losing SS Artrell Hawkins would create even more turnover in the secondary, although in talking to the media on Wednesday, he gave no indication that he might miss this week's game. With S Michael Stone skipping practice, too, the Patriots could be awfully short at that spot. The fact that RB Corey Dillon practiced on Wednesday was an encouraging sign that he didn't aggravate the ankle/calf injuries that have plagued him all season.

Patriots Insider Top Stories