Romilly Evans previews a lopsided Monday Night Football, but argues that the Buffalo Bills could surprise a few against Tom Brady's overrated New England Pats
"On the plus side, the Bills do have have LeSean McCoy back from concussion protocol"
New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills
Start-time: Tuesday, 01:15
TV: Live on Sky Sports Action
Clock control with McCoy can keep Buffalo competitive
All the world's a stage. Over the years, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have penned some compelling narratives between them. From high-wire drama, through dogged determination and on to gritty victory, predictable success has seldom been far away.
In short, you invariably know how their story's going to end: in triumph. Indeed, if their collective back catalogue is limited, it's only because neither tragedy nor a comedy of errors appears within their emotional range as entertainers.
This season, however, I've an uncanny feeling that might be about to change. For, while most observers have the New England Patriots down as having regained their offensive stride after an early-season blip, they still look a long way short of their imperious best to this jaundiced eye. As for that trademark mid-season push towards the Super Bowl? Well, the jury remains out and riddled with uncertainty as to Brady and Belichick combined testimony.
Banging on about Brady
Sure, Brady threw for 340 yards against Kansas City, and another 277 against a superior defence in Chicago, but his completion percentages are necessarily receding with the passage of old Father Time. Bizarrely, though, and somewhat counter-intuitively, the ageing pass master is taking more, deep downfield strikes than ever before. Much of that throwing confidence can be attributed to his receiving crew.
Brandin Cooks may have departed, but fellow wideout Julian Edelman is back after a four-game suspension, embattled Josh Gordon has found his feet in new surrounds, WRs Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett have provided dependable outlets, running man James White pouches more than his fair share, and even talismanic tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to return from a persistent back injury tonight in the Buffalo backyard where he first fell in love with the game.
Indeed, has Brady ever had it so good? And what on Earth can the troubled Bills do to stop him? Well, a uniquely hostile homefield on a Monday Night would normally be something for Buffalo to fall back on.
Were it not for the fact that Brady and Gronk have tormented the Bills throughout much of latter-day history. More recently, the Pats have won their last six successive games against Buffalo, while they are more crucially 4-0 against-the-spread in their past four encounters. It all adds up to supposed oblivion here - or more specifically a two-touchdown handicap on the road.
Whichever way you gut the desk, giving up 14 points against a talented all-round squad remains enormous. Even with a third-string quarterback starting under center.
Derek Anderson may not even be a name in his own household, but the 35-year-old couldn't be faulted for a no-show against Indy, a game for which he had no time to prep. This week is different and, having familiarized himself with the players and the playbook, Anderson can prove that he's a worthy sub for rookie Josh Allen. Although, wary of my own receding returns pushing 40, it's hard to sound too enthused.
That said, on the plus side, the Bills do have have LeSean McCoy back from concussion protocol, while his back-up, Chris Ivory, has wafer shy of 340 yards from scrimmage this season in relief. Basically, expect the Bills to try and control the clock here to stay within hailing distance of Brady. Gronk will not be at his best, and if they can't stop the Pats' offense, Buffalo can at least slow it.
Especially with the likes of star safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer (pick 6) mixing up their coverages and blitzes with some good disguises. Such is their stealth attack, they've even drawn praise from Belichick himself (possibly the greatest mind in the game) while Poyer even intercepted Brady for a Pick Six last time. So, although it may sound like I'm clutching at straws, there are reasons to be doubting Thomas this evening.
Back Buffalo Bills (+14) to win on the Match Handicap @ 19/20 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back Buffalo Bills (+7.5) to win on the First Half Handicap @ 4/5 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back Over 14.5 Buffalo Bills Total Points @ 19/20 on the Betfair Sportsbook
Back L. McCoy to score First / Anytime Touchdown @ 12/1 / 9/4 on the Betfair Sportsbook