Pats, with Brady, head to Buffalo
Rex Ryan likes nothing better than beating the Patriots.
His Buffalo Bills managed that 16-0 shutout in Week 4, with a very big absence on the New England side. Yeah, that guy: Tom Brady.
Today, the star quarterback brings his 6-1 team to Buffalo. Brady has owned the Bills throughout his career, and pretty much owned Ryan, too.
Brady is 25-3 against the Bills. Those 25 victories are one short of matching the NFL record for most wins by a quarterback against one opponent: Brett Favre had 26 against Detroit.
“Well I think the last time was a great time to play them,” says Ryan, who is 3-11 in the regular season, but 1-0 in the playoffs vs. Brady in Ryan’s stints with the Jets and Bills (4-3 this season). “They’ve got a new player back there for some reason. He looks decent.
“I shouldn’t make waves by saying he doesn’t look the same to me.”
Asked if a quarterback approaching 40 has ever looked so good, Ryan responded: “I think you can cut it off and say, ‘Have you ever seen a quarterback that good?'”
Brady has torn up Cleveland, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh in his three starts.
Now that he is done with the AFC North for a while, he goes after the only team to smudge New England’s record so far. To Brady, Buffalo is a challenge despite his dominance of the Bills.
“Yeah, I think the players do a good job disguising their looks and giving you some different looks,” he says of Buffalo’s defense. “He has always had good defenses when he’s played us. He’s had very good players.
“They have a good scheme, and that’s what makes it challenging. Last time we played them, we didn’t score points, we didn’t play particularly well. They played really well.”
The action began Thursday night with Tennessee’s 36-22 home victory over Jacksonville.
Marcus Mariota threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns to end his home struggles and the Titans (4-4) had their highest point total of the season.
Since the start of the 2014 season, the Titans’ home record is 3-0 against the Jaguars (2-5) and 1-17 against everybody else.
Mariota was 18 of 22 for 270 yards and had a 148.1 passer rating, the second-highest of his career. DeMarco Murray ran for 123 yards and a touchdown, and the Titans had a season-high 494 total yards.
Off this week are the New York Giants (4-3), Los Angeles (3-4), San Francisco (1-6), Miami (3-4), Baltimore (3-4) and Pittsburgh (4-3).
Philadelphia (4-2) at Dallas (5-1)
A prime-timer that seems worthy of the spotlight between two surprise contenders.
The Eagles have won three in a row at the Cowboys, and they could really scramble the NFC East race with another victory. Their defense has come on and will test Dallas’ rookie standouts, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Prescott and Philadelphia’s No. 2 overall draft pick, Carson Wentz, have looked like anything but newcomers. Wentz leads NFL rookies with eight passing TDs, while Prescott has a passer rating of at least 100 in five straight games, all wins.
Elliott, coming off a career-high 157 yards rushing against Green Bay, is the first rookie with four straight games of at least 130 yards.
Arizona (3-3-1) at Carolina (1-5)
It’s difficult to fathom that these teams faced off for a spot in the Super Bowl last January.
Carolina obviously has fallen the hardest, plagued by turnovers (minus-8) and a leaky secondary. At least the Panthers got a little healthier after their bye.
The Cardinals come off a physically and mentally wrenching 6-6 tie with Seattle on Sunday night, and now have this cross-country trip. Their running game, behind David Johnson, is in gear.
“This team right now is in a totally different place than when we went over there last year for the championship, and hopefully we can go somewhere else for the championship,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “But this is next week’s game, no more, no less. We’ve got to win.”
Green Bay (4-2) at Atlanta (4-3)
The Packers go for five straight wins over the Falcons, and to do so they must slow down Julio Jones. Atlanta’s dynamic offense could be hamstrung a bit because of running back Tevin Coleman’s, uh, hamstring injury. And the Packers have the NFL’s stingiest run defense.
But Jones has 40 receptions for 830 yards, more than twice as many catches as anyone else on Atlanta.
The Pack is struggling to run with injuries to Eddie Lacy and James Starks, but found a weapon out of the backfield in versatile Ty Montgomery in a win over the Bears.
Washington (4-2) vs. Cincinnati (3-4), London
Neither team has played a real game in London, though Washington lost to Buffalo in Toronto in 2011. Of note here is Jay Gruden was an offensive coordinator with Cincinnati, and so was Cleveland coach Hue Jackson. The Bengals beat the Browns last week.
Two productive quarterbacks go at it in Washington’s Kurt Cousins and Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton. Cousins has the offense enough in tune that it has all of six three-and-out series this season. Dalton has the superb A.J. Green as a target; Green leads the NFL with 50 catches and is second to Julio Jones with 775 yards receiving.
Detroit (4-3) at Houston (4-3)
The Lions have won three in a row, getting strong and clutch production from Matthew Stafford. They come off a three-game homestand that was preceded by two losses on the road.
Houston, meanwhile, has won six straight at home, but looks like a vulnerable team, especially when Brock Osweiler can’t get the ball to DeAndre Hopkins. But first-round pick Will Fuller is second among rookie wideouts with 349 yards receiving.
Kansas City (4-2) at Indianapolis (3-4)
The Chiefs have lost six of the past seven in this series, two of them playoff games. They come into Indy with an opportunistic defense that has 14 takeaways, with 2015 Defensive Rookie of the Year Marcus Peters topping the league with five picks. Their running game with Spencer Ware and a healthy Jamaal Charles can be decisive.
The Colts must better protect Andrew Luck (NFL-high 25 sacks), and while Adam Vinatieri has made a league-record 43 consecutive field goals, they need more touchdowns.
San Diego (3-4) at Denver (5-2)
Yes, these teams did face off on Oct. 13. Yet another quirk in this year’s strange NFL schedule.
San Diego took that one and then rallied to beat Atlanta very impressively last weekend. With RB Melvin Gordon coming on — a league-high 10 touchdowns– and Philip Rivers having another strong season, this is a difficult matchup for Denver. The Broncos rank only 22nd against the rush.
Key here could be how well each quarterback is protected. Von Miller has been a wrecking crew against the Chargers with 12 sacks, 14 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles in his past 11 outings against them.
Seattle (4-1-1) at New Orleans (2-4)
The Seahawks are in a similar bind to Arizona after that endless deadlock last Sunday night. Certainly the focal point will be Jimmy Graham’s return to the Superdome. The star tight end has become a bigger part of Seattle’s offense now that he is healthy.
Seattle’s Legion of Boom, which shut down Arizona’s strong group of receivers, will be further tested by Drew Brees and his targets. Although the Saints are struggling, Brees once more has been terrific: Brees passed for 367 yards and three TDs last week, and became the only player in NFL history with 100 career 300-plus yard games passing. He is averaging 403.4 yards passing in the past five home games, with 17 TDs against two interceptions.
Oakland (5-2) at Tampa Bay (3-3)
Tampa hasn’t won a postseason game since routing the Raiders 48-21 in the 2003 Super Bowl. The Raiders haven’t made the playoffs since then.
That could change for Oakland if it maintains its road success. The Raiders are 4-0 away from home, led by a dynamic offense. They’ve allowed a league-low seven sacks.
To handle the Bucs, who have won two in a row, Oakland must clamp down on the run. Even with Doug Martin out, the Bucs have found ground success with Jacquizz Rodgers, who wasn’t on the team when the season began, but has career highs the past two games of 101 and 154 yards rushing.
New York Jets (2-5) at Cleveland (0-7)
Optimists by Lake Erie have been pointing to this one for the Browns’ first victory. Given their uncertain quarterbacking situation, a sieve of a defense and an inability to make key plays on both sides of the ball, it’s difficult to see that happening.
The Browns are looking to avoid their first 0-8 start since 1975, when they were 0-9, finished 3-11. Cleveland is 3-25 in its past 28 games.
Still, the Jets are among the NFL’s worst underachievers, and they go back to Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. His benching lasted less than one half, then Geno Smith tore up his knee.
Minnesota (5-1) at Chicago (1-6), Mon.
Jay Cutler will be back at quarterback for the Bears after missing five games (thumb). His replacement, Brian Hoyer, fared well even if Chicago didn’t, but Hoyer broke his left arm against Green Bay.
Minnesota comes off its first loss, and can’t run the ball without injured Adrian Peterson, ranking 31st. But the defense is the league’s best and most opportunistic, allowing 14 points a game, the fewest through six games for this franchise since 1988. The Vikings lead in turnover margin (plus-11) and turnovers forced (16), too.