NFL WEEK 15 – PATRIOTS vs. BILLS
They’re circling the wagons on Foxboro, where the Holy Trinity of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Bob Kraft is defending Randy Moss in an obvious desperate attempt to keep the wide receiver from completely checking out in the final three games of the season.
Time: Sunday 1:00 ET
Venue: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo
MoneyLine: Bills +330 (-105) / Patriots -270 (-110)
Spread: Patriots -7
Brady said Monday that Moss gets a bad rap when the team plays poorly, Belichick refused to discuss specifics and spoke about how hard Moss works in general, and Kraft, who pays Moss’s salary, spoke glowingly about what a great person Moss is.
But you could construct a couple of Wal-Marts in the gap between what the troika is saying and what they’re really thinking. No one who saw Moss’s laydown against the Panthers last Sunday is buying the pablum that the Pats are offering.
Upset about who knows what (A game plan that is starting to emphasize the run more? Getting tossed from practice a few days earlier? Cold weather?), Moss basically refused to give even a 50 percent effort. He caught one pass, then promptly fumbled it. He broke a pattern that caused an interception, He dropped two other passes.
So with all this on their plate, Brady and Belichick head to Buffalo Sunday holding a tenuous one-game lead in the AFC East, the Week 13 loss to Miami having breathed new life into the Dolphins and Jets, both 7-6.
At midseason Patriots fans thought the good times of 2007 were back. A 59-0 victory over then-fading Tennessee was followed by a 35-7 thumping of Tampa Bay in London. A week later the Pats thought they had seen the last of the Dolphins when they squished the fish, 27-17, in Foxboro.
But it was all fool’s gold. They couldn’t hold on in Indianapolis, got kicked in the groin in New Orleans and for the fourth time this season blew a fourth-period lead and lost in Miami. Three losses in four games were followed by Moss’s third-grader act in a narrow victory at home against Carolina last Sunday.
With the weather making passing more difficult and New England’s aerial game basically reduced to Wes Welker, the Pats are trying to become a more balanced offensive team. RB Laurence Maroney has shown signs of being able to hit holes better than in the past, and Brady is taking far fewer snaps in the shotgun. Kevin Faulk, who has been primarily a third-down back, is getting more touches.
It’s likely to continue in Buffalo against a Bills team playing out the string in what has been a decade full of 7-9 and 8-8 finishes. Buffalo comes into this one at 5-8, and the Bills’ only possible motivation is beating a New England team that has finished ahead of them in the standings for nine straight seasons.
Buffalo’s problem is moving the chains – the Bills have been able to score more than 21 points in a game only twice all season, and only once since Nov. 1. Three touchdowns basically gets the job done against these guys.
Last season the Patriots won in Buffalo, 13-0, in a howling wind. NE gives 7 this time.
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Lawrence Paul is a regular contributor to the Cappers Picks Blog, and is a free-lance gambling and travel expert from Massachusetts.