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Bills-Pats winner to be AFC East pace setter


The starter already fired his pistol more than a month ago on the 2014 NFL season, but this weekend a pace setter will be established in the AFC East race.

With both the Jets and Dolphins playing outside the division this week, all eyes will be on the pivotal early season division tilt between the Bills and Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday. Buffalo and New England are both 3-2 with the two teams posting victories in Week 5 to bounce back from losses in Week 4.

The Patriots rediscovered their rhythm on offense and ran roughshod over the previously undefeated Cincinnati Bengals Sunday night. Meanwhile the Bills leaned on their defense and got enough offensive production to steal a victory at Detroit.

Now the two teams square off in just the second division game for each club this season. The winner will be a game clear of the loser in the division race, and even further ahead of the Dolphins (2-2), who are coming off a bye, and the Jets (1-4).

The players in Buffalo's locker room feel they are right where they want to be in terms of the division race.

"It's important," said Corey Graham. "You know going into the year that if you win your division you're in the playoffs. That's our goal right now. We want to get into the playoffs so we've got to win the division. This is a big game this week with New England coming in here. It's a division game and they're tied with us right now at the top so this is a special week for us. We have to make sure we're prepared and ready to go out there and win this game."

"We keep winning and we keep moving up," said Robert Woods. "Right now we're at the top. We have a tough matchup against New England. We've got to win. That goes pretty much for the whole season to win our division and then get to the playoffs."

It's the first time beyond Week 4 of a season that Buffalo and New England are meeting when both teams have winning records since 2008. Six years ago both clubs brought 5-3 records into a Week 10 showdown at Gillette Stadium.

Photos of the week 17 matchup between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

New England emerged with the win (20-10) as Matt Cassel completed almost 70 percent of his passes throwing for 234 yards and ran for a touchdown while BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 105 yards and a score in the 10-point victory. Buffalo managed just 168 total net yards in the game as the Patriots' defense was stifling.

The 1999 season was the next most recent instance when the two teams met with winning marks. Buffalo (7-4) hosted New England (6-4) in Week 12 at Ralph Wilson Stadium with the Bills taking the game 17-7. Doug Flutie had just nine completions in the game, but two of them went for touchdowns to Eric Moulds and Sam Gash. Buffalo's number one ranked defense allowed the Patriots just one red zone possession and sacked Drew Bledsoe six times.

In both meetings during the 1998 season the Bills and Patriots had winning records and the teams split with the two games each decided by four points or less.

Every one of those last four meetings were all won by the home team, a trend that Buffalo certainly hopes will continue Sunday when New England comes to town.

"I think it's going to be a dog fight," said Sammy Watkins, who will be playing in his first Bills-Patriots contest Sunday. "We're trying to win the division. We're trying to make the playoffs. For us, it's been a long time and we're going to go out there and give them all we've got and try to get a win."

"It's a huge game for both teams and there's a lot at stake," said C.J. Spiller. "We'll be ready and they'll be ready. It'll be a great day of football and an exciting day. We just have to have a great week of preparation. We've got to be really focused in on the little things and the details to give ourselves a chance to win at home."

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