It's the 114th all time meeting between the Bills and the Patriots, in what's been a lopsided series in recent years. The two teams renew their rivalry Sunday at New Era Field, four weeks after their last matchup. Here's the top seven storylines for Patriots week:
1. BRADY THIS TIME, NOT BRISSETT
The Bills beat New England in Foxboro four weeks ago, but some will put a giant-sized asterisk next to that win. That was the fourth and final game of Tom Brady's NFL suspension, and the Patriots were down to their third-string quarterback that day, Jacoby Brissett.
Predictably, the Patriots have won all three games since Brady returned – victories over the Browns, Bengals and Steelers. And he's been on fire: he's completed 76 percent of his pass attempts for six touchdowns and zero interceptions. His quarterback rating leads the league, a ridiculous 135.5, and he leads the league in most passing categories.
An upgrade over Jacoby Brissett? Duh.
2.**GRONK GOES FOR THE RECORD
Amherst native Rob Gronkowski played against the Bills four weeks ago, but he was still coming back from offseason surgery. Since then, he's caught 12 passes including a touchdown catch against the Steelers last Sunday.
That one was Gronkowski's 68th career touchdown for the Patriots and he needs one more to break the franchise all-time record currently held by Stanley Morgan. With Western New York friends and family in the stands, Gronkowski would probably love to set the record in Orchard Park. He and Tom Brady are also now seventh all-time in NFL history with 66 passing touchdowns between them. They just moved ahead of Jim Kelly and Andre Reed (67) and are just one behind the combination of Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne.
3. BILLS NURSING THROUGH INJURIES
Patriots week has been hard enough for the Buffalo Bills in the past decade and a half. This week, they've got substantial offensive firepower either on the sideline or fighting though injuries as they try to match points with New England.
Most of the focus on the practice field this week will be on running back LeSean McCoy, fourth in the NFL in rushing yards. He's one week removed from his hamstring tightness suffered in practice. On Monday, Rex Ryan wasn't sure whether Shady will be ready for New England or whether his hamstring was worse than it was going into the Miami game.
"I'm not sure," Ryan told the media. "We'll see how it goes. I think he was tight, and that's why we took him out (of the Miami game)."
Receiver Robert Woods will be a question mark as he fights back from his foot ailment. Marquise Goodwin remains in concussion protocol and of course Sammy Watkins is unavailable. And on defense, the Bills will be cautious with safety Aaron Williams who took a shot to the head and neck in Miami. The Bills could be hard-pressed to cobble together a lineup for the Patriots game.
4. A BATTLE OF TURNOVERS?
When it comes to turnovers, two of the NFL's stingiest teams will line up at New Era Field Sunday. The Bills have the fewest turnovers in the league, two interceptions and two lost fumbles. The Patriots have six total turnovers, all of them lost fumbles. In fact, New England is just the third team in the NFL since 1960 to play seven games into a season without an interception. Between Brady, Garappolo and Brissett – no interceptions this year.
The Bills are among the top teams in the league in taking the ball away. Buffalo's 12 takeaways are fifth in the AFC through seven weeks.
5. RACKING UP BIG WINS
Buffalo has four wins and the Patriots have six. And when these teams win this year, they typically win big.
The Patriots have the second highest point differential in the league through seven games. They've outscored their opponents by an average of 10 points per game. The Bills are fourth in the league in average point differential, outscoring their opponents by eight points per game.
6. ROUGH ROAD AHEAD
The Bills go up against some NFL powerhouses in the next two weeks. New England and Seattle are at the top of their respective divisions. The Patriots lead the conference with their 6-1 record. And Seattle sits on top of the NFC West at 4-1-1.
Buffalo may need that bye week to regroup after the long trip west to Seattle next week.
7. SWEEP IN THE WORKS
The Patriots have dominated the Bills in these matchups for a decade and a half now. But Buffalo has a chance to sweep New England for the first time since 1999. The Patriots have not been swept by a division rival since 2000. They've owned the AFC East. The Bills are looking to claim a share of ownership this Sunday.