FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — It’s over.
So says Buffalo coach Rex Ryan, who conceded the AFC East to the undefeated New England Patriots this week even though the Bills — and everyone else in the division — still have a mathematical chance to catch the Super Bowl champions.
“They are going to win the division,” he said this week as the Bills prepared for a rematch against the team that has bedeviled them for more than a decade.
“I don’t see them losing four games. … I hope I am wrong, but I don’t see it happening.”
The Patriots (9-0) have a four-game lead over Buffalo (5-4) with seven games left in the regular season.
The Bills could make a small dent in that on Monday night at Gillette Stadium, but Ryan knows that realistically everyone else in the division is playing for a wild-card berth.
Instead, the blustery Bills coach would be happy just to end New England’s winning streak and spoil their chance at a second perfect regular season in nine years. Buffalo safety Corey Graham noted that it’s not just them looking up at the Patriots in the standings.
“Everybody is chasing the Patriots,” he said. “I mean, right now they are undefeated; they are playing great. They’ve pretty much been playing lights out the last 10 years. … Obviously, you get tired of it. It is about time for us to go ahead and get some victories.”
Here are some more things to look for in Monday night’s game:
INJURED PATRIOTS: The Patriots haven’t faced much resistance from opponents in rolling to 12 straight wins, including last season’s playoffs. But their streak could be in jeopardy if they keep losing key contributors to injury.
Two weeks ago, running back Dion Lewis was lost for the season. Receiver Julian Edelman was knocked out of last week’s game, and he’s expected to be out for at least the rest of the regular season. The offensive line is a patchwork effort to make up for injuries.
“First off, let me cry. We certainly didn’t go through that at all,” Ryan said sarcastically. “They lost a good player in Edelman. Shoot, they’ve got good players behind them. So I don’t think there is going to be that big of a difference. … They are going to do the same thing regardless of who is in there. That is the Patriot way.”
CATCHING UP: The big change for the Patriots this week was the loss of Edelman, who was leading the team with 61 receptions. Danny Amendola (40 catches) inherits the No. 1 receiver role, though tight end Rob Gronkowski (49) remains a favorite target of Tom Brady.
“We’ve got a lot of playmakers on this team ready to step up and make some plays too,” Amendola said. “Everybody has a role on this team; everybody has a job to do. That’s all we can focus on.”
UNGLUED: Ryan lashed out at New England reporters during their conference call this week, giving credence to the notion that the Patriots have gotten inside his head.
“I know that you guys always say that I’m obsessed with them and all that but you’re obsessed with them, not me,” he said. “You guys write that I’ve lost seven of eight, so why are you even talking to me?
“I obviously have no clue how to attack them or defend them so you guys should talk to someone else that has a better record than I do.”
He then gave two brusque answers to questions about quarterback Tyrod Taylor before going off again.
“You guys have covered this matchup for years and years,” he said. “We’ve got no business being on the same field, that’s what you said, I’ve lost seven of eight against them, so don’t talk to me. I’ll just sit back here and answer the questions and whatever, but I don’t know why you even bother.”
FLAGS FLYING: The teams met in Week 2 on Sept. 20, and New England won 40-32 — its 27th victory over the Bills in their past 30 matchups. Buffalo was penalized 14 times for 140 yards, including an unsportsmanlike penalty against Ryan.
“I think we were kind of a little embarrassed about how things went down,” Ryan said this week. “We’re not that team. We want to be a team that prides themselves on playing our game and not getting caught into the other part of it, and that’s what we’ll show Monday. … We know we can’t beat that team by giving them the type of penalties we gave them.”